Those who know Professor William McLaughlin might be surprised to see that he isn’t here at Quinnipiac for the spring semester. McLaughlin is instead in Jerusalem, working at a peace camp, mainly with Israeli and Palestinian teenagers.
“It’s a good thing to do for about a year,” said McLaughlin in December, before he left.
With recent outbursts of violence in Israel, he said the situation right now is desperate.
“There’s no choice,” he said. “The Israelis aren’t going anywhere, and the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere.”
Mclaughlin’s office is right across from the student dorms of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
“I can see the students are edgy, frequently looking hard at strangers as if looking for signs of danger, and often moving in groups,” he said.
Since January, McLaughlin is the director and vice president of an organization called Seeds of Peace. The idea behind Seeds of Peace is for teenagers in a conflict environment to meet and get to know the other side.
“It puts young people of the Middle East together to put a human face on the conflict,” McLaughlin explained. “They can yell at each other and disagree as long as they have a face to yell at.”
During the day there will be conflict resolution sessions which allow the teenagers to feel and express their anger. The organization’s idea is that the teenagers, through this, might realize they may not be that different, even though they are on opposite sides of the conflict.
Seeds of Peace has in the past brought teenagers from different conflict zones to a camp in Maine, since this was considered a neutral, supportive environment. This is the first time it has formally been done in Israel.
“They thought it was necessary,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin said he has never worked with anything like this before. However, he has known about the organization since it was founded in 1993 by author and journalist John Wallac, a good friend of his.
McLaughlin has 30 years of experience in journalism, and he has spent a lot of time in the Middle East. He also made the first documentary on the Palestinian problem.
How long he will be gone depends on how much he feels he can get done. His personal time frame is six months to a year and half. His wife will accompany him to Israel, and he said she is very enthusiastic about the trip.
“My goal is to make the Jerusalem operation as successful as possible and to reach as many young people as possible,” said McLaughlin before he left.
“Keep praying for the moderates,” he said recently. “If there is to be any future here, which is what I’m supposed to be working for, they are it.”
Seeds of Peace has been recognized and praised by Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Yasser Arafat and Madeleine Albright. The organization was awarded the 2000 UNESCO Peace Prize by the United Nations and the originator John Wallace recently recieved the 2002 International First Freedom Award.