Solving problems through understanding

Improving relations between the United States and the Middle East is why Edward S. Walker seeks to educate citizens of both regions.
As the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, Walker understands that lack of knowledge between the people in these two regions is what prevents them from understanding one another.
Walker, who is now president and CEO of the Middle East Institute, has been informing U.S. citizens about the perception of Americans in other regions. He will bring his discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Wednesday.
Abdelwahab Hechiche, professor of government and international affairs, said Walker can help correct the perceptions Americans have of people in the Arab world.
ìHis firsthand experience has seen both sides of the conflict,î Hechiche said. ìHe has the professional authority to correct the prejudices of Israelis and Palestinians and show that both sides are suffering.î
Hechiche said often when people participate in religious and political discussions, they fail to take othersí opinions into consideration.
ìPeople must be prepared to change when they engage in dialogue,î Hechiche said. ìYou have to go in open-minded.î
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Walker began writing bimonthly columns in the most widely read Arabic daily newspaper in the Middle East, Al Hayat. His columns were published to give an American perspective on issues between people in the Middle East and the United States.
Hechiche said actions such as those can help build better relationships between the cultures.
ìAmerican teachers (are) encouraged to go over to other countries and teach as a Fulbright Scholar,î Hechiche said. ìPeople make a difference (by) influenc(ing) others (who) see who we are. I donít think we do it enough.î
Walker plans to discuss the current situation in the Middle East at 2 p.m. in the Marshall Center Ballroom, as well as concerns that some Arabs have hatred toward Americans.
Hatred against Americans, Hechiche said, existed well before the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks, however, brought the issue into sharper focus.
ìThe magnitude of some of the terrorist attacks against U.S. interests shows those people have a kind of hatred of Americans,î Hechiche said. ìI would not say they all hate us in the Muslim and Arab world. I do not perceive that.î
Hechiche said some Europeans have resentment toward Americans as well because they disagree with actions taken by the United Nations.
ìI can assure you criticism here is not only from Muslims and Arabs but from Europeans too,î Hechiche said.
Since May, Walker has served as president to the Middle East Institute and has emphasized the mission to improve the understanding between the United States and other countries. Walker served as the ambassador to Israel from 1997 to 1999 and ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt from 1994 to 1997. In addition, he served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 1989 to 1992.