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New Year, Old Conflict
Justice without might is helpless, might without justice is tyrannical - Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (Section V: Justice and the Reason of Effects), 1660

30 December   |   2003   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

Does a haunting sense of dejà-vu not spring into mind as we witness the dying embers of 2003 fade away from our calendars? Are we perhaps not tempted to add, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? Is this aphorism not an apt summary of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, much as it was in December 2002? Are gloom and doom still not the buzzwords, and is it not true that peace and harmony have not transposed all the blood and gore from both sides?

Last week, western Christianity world-wide celebrated another Christmas Day. Once this event has been stripped of its ever-spacious commercial and social dimensions, it remains in its essence a holy day that celebrates the nativity of Jesus the Christ in Bethlehem. This reborn baby, our Saviour and Redeemer, brought with him a potent message of hope.

But what hope, one might well scream? Just look at the facts on the ground! Israelis and Palestinians are still killing and maiming each other with undisguised and vengeful gusto whilst also being fearful and hateful of each other! Israelis hold the mistaken belief that they can regain security by subduing another people through sheer brutal force, whilst Palestinians hold the equally mistaken belief that they can reclaim their land and freedom through suicide bombs. As HB Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, re-iterated in his Christmas Message and Homily in Bethlehem last week, it is the common and inevitable vocation of Israelis and Palestinians - Jews, Christians and Muslims alike - to live together on this small parcel of land. However, added the highest Catholic cleric, it is only possible to re-discover peace if Israel acknowledges that the nub of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is its occupation of Palestinian land.

Anyone who has lived in the Holy Land, or even briefly visited Israel and Palestine, would readily acknowledge that this political conflict is subjecting scores of Palestinian and Israeli children, women and men to homicidal and inhumane tempers. Just as it is not easy to be killed, it is not easy to kill either! And yet, killing and being killed are exercised in the name of ... what? Alas, they are being exercised to sate Israeli designs for retaining Palestinian lands. To achieve this objective, wholesale injustices, traumas and indignities, as much as discrimination and humiliation, are being heaped upon a Palestinian people whose ‘sin’ lies in its unerring wish to become free and join the comity of nations. The separation wall being built by Israel despite international remonstrations is one mere example of this ‘grab mentality’.

This is why I am concerned by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s recent address in Herzliyah when he put Palestinians on notice - either accept my plans, or else I will go it alone! In a nutshell, this [now overt] Israeli strategy of hitnatkut (cutting ourselves off in Hebrew) implies that most of the West Bank areas currently under occupation will become de facto a part of Israel, and Palestinians will be left in shrunken, shrivelled and isolated enclaves. Israeli settlers from those enclaves would then be removed and relocated to the myriad settlements that would stay on Palestinian land. In fact, and apart from Jerusalem itself, settlement blocs such as Karney Shomron, Elkana, Ariel, Kedumim, Ma’aleh Adumim, Kiryat Arba’, the Modi’in road area and parts of the Jordan Valley would also ostensibly remain with Israel. The separation wall would only facilitate this delineation. Given that the Palestinian leaders remain divided over their political choices let alone over the unmapped road to peace, Israel would simply execute its plan without serious challenges. In doing so, it would also avoid any future binational or two-state solution whilst ‘annexing’ unilaterally its frontiers to include much of the West Bank! This strategy would emasculate the Palestinians further, and place their freedom of movement let alone their territorial contiguity at the mercy of a merciless Israeli army.

Would this unsophisticated but diabolical plan work in 2004? Is it conceivable that Palestinians would end up with no more than 10% of the original Palestinian lands they peopled before 1948? Is it also conceivable that the Israeli leadership in the corridors of power today would succeed to market this plan that promises ‘peace’ and ‘security’ without ‘negotiations’? In short, is peace without the other side a frightening possibility or does it remain an oxymoron?

As the world welcomes 2004, it behoves well on hopeful peacemakers in our world to think about the wisdom of an Israeli adventuresome strategy that has gone rampant. Is it not high time to re-define the benchmarks of this conflict?

They have misled my people by saying “Peace”, when there is no peace (Ez 13:10 & Jr 6:14)

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2003   |   30 December


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