Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum

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Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum (PIPF) claims to be a “grassroots organization”[1] but is in fact an elite network of US-based individuals with ties to prominent staunchly pro-Israel lobbying groups and right-wing think tanks. This veritable Astroturf lobby group is striving to mould public opinion in Pakistan towards the recognition of Israel. In its own words, the organization is “dedicated to promoting dialogue and establishing relations between Pakistan and Israel at the political, cultural, social and economic levels”. The organization claims to express “no partiality for any political position” however, changing the status quo on Israel/Palestine between Pakistan and Israel is hardly a politically neutral position.

History

In the wake of Israel's dismantlement of illegal settlements in Gaza, the United States, according to Robert Fisk, has been pressuring Arab Gulf states to open relations with Israel.[2] About the same time, informal contacts between Israel and Pakistan culminated in the meeting of their respective Foreign Ministers in Istanbul.[3] It is important to note here that this move was carried out without the consent of the Pakisatni public.

Shortly after this meeting PIPF was launched by "three friends, Waleed Ziad (Pakistan), Dror Topf (Israel), and Michael Berenhaus (US), all currently based in Washington, DC". They endorse the diplomatic move and state that "it is also vital that a similar gesture be made on the people to people level". Their website features a petition that "will be presented to the policy makers and media of both Israel and Pakistan to demonstrate that at the grass roots level citizens of both countries strongly support efforts to build relations".[4]

Founding Members

  • Michael Berenhaus, a veteran pro-Israel policy lobbyist, set up the group and now serves on its advisory committee. He is also the founder of Eye on the Post – an organization that monitors the Washington Post for its purported “anti-Israel bias”. Eye on the Post's “strategic alliances” include CAMERA and Honest Reporting. Berenhaus also organized a boycott of the paper through the BoycottThePost.org website.
  • Waleed Ziad, a self-proclaimed "left wing peacenik", is the son of a World Bank official and a principal at the Truman National Security Project – a right-wing think tank that “envisions a Democratic Party that is preeminent in national security once again”. According to its founder Rachel Kleinfeld, the organization was set up “very much as a counterpart to the neoconservatives of the 1970s.” Ziad has written for the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and The News. He has worked for Deloitte & Touche's International Economics Group in Washington, D.C. and as a consultant in Eastern Europe on public sector restructuring with Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young.
  • Dror Topf is a 29 year old Israeli consultant based in Washington, D.C.

Friends in High Places

While the lobby has received coverage in six of Pakistan's largest newspapers, it has thus far managed to get only 334 people to sign its petition. This number includes 34 "anonymous" signatories as well nearly all 20 of its members. On the other hand, the initiative has garnered the support of some key individuals in high places.

  • Salman Ahmad, is a former member of Junoon, a prominent South Asian rock band. He has also been involved in two documentaries with the BBC and is also the United Nations' Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS. He is at the forefront of interfaith peace activism in the United States, organizing peace marches and interfaith concerts. He is the cousin of Asma Gull Hasan and Muslims for Bush founder Muhammad Ali Hasan. [5]
  • Shahid Javed Burki is a former Vice President of the World Bank and former Finance Minister of Pakistan.
  • Irfan Hussain is columnist for Dawn and the Khaleej Times. In the past he has been critical of Israel but now he believes that Pakistan should base its foreign relations on "enlightened self-interest". He believes that its only the religious parties that oppose recognition of Israel and excoriates them for not providing any "cogent reasons... [t]he best they could do was to express their anger over the treatment the Israelis have been meting out to Palestinians under their occupation".[6]
  • Jaffer Bilgrami, another supporter, is a media advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and works for the Associated Press, Pakistan Television and Radio Pakistan.

Advisory Committee

Contact Information

Website: http://www.pakistanisraelpeace.org/

External links

Articles & Commentary

References