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Vision of Hope
Archive >> August 2009
file under: Peace DividendMiddle East PeaceEconomic Opportunities 21 Aug 2009 12:37 PM
Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

Written By:

Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa

Crown Prince of Bahrain

 

 

We need fresh thinking if the Arab Peace Initiative is to have the impact it deserves on the crisis that needlessly impoverishes Palestinians and endangers Israel's security.

 

This crisis is not a zero-sum game. For one side to win, the other does not have to lose.

 

The peace dividend for the entire Middle East is potentially immense. So why have we not gotten anywhere?

 

Our biggest mistake has been to assume that you can simply switch peace on like a light bulb. The reality is that peace is a process, contingent on a good idea but also requiring a great deal of campaigning -- patiently and repeatedly targeting all relevant parties. This is where we as Arabs have not done enough to communicate directly with the people of Israel.

 

An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only one he hears. Just as an Arab might be forgiven for thinking every Israeli wants the destruction of every Palestinian.

 

Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths. Others have been less reticent, recognizing that our success would threaten their vested interest in keeping Palestinians and Israelis at each other's throats. They want victims to stay victims so they can be manipulated as proxies in a wider game for power. The rest of us -- the overwhelming majority -- have the opposite interest.

 

It is in our interest to speak up now for two reasons. First, we will all be safer once we drain the pool of antipathy in which hatemongers from both sides swim.

 

Second, peace will bring prosperity. Already, the six oil and gas nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council have grown into a powerful trillion-dollar market. Removing the ongoing threat of death and destruction would open the road to an era of enterprise, partnership and development on an even greater scale for the region at large.

 

That is the glittering prize for resolving the dilemma of justice for Palestine without injustice to Israel. Effectively, this is the meta-issue that defines and distorts the self-image of Arabs and diverts too much of our energies away from the political and economic development the region needs.

 

The wasted years of deadlock have conditioned Israelis to take on a fortress mentality that automatically casts all Palestinians as the enemy -- and not as the ordinary, decent human beings they are.

 

Speaking out matters, but it is not enough. Our governments and all stakeholders also must be ready to carry out practical measures to help ease the day-to-day hardship of Palestinian lives.

 

The two communities in the Holy Land are not fated to be enemies. What can unite them tomorrow is potentially bigger than what divides them today.

 

Both sides need help from their friends, in the form of constructive engagement, to reach a just settlement.

 

What we don't need is the continued reflexive rejection of any initiative that seeks to melt the ice. Consider the response so far to the Arab peace plan, pioneered by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This initiative is a genuine effort to normalize relations between the entire Arab region and Israel, in return for Israel's withdrawal from occupied territory and a fair resolution of the plight of the Palestinians, far too many of whom live in refugee camps in deplorable conditions.

 

We must stop the small-minded waiting game in which each side refuses to budge until the other side makes the first move. We've got to be bigger than that. All sides need to take simultaneous, good-faith action if peace is to have a chance. A real, lasting peace requires comprehensive engagement and reconciliation at the human level. This will happen only if we address and settle the core issues dividing the Arab and the Israeli peoples, the first being the question of Palestine and occupied Arab lands. The fact that this has not yet happened helps to explain why the Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel are cold. They have not been comprehensive.

 

We should move toward real peace now by consulting and educating our people and by reaching out to the Israeli public to highlight the benefits of a genuine peace.

 

To be effective, we must acknowledge that, like people everywhere, the average Israeli's primary window on the world is his or her local and national media. Our job, therefore, is to tell our story more directly to the Israeli people by getting the message out to their media, a message reflecting the hopes of the Arab mainstream that confirms peace as a strategic option and advocates the Arab Peace Initiative as a means to this end. Some conciliatory voices in reply from Israel would help speed the process.

 

Some Arabs, simplistically equating communication with normalization, may think we are moving too fast toward normalization. But we all know that dialogue must be enhanced for genuine progress. We all, together, need to take the first crucial step to lay the groundwork to effectively achieve peace. So we must all invest more in communication.

 

Once we achieve peace, trade will follow. We can then create a "virtuous circle," because trade will create its own momentum. By putting real money into people's hands and giving them real power over their lives, trade will help ensure the durability of peace. The day-to-day experience would move minds and gradually build a relationship of trust and mutual interest, without which long-term peacemaking is impossible.

 

When stability pays, conflict becomes too costly. We must do more, now, to achieve peace.

 

The writer is crown prince of Bahrain. 

 

file under: PunishmentJusticeCrime 18 Aug 2009 3:03 PM
In Search of Justice Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

The following article was brought to my attention recently, about the brutal killing of a man on the promenade of a Tel Aviv beach.

 

Haaretz

August 17, 2009

"Our father was a man of peace," says daughter of Tel Aviv murder victim.

 

Hundreds of people accompanied Leonard Karp, who was brutally beaten to death on the promenade of a Tel Aviv beach Friday night, as he was laid to rest in Petah Tikva on Sunday.

 

Karp's daughters, one of which was with him when he was attacked, eulogized their father, saying "our dear father, it is so difficult to say goodbye at such an early stage and with such deep pain. You were the first to arrive at any family event. Today you were described as the life of the party? Everyone agreed with this that you were a man of peace who doesn't like to fight."

 

"It is hard to comprehend that you won't see us starting our own families," his daughters said. "We wish that those who do good will receive good in return and that those who do bad will realize that they were wrong, repent and pay the price."

 

Karp's brother, Ya'akov, also spoke at the funeral, telling those in attendance that when their parents died, Leonard became a father to him. "We were two brothers, we shared a soulful love, and now I am alone-what a cruel fate."

 

Police have arrested five residents of Jaljulia and two girls, one a minor and the other a soldier, from Petah Tikva. The seven are suspected of attacking Karp and his wife and daughter while the three were sitting on a bench on a promenade along a Tel Aviv beach. Police suspect that the seven were inebriated and that they attacked the family for no apparent reason.

 

Eye-witness testimonies suggest that the attackers chased Karp, who tried to flee, and beat him ruthlessly. They later dumped his body in the water, where he was found the next morning. The mother and daughter fled in a different direction, and survived.

 

                                                    __________

 

 

To be quite honest, at first glance, I didn't really know what to make of this article. My first instinct was to ask; who were these killers? And by asking "who," it wasn't really about who they were individually, or what their names were, but rather; what ethnic or religious group did they belong to? Were they Jews, or Israeli Arabs, or Palestinian Arabs? And when I read over some of the comments by other readers, they pretty much asked the same kinds of questions; what "group" did these kids belong to?

 

And then I began wondering; why is it so important to know the religion or ethnicity of these kids? An innocent man was murdered. Can't we just focus on the crime itself, and on the individual perpetrators themselves? Why do we have to relate this murder to the actions and attitudes of a wider religious or ethnic group? Isn't the killing of an innocent man significant enough to justify our full attention, or do we need to look elsewhere to find meaning in this isolated event.

 

It occurred to me that to a greater or lesser extent we all carry with us the heavy baggage of our prejudices and biases. And to a certain extent, we need confirmation that we are indeed right in what we happen to believe about other people. So, for example, if we can take the murder of an innocent man, and attribute it to the doings of a larger segment of society, then we could say comfortably that we were right about this or that group, and that this murder proves the point.

 

If Leonard Karp was murdered by Israeli Arabs, so the thinking goes, we could jump on that as proof that Israeli Arabs are a fifth column in Israel, that they are not loyal Israeli citizens, and that they deserve to be treated differently from Israeli Jews. If Leonard Karp was murdered by Palestinian Arabs, we could jump on that as proof that Israel is under siege by terrorists and that any action needed to stop terrorism is indeed justified. And if the young killers were Jews, we could say that the young generation is hopelessly lost and should be written off as parasites.

 

Well, how about a slightly different approach? Instead of using a senseless act of murder to cast blame on an entire segment of society, how about casting blame on the perpetrators themselves, based on a close examination of the evidence at hand? Instead of using a senseless act of murder to justify our prejudice and bias toward others, how about asking how we may have all been complicit in the crime by neglecting our duty to maintain social justice and fairness in our society? Instead of trampling on the memory of a good and honest man by using his murder to fuel the fires of hate, how about using his memory to promote justice and love for one another?

 

We are emotional creatures, so it is not uncommon for us to allow our emotions to get the better of us. But emotions, as worthwhile as they are in and of themselves, are not likely to bring about justice. The work of bringing justice is hard and tedious, and it requires the focus of cool and calculating minds. Justice may require us to blame others, but more often than not, it requires us to look at ourselves, and to ask of ourselves what we could be doing to improve the lives of others, so that they would be less likely to go astray. So in our quest for justice, maybe it is less important to ask of the criminal; what group are you a part of, then to ask of ourselves; what could we have done to make him part of us.