The great Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories along with three former heads of state Mary Robinson (Ireland), Fernando Cardoso (Brazil) and Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway). They are also joined by Indian activist Ela Bhatt. Our good friend Philip Weiss notes that advocacy on behalf of the Palestinians by The Elders, a group established by Nelson Mandela and underwritten by such maisntream business figures as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Jeff Skoll (eBay), is a gamechanger. Skoll, he notes, is Jewish, part of a growing disenchantment with Zionism. ‘Today we tell the Establishment Jews’, Phil writes, ‘that the weather has changed again, and Israel cannot continue destroying human rights in our name.’
The Elders hear first hand about life in Gaza, Bil’in and East Jerusalem
The Elders were unable to visit Gaza but spoke with young people and others via video link. They then went to the West Bank village of Bil’in where a local protest movement against the separation wall is gaining momentum. In the evening they visited a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem evicted from their homes by Israeli authorities.
The Elders in the West Bank: Checkpoints and politics
On the second day of their visit, the Elders met Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as well as Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah. On their way to the West Bank, they stopped at the Qalandia checkpoint, where hundreds of Palestinians line up daily to cross into Israel under tight security. There they met Zaina who has made the crossing many times to go to school. Zaina joined other young Palestinians in conversation with the Elders later in the day to express their frustrations with the current situation and their hopes for peace.
Nelson Mandela introduces The Elders, Johannesburg, 18 July 2007
Nelson Mandela announced the formation of The Elders on his 89th Birthday. He described the Elders as a small dedicated group of leaders who will work objectively, free from any vested personal interest, to help address global challenges.