A "peace activist" based in Jerusalem this week sent out the following email to friends: "For my birthday on May 2, I'm asking my friends and family for a special gift: help me raise $5,000... It's a great cause that advances peace –two states for two peoples – Israel and Palestine. Please consider giving to my Birthday Wish, and together we can help to make peace."

The Palestinians call such people who go out asking for money in the name of coexistence and a two-state solution "Merchants of Peace." And there is no shortage of such "peace activists" in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

There are, in fact, dozens of non-governmental organizations that raise millions of dollars every year under the pretext that they want to help the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Most of the money goes to paying high salaries to the directors and employees of these organizations.

Some of these organizations also invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in "seminars" and joint Israeli-Palestinian meetings in five-star hotels in Europe in the name of peace.

Those who are invited to these gatherings are usually people with close ties to the heads of the organizations and government officials on both sides. Only a few represent the grassroots in both societies.

Many Palestinians and Israelis who attend these meetings say that they rarely contribute to the cause of peace.

In many instances, Palestinians and Israelis who go to these meetings as friends return home as enemies after being forced to confront each other in front of foreign audiences.

It is time that the donors who fund such organizations start revising their policies and think of better ways to invest their money.

They should, for example, consider supporting Palestinian university students who come from poor families. The money could also go to build sports facilities and create job opportunities for Palestinian youths. In short, there are one million projects that the donors, some of whom appear to be extremely gullible, could make use of their money to help the cause of peace.

Giving a US-born "peace activist" a $5,000 gift on his birthday is certainly not one of the ways to help advance the cause of peace. It is also hard to understand how such a gift would help bring about a two-state solution.

There are, however, so many deprived Palestinian families who, with $5,000, could feed their children for weeks and months.

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