Signs Of Protest
For the first time in its three-year history, Seeds of Peace Gala attracts protesters.
"They have every right to protest,"
said Joanne Faycurry of Bloomfield
Hills, co-chair of the Seeds of Peace
Gala. "We grieve with the family of
the deceased children. This has been
going on for 50 years, and nobody
can absolve themselves of guilt on
"I would urge everybody in the
community to work together toward a
day when no one's children will be
r. Aaron Miller, who
became president of Seeds
of Peace in January, has
received his share of criti-
cism in two decades of service in the
U.S. Department of State.
"Most of my professional life, I've
spent on the edge, negotiating
between Israelis and Arabs," said
Miller, who served under six succes-
sive Secretaries of State. "I spent most
of that time being vilified by both
So he was not unduly alarmed
when, on Dec. 8, he found 75-100
protesters lined up outside the Ritz-
Carleton Dearborn, where Seeds of
Peace was about to hold its third
annual Michigan Gala.
"In life, nothing that is worthwhile
comes easy," Miller told nearly 600
Seeds supporters. "If you're not will-
ing to stand up when times are bad,
what's the point of standing up at
Shadia Bitar of Dearborn carries a sign with photos of her children, killed in Lebanon.
The protesters said they support Seeds
of Peace, the international organiza-
tion that brings youth from regions of
conflict around the world to a sum-
mer camp in Maine for purposes of
mutual recognition, consciousness-
raising and friendship. However, they
strongly opposed the organization's
decision to present the John P.
Wallach Peacemaker Award to former
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Protesters carried signs reading,
"Peres is a criminal," "Peres is not a
peacemaker," "Peres — Murderer of
our children" and "Remember Qana!"
In an article in the Arab American
News, publisher Osama Siblani criti-
cized Peres as the person who
"ordered the bombing of the United
Nations compound designated as a
safe haven in Qana, a village in south
Lebanon, in 1996, where over 100
Lebanese civilians, mostly women and
Siblani, also president of the
Congress of Arab American
Organizations that called for a boy-
cott of the Seeds dinner, wrote that
Peres played a key role in bringing
nuclear weapons to Israel, calling him
"the father of WMD [weapons of
mass destruction] in the Middle
Among the protesters at the Ritz-
Carleton was Shadia Bitar of
prime minister had "inaugurated this
awful peace process, to the detriment
of the Israeli government — a peace
process that has caused 900 Israeli
deaths and 600-700 casualties.
"He has emboldened Israel's mortal
enemy, and Israel will suffer the con-
In a press release issued just before the
"We can't become prisoners dinner, the American Arab Chamber
of Commerce agreed that "Peres bears
of the past."
— Dr. Aaron Miller the responsibility for the massacre at
Seeds of Peace president
Ahmad Chebbani, chairman of the
Chamber, also lost family in Lebanon,
the release said.
Dearborn, whose two sons were killed
"But there are some of us who wish
at Qana while on a visit to their
grandmother in Lebanon. Said teacher to see an end of the bloodshed," the
Chamber release continued. "There
Bob Rabboh of Dearborn, "Peres is
are those of us who work for peace
killing our children. He should be
and want to see an end to this con-
brought to justice."
Ironically, while Siblani called Peres
Many Chamber members attended
a warmonger, Jerome S. Kaufman of
the Dec. 8 event.
Bloomfield Hills said the former
In an interview at the dinner, David
Gad-Harf, executive director of the
Jewish Community Council of
Metropolitan Detroit, called the
killing of civilians at Qana "a tragic
Gad-Harf compared that event with
the killing of several children in
Afghanistan by United States troops
two weeks ago.
"This was not something Israel
intended to do, and the Israeli gov-
ernment expressed its deep regret over
the incident," he said. "The Israeli
government had reliable information
that there was an arms cache in that
area, and had warned the United
Nations to remove civilians from the
area, but unfortunately, that did not
Gad-Harf said that "there is no per-
son in Israel who is more associated
with efforts toward peace with the
Palestinians than Shimon Peres."
Seeds of Peace has honored world
leaders from President Bill Clinton to
Jordan's Queen Noor, Miller pointed
out, and it has survived sometimes
virulent criticism of its choices.
"We can't become prisoners of the
past," he said.
"The Arab-Israeli conflict is filled
with tragedies, death and destruction
— so many innocent lives have been
lost. I think to blame Peres for Qana
is a bit much. No one better repre-
sents peace and tolerance than this
If there is any hope of the Mideast
conflict coming to an end, Miller said,
"people have to create dialogue."
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