It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than to find a peaceful resolution to what is happening in Gaza today and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overall. This much we know to be true.
Those who do not know or choose to ignore history, are doomed to repeat it. This much we also know to be true. Dearies, it is with a heavy heart that I write this post. It has taken many sleepless nights to shape the following thoughts.
When Atticus Finch tells daughter Scout, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb in his skin and walk around in it”, he was talking about racism, persecution and hatred. He also cut to the heart of the matter in the Middle East, and the rest of the World when it really comes down to it.
The emotional rhetoric from all sides inflames the horrific situation in Gaza and Israel and creates chaos, where calm, rational judgement and action are needed now more than ever.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a letter from the UK Foreign Secretary to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It was later approved at the 1926 Imperial Conference.
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The Balfour Declaration laid the foundation for the modern State of Israel, which gained its independence from Britain in 1948. The Declaration carved out the State of Israel, bordered by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon
Imagine being a newly-birthed nation, surrounded by mortal enemies, who only seek your total obliteration from the face of the Earth, every minute of every day.
Imagine being a nation borne of the greatest Holocaust the world has known…the elimination of 6 million Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Imagine being an Arab settler in the disputed areas of Palestine, at the time Israel’s birth. You have as much right to be there as the Israeli settlers do.
How is it then, that those who have know the very worst of persecution throughout history, go from being the persecuted, to becoming the persecutors? I believe that living in a virtual state of psychosis all of these years, has polarized the right in Israel.
President Menachem Begin was once considered a terrorist by the British, as a member of the notorious Stern Gang, fighting for an independant State of Israel. President Anwar Sadat was part of the coup that overthrew King Farouk and brought Gammel Abdul Nasser to power as Egypt’s first President. Sadat succeeded him. These two polar opposites managed, with the help of President Carter, to negotiate the Camp David Accords and a 1979 Peace Treaty. Both Begin and Sadat were awarded the Nobel Prize.
In his Noble Prize acceptance speech, Sadat stated
Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples, and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to the hopes of mankind.
President Sadat was assassinated by fundamentalist army officers on 6 October 1981.
In September 1991, on the lawn of the White House, President Clinton oversaw the signing of another Middle East Peace Accord, with Chairman Yasser Arafat of the PLO and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli ultra-nationalist terrorist on November 4, 1995, at a rally in support of the Oslo Accords.
The great warrior-peacemaker Moshe Dayan once said
If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies… Israel cannot afford to stand against the entire world and be denounced as the aggressor…Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist.
Mahmoud Abbas inherited the leadership of the Palestinian people upon Yasser Arafat’s death on November 11, 2004. He has had to tap-dance on the head of a pin, as Hamas and its masters have tried to undermine him at every turn, even as he considered making peace with Israel. They have succeeded.
I believe that religious extremist groups like Hamas have polarized the right in the Arab nations. Their message of hatred and destruction resonates strongly with the hopelessness and despair of young Arabs, and that is something that must not be ignored
Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other Middle East Countries abandoned the Palestinian people long ago.Instead of helping them build a socially and economically viable home, they have watched nervously from the sidelines. They pray that the hatred focused on Israel’s total obliteration does not eventually turn back on them.SHAME ON THESE WEALTHY COWARDS!!
Iran of course, has set the cat amongst the pigeons in unleashing Hamas and other groups, not just in Gaza but Syria and elsewhere. It is quietly licking its chops in anticipation of further chaos.
Yet who are we to cynically reject the optimism of the extraordinary young Anne Frank, who died in a Nazi concentration camp. She wrote in her famous diary
” It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again. “.
Ms. Frank eloquently puts the situation in Gaza in perspective. Every dead child in Gaza and Israel adds to that perspective.
The many Arab and Israeli peacemakers such as those featured in Bridges Across An Impossible Divide: The Inner Lives of Arab and Jewish Peacemakers, refuse to be drawn into this continuous cycle of death, destruction and chaos. The book is by Rabbi Marc Gopin, a peacemaker in his own right. Seeking Peace does not demonstrate weakness. Just the opposite, it shows a courage,strength and wisdom beyond the use of guns, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.
There is path to Peace – there must be. But it needs the willingness of Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Abbas, the leaders of Hamas and all involved, to understand history and NOT REPEAT IT…