image of jerusalem 2013

Fresh Blood in Quest of New Blood!
An eye for an eye … and a tooth for a tooth! - Hammurabi Code of Laws, [196 &200 ]

12 September   |   2003   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

… So the tit-for-tat killings continue unabated, reminiscent of King Hammurabi’s Code of Laws some 5000 years ago! Israel and the Palestinians remain caught up in a mutually destructive vortex of violence that is claiming innocent lives from both sides. The Palestinians attribute ‘terrorism’ to the Israelis in terms of the extra-judicial assassinations as much as the relentless bombings against Palestinian human and concrete targets, whereas the Israelis attribute ‘terrorism’ to the Palestinians in terms of the suicide bombings that are exacting an equally heavy toll on Israeli Jewish society. Both sides are experiencing so much terror and so many traumas - let alone so much pain, loss or grief - on an almost primal let alone random daily basis.

And after every Israeli or Palestinian killing come the responses too! Following the latest attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Palestinian Prime Minister designate Ahmad Qrei’, also known as Abu Ala’, denounced all violence and condemned the suicide attacks. However, he and his colleagues seem unable to find an egress from this vicious cycle. On the other side of an ugly ‘separation wall’, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon similarly inveighed against the latest attacks and impugned the Palestinian Authority for failing to rein in the terrorists. However, and apart from dangerous threats or military retaliations, he and his cabinet also seem incapable of crossing the costly but necessary political threshold. Both sides remain stuck in a time loop that refuses to release Israelis and Palestinians alike from reciprocal chapters of murder, bloodshed and mayhem.

Despite the awakenings of the first Intifada in the1980 ’s, the serpentine negotiations at Madrid, the Byzantine manoeuvres of the Oslo process, the second Al-Aqsa Intifada or even the ‘roadmap for peace’ that provided an indeterminate and non-specific panacea for an all-too determinate and specific issue, the political landscape remains unaltered today. Why? I think mainly because the ‘solutions’ and ‘concessions’ that have been wrung out to date from both parties were flawed and inconclusive. They did not tackle the root cause of the conflict that remains willy-nilly an illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land.

The Quartet - the UN, Russia, the EU, the USA - that sponsored the ‘roadmap’ are themselves almost absent nowadays from the hotspots of violence in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Gaza or Hebron! The United Nations is deeply embroiled in issues of its own legitimacy and validity in the wake of the divisive Iraq war. Russia is meant to offer strategic depth but is overwhelmed by its own array of internal problems. The European Union is good when it comes to financing projects, but has precious little impact on the political decisions. So the USA remains the main actor, but the Administration is preoccupied with its own electoral and military priorities, too disinterested in a problem whose broader challenge it has not yet grasped fully, and too pressured by its religious right and neo-conservative wing, to act fairly, rapidly and decisively.

So the two principal actors are left to fight it out! There is a beleaguered Israel that has reclaimed the role of a biblical David in a world it perceives as being populated by Goliaths. Then, there is an even more beleaguered Palestinian populace whose shattered hopes for statehood, let alone its collapsed economy or infrastructures, are pushing it to the brink of despair. Is the answer not self-evident? As former Israeli Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin - one of the architects of the Oslo Accords - stated earlier this week, the serious answer lies in their opting out of further violence and assuming the mantle of real leadership. In short, their leaders should convince two disbelieving and mistrusting peoples that a just peace remains the ultimate road toward reconciliation. Instead of applying Hammurabi’s code, both sides should be compelled to stop their vacuous attacks and resume negotiations irrespective of the pressures pitted against them. The Quartet should propose not a set of guidelines like the ‘roadmap’ but a document with an alpha and an omega where both parties are made aware of the end-goal. In that sense, the negotiations would come with a clear signpost pointing toward the ultimate objective. Making it up as they go along, or improvising late solutions for early problems, would only toughen the subsequent choices. Israelis and Palestinians would then constantly find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, checkmating each other or trying to seize the moral ground as a justification for the ongoing bloodletting, murders and crimes against fellow human beings.

Is this vision too quixotic for hardened minds and hearts? We should perhaps listen to the advocates of a non-violent strategy for peace such as Yossi Beilin, Shlomo Ben Ami and Avraham Burg or Sari Nusseibeh, Afif Safieh and Hanan Ashrawi. We should also heed the deeper instincts of both peoples who still yearn for peace despite the travails of past years! However, peace with reconciliation cannot take root unless Israel admits that it must first withdraw from the occupied territories so Palestinians can also found their sovereign and democratic state on their land and with their rights, freedom and dignity intact. And if the older generations of Israeli or Palestinian politicians are unable to deliver peace to their peoples, or can no longer ‘hack it’, is it not high time that both sides stopped spilling fresh blood and imported new blood into the process instead?

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2003   |   12 September


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