The Jewish people have maintained a cohesive ethnicity and cultural tradition throughout their history; this, in and of itself, is sufficient to qualify them for some real-estate of their own on Mother Earth. The Jews have maintained their cultural unity despite the diaspora and millennia of oppression – oppression being the tragic lot of minorities everywhere. We have witnessed the Aliyah – the homecoming of the Jewish people – in our time, and it is a testament to their faith, courage, and resourcefulness that a land called Israel is now a feature of today’s maps. What the Jews have accomplished, after millennia of hardship, is as inspirational as it is just. Israel. Justice does not always come quickly, but it does come.
Justice also recommends the Palestinians for a homeland: they too are a cohesive people with a strong sense of self; they too have been evicted from their homes and witness their children grow up homeless, amid violence and uncertainty. Yet, despite considerable effort invested by the visionaries on both sides to achieve peace and a fair settlement of the issues, many challenges remain. Forces contrary to peace actively stymy forward progress. The impediments to peace which arise have nothing to do with God or the fulfillment of prophecy; but are engendered out of the muck of unbridled selfishness, and an addiction to hatred.
A just and viable world will never tolerate homelessness; either among individuals, or groups of individuals exhibiting substantive ethnic commonalities.
Some on Either Side do not want Peace: The Martyrdom of Arafat and Rabin
What stands in the way of a fair and viable peace for Israel and Palestine is not Jewish people per se, nor is it the Palestinian people. The problem has always been individuals and groups of individuals among these people whose acts are sufficient to torpedo the real progress being made through negotiations. Topping the list are the individuals and groups responsible for the assassinations of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, and, many years ago, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was martyred in the cause of Peace at the hands of Yigal Amir, a young Israeli Orthodox Jew angry over PM Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Peace Accord in 1995. Amir was recruited by an agent-informer in the employ of Israel’s Security Agency [Shin BET]. The recruiter, Avishai Raviv, was acquitted; the court finding that there was no proof he knew Amir was plotting to assassinate Rabin.[i]
The other key participant in the Oslo accords, Yasser Arafat, died in 2004. Sequestered in a compound he shared with 271 other Palestinians, Arafat took ill, and over the course of a month, proceeded slowly and painfully to his end. Suspicions of death from unnatural causes were raised, and PLO Leader Arafat’s body was exhumed. Tissue samples taken by Russian, French, and Swiss representatives revealed extremely high levels of Polonium-210.[ii] Only the Swiss investigators went so far as to say it was “reasonable” to infer Arafat had succumbed to Polonium poisoning.[iii] Though Israel was, in the minds of many Palestinians, the prime suspect, the fact is it would have been nigh-impossible for them to gain and sustain the level of access necessary to accomplish the crime undetected.
Shortly after Arafat’s death, an Israeli radio station quoted a former Palestinian intelligence officer and attorney, Fahmi Shabana, as saying Arafat had been assassinated by his own political rivals.[iv] Now, this might not be as palatable an explanation for some as would an Israel connection, but it is much more feasible.
Although we may never know the whole story, it is likely these leaders were assassinated by their own. The murderers of Rabin and Arafat were likely acting at the behest of people whose hatred for the enemy grew so intense they could only view peace as giving up – and giving in. These people are not able to welcome peace because they feel threatened by it.
I have a dream…
The immortal words of Martin Luther King refer to the freeing of African-Americans from the oppression of the “white” majority; the embracing of equality among human souls in the U.S.A.
Well, I too have a dream. It is simply the good doctor’s dream – extended to the Palestinians and Israelis; just as the good doctor extended the dream of those with whom he shares spiritual kinship – Abraham, Moses, Gandhi, Jesus, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and so many others in human history – to his people, culture, and times.
- The creation and perpetuation of two states: one Jewish, the other Palestinian.
- The creation of a 3rd state: the city-state of Jerusalem, that is in equal measure Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and secular.
I want to consider the 2nd part of the dream first, because with all my heart I know a place which has become so meaningful to so many, and for which so many good souls have died, in its defense or in its conquest, simply does not belong to anyone. Jerusalem belongs to everyone.
The idea of an internationalized Jerusalem has been around for quite some years. The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine , formally adopted by the U.N. General Assembly as Resolution 181(ii), provides for the “…creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special international Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”[v]
The notion is, therefore, neither new or crazy; however, my way of implementing it might be. Nevertheless, here goes:
Suppose the City-State of Jerusalem is created. I imagine this new country as a collaborative constitutional theocracy in which three Faiths – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – are represented, together with a secular group, as political parties in parliament. Parliament is allocated a certain number of seats. Each party is assigned a fixed and equal portion of these seats. The citizens of the City-State of Jerusalem vote to elect representatives from their respective groups to Parliament. The nominal head of state is drawn, on a rotating basis, from each of the four parties.
Like Vatican City, the new state will be sovereign and beholden to no one. It will, however, rely on the goodwill of neighbouring states and the global community, toward it, and toward one another, for its security.
I believe what the City-State of Jerusalem symbolizes is so compelling its existence could be enough to stabilize the entire region. Who could miss the significance of this new Jerusalem, existing solely by virtue of the collaboration, cooperation, tolerance, respect, and honesty of those who had previously exchanged the most deplorable violence?
Now I want to focus on how the notion of scriptural authority is thwarting the first part of the dream: the creation of the State of Palestine.
Given the number of adherents to Judaism and Christianity, at least a third of the world will support Israel’s existence on the basis of their scriptures. The Judaeo-Christian scripture tells of God promising Abraham, and all of his descendants, a specific tract of land, Canaan, also known as the “Promised Land:”
I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God.
I will give you and them the land in which you are now a foreigner. I will give the whole land of Canaan to your family forever, and I will be their God. [Genesis 17, 7-8]
The Judaeo-Christian scripture goes on to say that Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, become, respectively, the fathers of the Hebrews and of the Arabs. That the Promised Land had been given by God, and for all eternity to both Palestinian and Jew, is the clear implication. On that basis, two salient facts emerge:
1 – in doing violence to one another, the Jews and Palestinians do violence to their own kin, and,
2 – that both Jew and Palestinian not only have the right to exist as sovereign nations under God, they have the right to exist on the exact same territory.
That being said, show me the parent who, after building a house and furnishing it with bedrooms for his two children, would decide to evict either, so that one of them may have a bigger bedroom? Or, show me the parent who, upon welcoming another child into the world, would rather throw it into the street than make the bedrooms of his other children smaller, in order to accommodate the new addition to the family?
You get the idea…
It is the wilfully partisan interpretation of Judaeo-Christian and Islamic scripture that is contributing to the ongoing violence and murder of innocent souls while it is derailing the peace process.
The Judaeo-Christian scripture cannot be reasonably interpreted in any fashion other than that both Jews and Palestinians have the right – given them by God and earned with their lives – to peaceful coexistence as sovereign nations.
Neither side is justified in doing violence to non-combatants and is not being true to their own scripture when they do. On the Christian side, Jesus’ own story provided for all posterity a clear indication of this: rather than do violence to save himself, he allowed himself to be crucified; he neither tried to escape or go into hiding. Jesus also came to the realization, during his ministry, that God’s message was not only for the Jews, but for everybody. He met with quite some opposition over this. If Jesus would not do violence to save himself, what message do you suppose he is sending to those who would do violence to others in the name of religion, moreover, in his name? And is the message not the same from all of God’s prophets, to all of God’s peoples? People that were all created by God?
Victims of violent crime and those hapless souls born into situations of ongoing violence can respond in only one of two ways:
- They could treat anyone who gets in their way with the same insensitivity and cruelty as they themselves were treated, or,
- They could strive to ensure no-one is ever treated the way in which they themselves were treated – ever.
One should recognize that Jesus would have chosen option # 2, as would anyone serious about building a fair and lasting peace; to be counted among whom, I’ll warrant, are most Jews and Palestinians.
On the converse, I have heard the argument put forward that the Jewish people have no right to the lands their ancestors once occupied, because that was ancient history. I cannot disagree more: although the Jews have been absent from their historical turf for millennia, they have never given up on returning there; that place, and no other. Neither did they leave of their own volition; they were forced out; compelled to endure the hostility with which the homeless and vulnerable are often welcomed into foreign lands or neighbourhoods ever since. It is owing to the perceptiveness and selfless dedication of the good souls associated with the 19th Century Zionist movement, that the opportunities presented in the dissolution of the Ottoman empire and the outbreak of the Great War, were exploited. The Jewish people were finally going home.
Now it remains for them to see their relationship with their Arab neighbours, and the Palestinians, as familial, not as Semite v. gentile, Jew v. Arab, or for that matter, Talmud v. Quran.
It may be that, left to their own devices, these two sides can never achieve a permanent peace -owing to the behaviour of reactionaries on both sides who will never want peace, and the corollary changes to the status quo.
Although there is no better way to ensure a lasting peace than when enemies come to an agreement among themselves, the international community/U.N. might in this case be obliged to introduce a procedural framework for the process that will include the subjection of both sides to the possibility of binding arbitration.
I believe the substantive part of a viable and permanent solution had already been put forward by the Arab League in 2002. Highlights of their proposal include:[vi]
- Israel’s boundaries reverting to those in existence prior to the 4th of June, 1967. This would oblige Israel’s to withdraw from the Golan Heights and various areas in southern Lebanon
- Supporting the creation of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the territories occupied by Israel since June 4, 1967, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
- Full collaboration in developing a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194
The Arab countries would:
- Declare an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, once and for all
- Establish normal relations with Israel. You shall watch my back, and I shall watch yours. A peace keeping force would be provided, through the collaboration of East and West, along the lines of that developed by Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. This great Canadian soul was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts to preserve the fragile peace in the aftermath of Suez Canal(1956). It is interesting to note that, while this great Canadian and citizen of the world was venerated by the Nobel Prize selection committee for “saving the world,” he was at the same time accused by his critics of betraying the “mother land and Canada’s ties with the U.K.”[vii] How can Peace ever be betrayal? Hello?
[i] Cause of Yasser Arafat’s death. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_of_Yasser_Arafat’s_deathhttp://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/israel-killed-arafat-claims-palestinian-official-poloniumhttp://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/israel-killed-arafat-claims-palestinian-official-polonium[v] United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Partitition_Plan_for_Palestine[vii] Lester B. Pearson. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_B._Pearson
- [vi] Arab peace initiative: full text. (2002, March 28). In the Guardian. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from http://theguardian.com/world/2002/mar/28/israel7
- [iv] Cause of Yasser Arafat’s death. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 15, 2014 from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_of_Yasser_Arafat’s_death
- [iii] Sherwood, H. (2008, November 8). Israel Killed Yasser Arafat, claims Palestinian official. In the Guardian. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from
- [ii] Sherwood, H. (2008, November 8). Israel Killed Yasser Arafat, claims Palestinian official. In the Guardian. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from
- Forming a part of this peace-keeping initiative, Canada will once again have the opportunity to share in making a stand for freedom (in this case, for the people of Israel and of Palestine), maintaining the Canadian tradition of doing the right thing, no matter the cost, as our young men and women demonstrated to the world at Suez, Juno Beach, and at other times and places.
- I see nothing unreasonable in the Arab League’s proposal, and once implemented, together with the support of the international community, this will be a lasting peace. In but a few generations, it will seem to the Israeli and Palestinian then living, as if it had always been that way.
- I would add to this, in all simplicity, the promise which is tacit among all good neighbours…