I would be remiss if I didn’t use this space to share some thoughts on the burgeoning conflict in the Middle East.
As I write this, the crisis has gone on for two weeks. Though Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Russia’s Igor Ivanov and others are making efforts to quell the violence, it appears that politics have broken down.
What a few short weeks ago could have been a miraculous peace agreement has degenerated into rioting, hate crimes and the desecration of holy sites.
An international committee is to be formed to sift through the rubble and find out who is to blame. Such a committee appears to be a dreadful waste of time. At this point, it does not matter who started it. What matters is who will end it. Not for now, but for all time.
A myriad of arguments and news facts have been thrown at me, an Israeli, the past few weeks. I have been told that the Jews are wrongfully killing Palestinians, that the Arabs are unwilling to share Israel, that a war is upon us, and that neither side ever really wanted to make peace with the other.
To quote Shimon Peres, “What we are seeing is the glorious alternative to peace.”
What is troubling today is not the rampant acts of violence to which all have become accustomed, but the culture of hate and distrust that has spilled forth. Jews burn property and yell, “Death to the Arabs” as Arabs burn Israeli flags and set up bombs to kill Jews.
In a state of such mutual hatred between people, not politicians, peace cannot exist. Ever since the signing of the Oslo accords, Israelis have openly wondered if they can trust the Arabs.
This distrust is at the root of the Arab- Israeli violence and although the bloodshed may end, the feeling will leave the region forever volatile. It was my initial reaction that the Israelis should make a quick peace with the Palestinians so that they could stop the violence. Thus, that the Arabs would be “out of the way.”
I now see that that is not a viable scenario. If Israel does not trust the P.A. as a cohabitant nation, it will not trust it as a neighbor.
That is why this situation is so troubling. While the politicians may have amicable, professional relationships with one another, the people may never be able to see each other as equals.
My lowest point during my year in Israel came after a series of bombings in Jerusalem. My grief, frustration and depression did not come from the outcome of the bombing itself. Rather, I was filled with desolation when I saw a group of Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs” as they walked the freshly bloodied streets.
They were giving a case for killing Arabs by showing the public “what Arabs do” as Arabs today are giving a case for killing Jews by making dead boys into martyrs, saying “Jews did this.”
A culture of tension and hate could not be more eloquently made into symphony. The only solution is to end the finger pointing. The living must stop dying for the dead; those who died 5,000 years ago for this land and those who died yesterday. As implausible as it sounds, the only route to a lasting peace in the Middle East is for all parties to forget history for the sake of the future.
The “glorious alternative” is to fight over yesterday and never see tomorrow.