Missed Opportunities in Holy Cities
Editorial from CN Publications, February 20, 2007
“There can be no peace between Arabs and Israelis until the Islamic societies adopt the basic moral concepts of tolerance, acceptance, and conflict resolution. This is not a conflict over a few kilometers of land or privileges to worship at a holy site. It is a clash between the Westernized democratic values of Israeli society, and the medieval, intolerant, autocratic, and hostile values of Islamic societies.”
In September, 2000, the Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, violated the terms of the Oslo Agreement and launched an intifada against Israel which claimed the lives of thousands of Israelis and Arabs. At the end of 2006, the Palestinian Arabs directed their violence against each other with armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which killed scores of Arabs. As a result, the two bad boys, “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas who heads Fatah, and the “militant” Ismail Haniyah who heads Hamas, were summoned to the principal’s office in Mecca to get a scolding from Principal Abdullah and told to shake hands and make friends. The Saudi King, who is considered to be our ally in the War on Terror, missed an opportunity to make a significant contribution to Middle East peace. Instead of pressuring the two combatants to accept the Quartet demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence, King Abdullah condoned an agreement that renounces Israel and recognizes violence. While this agreement may lead to a temporary peace between Fatah and Hamas, it is a setback for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
Throughout thousands of schools around the world, teachers are training children to use “verbal techniques to resolve conflicts.” Whether it involves kindergarten children arguing over a toy, or high school students having a dispute over a romantic relationship, children are taught that conflicts are resolved through dialogue and compromise rather than physical altercations. If the students can’t resolve the conflict between themselves, they are encouraged to seek mediation assistance from a guidance counselor or teacher. Under no circumstances are they to use violence. If they do, they may be punished by “withdrawal of privileges,” such as a reduction in recreational activities.
This simple lesson is the core of the conflict in the Middle East. The Islamic nations still have not accepted this basic concept of civilized society, to use “verbal techniques to resolve conflicts.” In their textbooks, their websites, and their mosques, they continue to preach hatred and incite violence. They condone, support, encourage, and justify the murder of innocent civilians who may have beliefs and practices that differ from their own. They actually celebrate the bombing of buses, restaurants, and hotels that kills scores of innocent civilians. They see no problem with breaking into a home at night and killing an entire family while they are sleeping, because the family is “occupying” their land. They glorify as “heroes” and “martyrs” the misguided adolescents who are duped into committing suicide to kill as many “infidels” as possible. By Western standards, this is the most severe form of pathological behavior. Yet there are Islamic physicians and clergyman who actually justify and encourage this behavior.
There can be no peace between Arabs and Israelis until the Islamic societies adopt the basic moral concepts of tolerance, acceptance, and conflict resolution. This is not a conflict over a few kilometers of land or privileges to worship at a holy site. It is a clash between the Westernized democratic values of Israeli society, and the medieval, intolerant, autocratic, and hostile values of Islamic societies.
Western societies in Europe and America must support the State of Israel in its struggle against Islamic militancy. They must impress upon the Islamic leadesrhsip that hatred, violence, and terrorism cannot be accepted in civilized societies. Whatever grievances the Arabs have against the State of Israel, there are “verbal techniques” for resolving these conflicts. If they can’t do it between themselves, there are established judicial procedures, public forums, and political arenas for assisting in conflict resolution. Under no circumstances should violence be condoned and justified to resolve grievances and conflicts. Disputes and conflicts will always arise between neighboring governments, even friendly governments. Civilized societies must resolve these conflicts through negotiated compromise, rather than violent confrontations.
The self-defense measures used by the Israeli military cannot be equated with the terrorism used by Islamic militants. When Palestinian groups renounce violence and accept peaceful coexistence, the Israeli Defense Forces will be more than willing to withdraw their troops from Arab neighborhoods and leave the Arabs free to govern themselves. In the meantime, the IDF has an obligation to protect Israeli citizens when they are riding buses, eating in restaurants, shopping in malls, and sleeping in their homes. The Israeli government has an obligation to assert the rights of Jews to live near their religious sites in a peaceful, multi-cultural society. Israeli citizens have a right to demand that from their government and their military.
The recent conferences in the holy cities of Mecca and Jerusalem afforded an opportunity to encourage hostile Arab groups to renounce violence, accept peaceful coexistence, and adopt “verbal techniques for resolving conflicts.” But the Saudi, American, and Israeli governments missed the opportunity. Instead the Fatah-Hamas unity government went in the other direction and is demanding recognition and privileges from the international community.
Since Mahmoud Abbas took control of the Palestinian Authority, Israel was told that it must make concessions to support the “moderate” Abbas who heads the moderate Fatah and moderate Palestine Liberation Organization, and wears a moderate suit, and lives in a moderate house, and drives a moderate car. Apparently this strategy hasn’t been effective and resulted in a hostile Palestinian government, which insists on international recognition. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and adopt the strategy of “withdrawal of privileges” that is applied to schoolchildren.
When Hamas stopped promoting suicide bombings in Israel, it wasn’t because they decided that the practice was morally repugnant, but because it wasn’t benefiting their cause. It’s time for the Quartet to impress upon the Fatah-Hamas government that if they continue to pursue a policy of intransigence and hostility, they will be subjected to “withdrawal of privileges,” and not receive the international recognition that they so desire. Privileges should come only after they demonstrate that they can abide by the basic principles of civilized society.