Talk:Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum

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Following a query I have rewritten this article. It made unsupported claims that it was a front group which I have deleted. The question of why the group is neutral on the Israel-Palestine conflict is an important point I will raise with them but for the moment have removed the speculative statement that was there. I have also re-organised the material to shift the personal profile material to the side pages. I'll revisit the main page after I have done the other pages. --Bob Burton 20:26, 23 Nov 2005 (EST)

against attempts to communicate rationally?

Why does this article communicate in such a negative and conpiratorial tone? Does the author think a genuine effort to promote dialogue- whether effective or not- is something to treat with contempt? What possible damage can opening initial routes to communication yield?

The fact that two young people- one Pakistani and one Israeli- met and decided to do something to represent people they know on both sides who don't feel the pointless hostility that the author of this article has internalized is to be commended and encouraged. The fact that Michael Berenhaus, a friend of Topf's and a committed Zionist who has exerience with organizing advocacy groups was able to get behind this effort and offer his assistance shows that there is hope for rational people of diverse political views to find a common basis of dialogue. There is no rational reason for the most committed of Zionists to be hostile to Pakistan, which neither shares a border nor territorial disputes with Israel or has ever engaged in military conflict with it. For the same reasons, there is no rational reason for reflexive and rabid anti-Israel sentiment among rational Pakistanis.

Therefore I ask, what rational reason has the author of this article for his sneering and innuendo-filled tone? Or does he prefer hatred and lack of communication to any attempt to mitigate these powerful forces?

Burton's conspiracy

Just one example of an unfounded, baseless innuendo that reveals Burton's inexplicable contempt for this effort: he labeled the forum an astroturf organization. In fact, there is no PR firm or lobby in any way reponsible for the idea and its implementation. The only conspiracy that can be drawn here is Burton's slanderous and patently false assertions meant to smear an honest, earnest, and sadly rare attempt to cut through an environment of hate through communication and dialogue. If it is so hard for Burton to believe that such commendable and perhaos idealistic young people exist, perhaps he is working for the wrong side. He should reember that he works for an organization that attempts to preserve the value of democracy- not to side with those hostile to the open dialogue of peoples that are essential to democracy.

If you had checked the edit history you may have discovered that I didn't ad the astroturf reference. Perhaps you were the person who a month or so ago argued that the entire page should be removed. I responded via email that it was perfectly valid that a page be created on the organisation and would not remove it. However I suggested that if there were specific points that were considered inaccurate the best way to proceed was to post a note to the talk page identifying specific concerns. Nothing happened. Then this outburst. Observing basic protocol and identifying your concerns will get you far further than abuse. --Bob Burton 05:28, 28 Mar 2006 (EST)


I saw the site entry for the first time yesterday, I have no connection to or knowledge of anyone you communicated with a month ago, and I certainly don't believe this page should be excluded from the site. Scrutiny and transparency can only serve the cause of this particular forum. There are many organizations that are set up by sophisticated PR firms or lobbies- this is not one of them and it does your cause a disservice not to draw that distinction. This is true whether all or some of the cynical and misleading commentary is yours or is merely allowed to remain on the page. This is not an outburst but a valid reaction posted in the appropriate discussion forum.

response to response

It was an outburst. Simply checking the edit history of this article demonstrates that Bob was not the person who added the language to which you objected. Using language such as "Burton's conspiracy" was therefore wholly inappropriate. I think it's rather "cynical and misleading" for you to call it a "valid reaction." --Sheldon Rampton 12:14, 28 Mar 2006 (EST)

Co-founder expresses his concerns

Dear All (and Bob and Sheldon),

This discussion has just been brought to my attention. This is Waleed Ziad, the individual who emailed you over a month ago, and co-founder of the forum. The truth is that Bob Burton did not write this article or even contribute to it (I'm not mistaken, am I?) In fact, the folks at Sourcewatch had nothing to do with it. It was put together by a group in Scotland. I contacted Sourcewatch, and explained that there's something seriously wrong in this article, and we've been misrepresented by someone who frankly has less scruples than those groups they lambast. The individual at Sourcewatch I talked to was very courteous and I think actually understood where I was coming from, and suggested that I present my views. In fact, I believe Bob initially even removed large chunks of original article.

It should be recognized that the individuals who wrote this have purposely picked and chosen facts to make their case. For example, a New York times article which I had written, which has been praised by left wing groups in over a dozen places on line as an accurate depiction of history (example [1] or [2], and was referred by "others" as "typical left wing drivel" [3], was twisted around to make it sound like a neo-colonialist argument. Irfan Husain, who's views on Israel and Palestine are well known, was misrepresented by an out of context quote in one isolated article. These are two examples of over two dozen blatant misrepresentations. Please don't take my word for it, go online and I challenge you to find one bit of evidence which suggests that this isn't a genuine effort.

In fact, more to the point, if the writers had done their homework, they would realize that the building of Pakistani Israeli relations was given the full go ahead by the Palestinian Authority, and the major Middle Eastern states- even Saudi Arabia.[4]

The saddest part is that there's no evidence to back up any of the allegations- none whatsoever. Someone has seen the words "Israel" and "Pakistan" and assumed that there's clearly a conspiracy afoot. It's depressing that in this polarized world individuals are not able to fathom the fact that there are some people in this world who can transcend boundaries without selling their souls.

I wrote the Scottish group an email explaining that they have misunderstood the nature of the organization, and explained step by step where they were wrong. I received an email in response which more or less entirely ignored my points, with a guilty until proven innocent, supersilious, witchhunt like attitude, posing questions such as: You say you are a peace activist, how does that explain your work in Romania restructuring the mining sector?- along with 20 other simlar questions. Perhaps if he had bothered doing any more research he would have realized that the project was working to repatriate laborers who were suffering from dreadful working conditions or had lost their jobs, and I was a researcher in this field.

Frankly, I think you should also realize that were this some ultra powerful "astroturf" you wouldn't find me bothering to respond. I used to praise honest reporting groups until I realized that it's not a left vs right issue, it's integrity vs. spinning a story to make a quick buck, be it on the right or the left. (Again, please pardon my accusations- I know Sourcewatch was not the group which wrote this- but for everyone benefit, this fact NEEDS to be out there)

Suffice it to say that we've been dubbed Pakistani agents / propagandists, Socialists, and Israeli agents, and received hate correspondence in seven languages, from Russian to Tamil- so we must be doing something right.

I'm going to add to this as time goes on, and make my views on both issues (Israel Pakistan relations and prejudiced reporting) known.

To Sourcewatch, thank you for allowing me to express myself freely and openly.

In peace, Waleed

Scotland Responds

From the intentional misrepresentation of my colleague's questions it appears that this "left-wing peacenik's" grip on reality is about as tenuous as his committment to peace.

It sure takes some chutzpah for you to come here throwing accusations at the "group in Scotland" after failing to respond to straightforward and pertinent questions. For everyone's benefit, I'm going to pose some questions to you (mostly put to you already by my colleague) in as plain and straightforward a language as I can, so you have a chance to convince everyone of your bona fides. I expect your response to be equally forthright.

  • You claim that you are a "legimitate grassroots peace initiative" with all the founding members based in Washington DC, yet its Pakistani public opinion that you are seeking to mould. In Pakistan, you have no grassroots presence and you don't work with any social movements; your only members there are either people in high places or scions of the elite. Can you provide evidence of any grassroots activity in Pakistan?
  • Israel is not at war with Pakistan, its at war with the Palestinians. If you were a "legitimate grassroots peace initiative", wouldn't you be striving to end the Israeli occupation that is at the root of this conflict rather than expressing "no partiality for any political position"?
  • If you express "no partiality for any political position" then why is it that you are striving to change the status quo on Israel/Palestine between Pakistan and Israel which is hardly a politically neutral position?
  • Do you support the repeated position of the United Nations on Israel and the 2004 World Court decision which declare Israel's presence in all the Occupied Territories illegal? Do you support the international consensus on the Palestinian refugees Right of Return embodied in UNGAR 194? And if this is your position, is it the position of the Forum?
  • In your NYT article you write "our corporations should guide local entrepreneurs to promote a free market, the backbone of democracy. If anything is going to come of the neoconservative hope of making Iraq into a beacon of our values, it will be along these lines." Do I really need Chapomatic or a loony right-winger's comments on Free Republic to figure out what you mean by that?
  • Your rhetoric seems to vascillate between "interfaith dialogue" and the "national interest" of Pakistan. Is this simply an interfaith group. If so, then why focus on Pakistan specifically? Why not a range of Muslim countries? Unless there is something specific about Pakistan that makes it more important? Perhaps this might have something to do with the recent diplomatic manoeuvres between Israel and Pakistan which you feature prominently on your site? In which case the notion that this is about Muslims and Jews seems to be a cover for something else - perhaps the foreign policy needs of Pakistan, Israel and the US?
  • Lastly, you seem to suggest that the rapprochement between Israel and Pakistan is somehow legitimate as it has the backing of the Saudi monarch and Mahmoud Abbas. However, the very raison d'etre of your organization suggests that similar support is absent in Pakistan on the popular level. The Palestinian civil society is equally opposed to any engagement with the Israeli state and its call for boycott and disinvestment has not only gained the support of various churches, unions, civil society organizations worldwide, but also prominent Israelis such as Prof. Ilan Pappe and Tanya Reinhart. How is it relevant then, that one undemocratic leader of a regressive regime, and another leader whose party has just been voted out, should endorse such a move?

--Idrees 12:56, 3 Apr 2006 (EDT)

P.s. I noticed that you deleted Kleinfeld's statement about the Truman National Security Project being founded "very much as a counterpart to the neoconservatives of the 1970s" to replace it with: "to challenge Republican Neo-Con ascendency". Shall I take that to mean that you disagree with Kleinfeld's (founder of TNSP) vision for the think-tank? or are you merely worried about the connotations of association with a neo-conservative organization?

--Idrees 14:10, 3 Apr 2006 (EDT)

Thanking Scotland for its response

Dear Idrees (of the Scottish group),

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response, which seems to in line with the rest of your accusations. In the modern world, there exists a concept of innocent until proven guilty. It is perhaps more than a coincidence that despite your 'thorough research' and 'objective stance' you are unable to find one shred of definitive proof that this is not a grassroots initiative. Or perhaps it is true, that you do have some insight into our true motivations, and can single-handedly grasp the objective truth behind this grand web of lies 'spun' by the most powerful Zionist organizations, implemented through two friends in their mid-twenties.

Perhaps instead, you should be thinking about the following questions. To satiate your desire for “the truth” and the reality behind the “spin”, which you are clearly so concerned with, contained in the questions are the direct answers to your above queries.

1) Why it is difficult for you to perceive that in one group you may have people who are on different sides of the political spectrum or of a conflict? Why is it impossible for you to fathom that a group in which some members are Zionists, while other pro-Palestinian, can possibly exist? Perhaps you are not familiar with the kind of peace initiatives being embarked on today wherein members of different religions, nationalities, and viewpoints, come together to try to solve problems, as opposed to taking refuge in their respective communities and lambasting their enemies from within the confines of their own institutions?

2) If you claim to care so much about Palestine, why do you conveniently ignore the fact that Pakistan’s lack of recognition for Israel has done nothing for the Palestinian cause, and that the only nations which have played a part in brokering peace are those who have relations with Israel? Are you next going to criticize Egypt for allowing in Israeli tourists, Jordan for trading with Israel, Morocco for hosting a series of events celebrating Jewish culture? Kindly indicate how Morocco’s relations with Israel have hurt the Palestinian cause? I assume Camp David and Oslo were engineered by nations which refused to accept that Israel existed? I’m curious…

3) Why is it that while the Pakistani voice (with the exception of the Jamaat Islaami, the ideological spokesmen of the fundamentalists and militants), which is openly pro-Palestinian, has not expressed a public disapproval of the meeting of the Israeli and Pakistan foreign ministers, do you feel the need to speak on behalf of Pakistan? Are you perhaps not familiar with Pakistan and how the society functions, living so far away?

4) Why is it that you, being so pro-Palestinian, do not acknowledge the fact that there are thousands in Israelis who support Arab views on withdrawal- Why is it that in your mind only one side represents the full range of Israeli opinion? How does one expect Muslims to be treated as human beings if one lumps all Israeli opinion together? Why should developing links with Israelis mean supporting occupation (or not supporting an occupation, for that matter)? I assume, likewise, one can say developing links with Pakistanis is tantamount to supporting Taliban activities in Waziristan, or supporting the nuclear bomb?

5) Why do you not mention in your article my praise of Ami Ayalon? It is perhaps that the event never happened, or was my reaction to it a fabrication? Please do let me know, I tend to forget.

6) Why do you and your boss inquire about how I could be an activist, but work as an economic consultant, when you clearly have no idea what economic consulting is? (I challenge you to try to guess what it is that I do on a daily basis, friend!) Perhaps for you regression analyses and economic studies, and the use of the resale price method are opposed to peace and reconciliation and grassroots development?

7) Why is it that you read the story of my friendship with Dror, and while those who were present and all who read it were touched, you seem to think it perhaps never happened? Perhaps you believe that my friendship with Dror is also a conspiracy, and was fabricated? Perhaps every story that we relate is a fabrication? Perhaps we are the spinners and fabricators, and you and your group are the only ones who are aware of the truth behind the lie? Perhaps you hold the monopoly of the truth, even though you are an ocean’s length away? Kindly tell me about my friendship with Dror and his family, and his friendship with my family- I am curious as to the truth behind this grand lie. I’d like to know how his family conspired to have dinner with my family?

8) If you are so familiar with Pakistani journalism so as to comment on Irfan Husain, why do you conveniently ignore Irfan Husain’s well known views on Israel? Why is it that you only reference one article that he wrote, and that too, out of context? Is it perhaps that you chose to, or is it perhaps that you didn’t bother reading anything else (clicking more than one link on a google search)?

9) Why is it that despite being supposedly so familiar with Pakistan, you have no idea as to the views or the role of Salman Ahmad? Is his long hair and beard perhaps a symbol of the right and Zionism for you? Is perhaps that you a) don’t know much about Pakistani culture or b) you didn’t bother to do a simple internet search on Salman and his interfaith reputation? Is his Sufi music perhaps steeped in neo-conservatism?

10) Why is it difficult for you to acknowledge individuals who are involved in interfaith activities, and who feel that better relations between countries can bring people of different faiths together? Are the two somehow conflicted? Are national interests and interfaith interests diametrically opposed to each other? Is it possible that all the interfaith activities I’ve been involved in were also grand plots and schemes? It is possible that I had the Muslim Students Association of Yale fooled for four year regarding my “true loyalties”?

11) Why do you conveniently ignore the article in which Dror states that he is Labor leaning, and in which he expresses sorrow for the conflict, and his sympathy for Muslims? Did you a) not bother to read that part, or b) perhaps you thought once again that this is a fabrication and once again you and your group know the truth behind what he is feeling in his heart? Perhaps you knew his Palestinian friend to be a Zionist agent as well? Perhaps it didn’t serve to support your claims, so it was conveniently placed in the “fabricated propaganda” category.

12) Why is it impossible for you to fathom the fact that Zionists may realize that true strength and prosperity for Israel lies in peace with its neighbors? Does peace somehow make a nation weaker? This is a tad bit confusing.

13) Why is it that you feel that the Pakistani and Israeli diasporic communities can not take part in their nation’s activities? (BTW, I am a Pakistani citizen and don’t live in the US, contrary to your understanding) Why is it that you fail to realize that many of us are based in Pakistan and a large chunk of the signatures are from Pakistan? Perhaps you did not do your homework, or felt it not worth your time?

14) Why is it that you don’t bother to read the bios of the members in the Truman Project to realize that they cover the whole gammit from right to left? Why is it that you choose only those portions through which you can paint the group as a right wing organization? Why is it that the think tanks you point to are not considered right leaning by anyone in the US, except your group? Is it conceivable that you have not read beyond the first few lines? Why again do you not understand that effective organizations bring together multiple viewpoints? Or is it possible once again that you have the objective insider’s perspective of the “truth behind the Truman Project.” Also, do you believe it is wrong for Democrats to take issues on national security- would you rather have it dominated by the Republicans? Perhaps you are less than familiar with US politics?

15) Why is it that my first New York Times article, which explicitly speaks out against colonialism and class issues in Pakistan, and about the virtues of traditional Islam vs. fundamentalist Islam, you pick out the one quote which makes the article seem like a pro-colonial piece. Is it perhaps that you, out of the 30 groups online that commented on it, were the only ones who were able to see beyond the façade of lies to grasp the one underlying truth? Is it conceivable that, since you had misattributed the article to a Saudi paper which reprinted it from the NYT (it was reprinted by over 20 papers from the US to Nepal) that perhaps you hadn’t even bothered to read even the byline?

16) Why is it that, despite your absolute lack of evidence, you claim that the PIPF has links to powerful Zionists organizations? Prey tell give me some names- what are these organization sending us paycheck on a weekly basis? Is it possible that the concept of the Zionist conspiracy is floating through your mind? I like to think not. Once again, is it possible that you know the truth, even though it’s not apparent to the rest of the world? Is it that you think that the hundreds of people who signed the petition were paid to do it? Or perhaps the names were fabricated? Or perhaps you felt that the Pakistanis who signed it are self hating Muslims?

I’m sorry to say, but I think you may need some experience in basic conflict resolution. A Wikipedia understanding of the term will inform you that the way to resolve conflicts is to bring together disparate viewpoints. If one can’t acknowledge this, one is clearly in the wrong business. The problem with the self declared voices of truth is that they aggravate the extremists, pouring salt in wounds and expanding the rifts. It is also clear that in this polarization some individuals are doing a great disservice to the people who are actually trying to make a difference.

Once again, this probably means nothing to you, because it appears that your views are set in stone, and once again, perhaps you are the conveyor of the absolute objective truth. So be it. We’ve got bigger issues to contend with. Honestly, I’ve already given this more attention than it deserves.

In peace, Waleed

The crux of the problem (for Idrees, but I would appreciate if Bob and Sourcewatch would read this)

Dear Idrees (I would appreciate if Sourcewatch would read this, because it strikes at the heart of this “controversy”)

Now to bring the mudslinging to an end…

Academically and intellectually, what you have done is entirely below the belt, and you know it too. You have taken anything you can find from simple Google searches which supports your claims, and dismissed anything which doesn’t agree with your viewpoint as a fabrication. This is the essence of McCarthyism, in case you’re not aware. But that’s not the crux of the problem.

Let me make you aware of the crux of the problem.

It is very clear that you disagree with the premise of this organization, building relations between Pakistan and Israel. That is an ABSOLUTELY LEGITIMATE STANCE, which is shared by people who are very close to me. But that in no way gives you the right to cast doubt on the integrity of those who put this together- there is no evidence that you could possibly find beyond conjecture, and I think you are fully aware of this too.

If you disagree with Pakistan building relations with Israel, if it’s despicable to you, by all means, engage me, and I would love to engage you in a substantive, intellectual, and productive dialogue. Don’t mask your feelings on an issue behind conspiracy theories about the people involved. Character assassination and conspiracy theories are the hallmarks of intellectual cowardice. If you don’t agree, challenge it. Unfortunately, this is not too far from the Jamaat e Islami stance in Pakistan, and that of the extremists in Israel, who declare anyone expressing opinions opposed to theirs to be agents of some mysterious foreign entity.

It would take me approximately ½ an hour to construct such a story about you and your group if I had the desire to do it. It’s a simple as this: a) Your group is part of X or Y university. b) One of the major professors of that university is well known neo-conservative. c) Then I’d have to make some innuendos, and the case is closed.

So I challenge you engage me instead of engaging in mudslinging. Write not your arguments for why I am a card carrying member of the Likud party, but rather, your plain and simple objections to my stance. By all means, make your criticisms of your viewpoints virulent and vicious if you like- that is entirely legitimate. But don’t cast doubt on a friendship about which you known nothing, and on individuals about whom you know nothing beyond a slipshod Google search.

If we were to meet in Pakistan I would gladly open up my email account and show you each and every email that went into the creation of this organization (I’m dead serious, let me know if you’re interested) but chances are, you’ll turn around and claim that I’ve deleted all my correspondence with the Mossad.

I’ve been engaged by numerous people from both the Israel and Pakistan who have criticized this, including close friends. And the truth is, we’ve both learned a fair amount from the other’s criticism, and my views have no doubt been influenced. Who knows, we may actually learn something from one another, and may even convince each other of something.

The only fair solution is for the introduction of the PIPF Sourcewatch site to be cleansed of these conspiratorial suggestions and state simply that the stated purpose of the organization. Then below that, we can present our respective arguments, NOT for why the other person is an Islamist or Zionist agent, but why we don’t agree or do agree with the viewpoints expressed by the PIPF. I would love to hear your arguments, and challenge your arguments, many of which probably have validity. Otherwise, this is going to go on forever- you will change our writeup, and we will change yours, an a never ending arm's race like spiral.

In peace,


All for Engagement

Dear Waleed,

I'm all for dialogue, and I think the best place to start would be with my questions which you have left unanswered.


--Idrees 12:04, 5 Apr 2006 (EDT)


Although I've already answered EACH ONE of your questions in my above statement, if you read it thoroughly, I'd be more than willing to give you a lengthy explanation / rebuttal of each point if you do the following:

a) Withdraw your conspiratorial condescending tone; b) Remove the conspiratorial McCarthyist writeup; c) Engage me respectfully and not in an accusatory manner; d) Please be intellectually honest- in other words, don't claim certain things I say about myself and our group are fabrications just because they don't fit in with your world view. e) Refrain from personal below the belt attacks; f) Attack the ideas, not the integrity of the group members, of which you have no knowledge.

Let me know when you're willing to do this. I would also appreciate if you answer all of my questions. Also, let me know if you've ever in Pakistan. We should meet up ;)



Waste of Effort

Unless you can point to any inaccuracies in the profile it would be a waste of time and effort for you to change it. You say your answer lies in the posts above; in that case I'm afraid you have offered nothing that disproves the fact that you are an astroturf lobby group. The rest is of little relevance.

--Idrees 18:22, 6 Apr 2006 (EDT)

I haven't had a chance to read all of the above closely but on a quick skim it looks like a lot of words and not much agreement. I think the approach adopted by Activist (I think) of splitting the page into a A said/B said version is not particularly helpful. It is more likely to result in an article based less on commonly agreed facts and devolve more into opinion.

Waleed, I would suggest it is worth addressing the specific questions raised by Idrees, as much as you would prefer to contest their validity and create a long list of counter questions. Here's why:

  • The Forum and its founders/supporters have made various statements that stimulated the counter charge that it was not what it claimed to be (such as being a 'grassroots' organisation etc). From that it has been described as a pro-Israel group that is not "grassroots" (in the sense that most people would accept) which is only further fuelled by the adoption of neutrality on the question of Palestine.

I thought the questions posted by Idrees went to the heart of the disagreement of how the organisation was characterised. Pointed but fair. The response, while extensive, didn't directly address those questions but personalised the issue further.

I think it is a mistake to interpret the questions as unreasonable and to focus solely on the person asking them. Other regular contributors are watching the debate and looking to be persuaded as to what is fair and accurate profile of the organisation. They might not have contributed to this page so far but that doesn't mean they aren't interested. In counter-questioning Idrees you are making it harder to reach some form or agreement on the page.

I for one am not wedded to some of the interpretive description on the current page but a reasoned articulation of why it is not fair and accurate would be more persuasive than offhanded dismissal of the quesions idrees raised.

Remember, the article is not about what you would choose to write about your own organisation (you have your own website for that) but what is a fair but, where appropriate, questioning profile. --Bob Burton 06:02, 7 Apr 2006 (EDT)