“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
If we were living in Oslo in 1940, watching the young German dissident Willy Brandt, exiled from his own country, struggling against the Nazi army as it occupied Norway, not one of us would have predicted that this man would one day be the leader of Western Germany, play a role in German and European reconciliation and unity, and win the Nobel Peace Prize. The difference between Willy Brandt, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King, Jr, and us is that those people believed that they could make the future, that they can change things. And they did.
I’m happy now to announce that I’m going to visit Israel and Palestine for the first time in my life, finally, after a long time of being denied travel by Egyptian authorities, and after being pushed away by the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
I am scheduled to give my first speech on December 23 at the Truman Institute of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the same university where Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, my godfather, represented Egypt at its opening ceremony nine decades ago.
Later during my stay, I’ll also speak for The World Union of Jewish Students, and also forTel Aviv University. I’ll also visit Ramallah (Palestine) to meet Palestinian activists. People around the world will be able to follow my trip through Twitter hash tag #MaikelinIsrael
After years of calling for peace, I have realized that practicing peace is more important than talking. My visit is a message from the Egyptian peace community that we have had enough violence and confrontation and we want this to end. We want to live together as human beings without violence, racism or walls.
I’m aiming with my visit to end the monopoly which governments have over peace processes. Our governments held this portfolio for decades, and obviously they have gone from one failure to the next. It’s time to open the process to other actors. If we can’t achieve anything, at least the competition will motivate the politicians to work harder.
My trip is organized by UN Watch, the Human Rights organization based in Geneva, which played a role in defending my freedom when I was imprisoned in Egypt last year for 10 months for defending Human Rights. Its director, Hillel Neuer, is known for his scathing attacks on dictatorships in The UN Human Rights Council. He is a very brave person, and a good friend.
While applying for the visa, I opposed the idea of getting a visa to Israel without putting a stamp in my passport, to avoid being banned from entering countries which don’t allow those who visited Israel before to enter. I decided this simply because I don’t wish to visit any country which doesn’t recognize the right of any other country to exist. Having two passports or having a visa without a stamp is just encouraging racist regimes to continue practicing racism in the 21st century. Racist regimes should pay for their racism, not be encouraged by tourism. In the end, I received my visa on a separate paper. I’m sad that the state of Israel is adapting to this ugly situation.
From the beginning, I decided also that I’m not going to visit any religious places, and I won’t meet any members of the clergy. Religions have been always part of the problem, not part of the solution. Fighting wars, racism and violence obligates me to avoid their causes, and religions are on the top of them.
Middle-Easterners will be following my visit with their eyes. If I succeeded, more will follow. It can be a point of change in history. Anyone who cares about Peace is invited to do whatever he can do to make this visit succeed in improving the situation in the Mideast.
In the end, I understand that I may face a horrible fate because of my visit. While walking in Jerusalem, I won’t be able to stop my mind from thinking about King Abdullah, Anwar Al-Sadat, and Yitzhak Rabin. But still, I’m willing to take this step, to put another brick in the wall, willing that others will follow doing the same thing, believing that one day we will be able to end this insanity which has been ongoing in the Middle East for centuries.
A few of my articles on Israel and Middle East Peace