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GHASSAN MICHEL RUBEIZ
A new approach to US aid in the
[East Meredith New York October 14
The American University of Beirut (AUB),
from which tens of thousands of Arab leaders have graduated over the
last 140 years, is a shining example of foreign aid put to good use.
What distinguish the graduates of AUB are not only leadership and a
sense of service to the Arab world; graduates of this New
York-chartered university are often also strong believers in
American culture and ideals.
But foreign aid to poor countries is not always put to such good
use. Donors can reach the hearts and minds of recipients when aid
creatively addresses human needs such as education, employment,
gender equality or health. Unfortunately, however, aid has also been
used as compensation for damage done in punitive wars, and has often
been squandered through corruption on the side of the donor or
recipient. In Iraq, for instance, the Center for Global
Development's Commitment to Development Index (CDI) of 2008
calculates that only 11 cents of every dollar actually goes to aid
because of wide scale corruption–a great disappointment for the
Regrettably, in Iraq, as in many other countries in the Middle East
and South Asia, the bulk of foreign assistance is military-based.
Military aid encourages developing countries to depend on weapons to
achieve security. Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey receive
the lion's share of US foreign assistance, mostly for defense
contracts that ultimately benefit US companies and dull the
sensitivity of the recipients to peace and reconciliation. Israel
and Egypt alone consume over half of the US foreign aid budget.
In absolute volume–over $25 to $30
billion dollars annually–America spends more than any other country
in foreign aid. Despite the impressive quantity, however, American
aid is scant in relation to its national wealth. America donates
about 0.016 of its gross national product, according to Robert
McMahon at the Council on Foreign Relations but, according to
international standards, every donor country is expected to spend
about 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product.
Over the past decade,
though–especially in light of 9/11–the United States has realized
that the status quo must change. As a result, there has been serious
progress reforming the process of American foreign aid delivery. New
literature on state building, such as Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace's foreign and humanitarian aid expert Thomas
Carother's Aiding Democracy Abroad, has challenged the dominance of
politics in foreign aid. Think tanks and economists that favor trade
and foreign investment as strategic methods for wealth building and
poverty reduction argue that foreign aid is of no real long-term
value to donor or recipient countries. Development experts are also
speaking up about the need to improve the level and effectiveness of
humanitarian aid while improving other avenues of development.
The new US approach to foreign aid parts with the practice of
linking help, first and foremost, to US "strategic" needs, which
often translates to rewarding autocratic regimes with humanitarian
or military assistance for political compliance.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government agency that
started in 2003 under the George W. Bush Administration, ties
massive foreign aid that comes from tax dollars to the competitive
performance of the recipient country. Only countries that invest in
human development, respect the rule of law and exercise free market
principles are eligible to receive large government grants in human
The popularity of the MCC has increased US commitment to development
and improved the quality of empowerment initiatives. Reform-oriented
countries like Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Morocco, Jordan, Malaysia and
Indonesia are among the Muslim-majority countries which have
received MCC support or are expected to be awarded large US grants
in the future.
While America tries to improve its
image in the Muslim world, it is slowly realizing that providing aid
for programs that will benefit a country's people, not just the
state, can help immensely.
Extricating the United States' development-oriented assistance fully
from its strategic political and military objectives will take time,
but US investment in agencies like the MCC–and the countries it
benefits–demonstrates that it is on the right track.
This article is part of a series
analyzing Western policies in the Muslim world written for the
Common Ground News Service (CGNews). Source: Common Ground News
Service (CGNews), 29 September 2009,
www.commongroundnews.org Copyright permission is granted
The uprising in Iran will live
[East Meredith New York July 4 2009]
The struggle will
continue in the Iran. This great country is on a political fault line, and
its people know it.
The wise words of Khaled Mohammad Khaled, an Islamist
scholar, are relevant to the current Iranian crisis: “Mixing religion in the
affairs of the state detracts from religion and from the state”.
Liberation comes in stages. Iran needs ample time to
radically change its political system. The Iranian uprising is strong enough
today, but the state is bent on breaking the bones of those who challenge
Despite the strong desire for change, Iranian society
is still split between the populist and the modernist.
The populist, who President Ahmadinejad represents, is
poorly educated, extra-nationalistic and anti-Western. The populist is still
hypnotized by the Khomeini power that emerged through the revolt against the
regime of the pro-Western Shah.
The modernist Iranian is open-minded, globally oriented
and gender sensitive. The modernist is politically awakened but not yet
organized and sufficiently inclusive. The uprising should find attractive
ways to draw in the rural and low income groups to join the national
struggle for modern state building.
Women power in this modernist group is growing rapidly,
and in this gender empowerment, there is great potential for a sweeping
Public protest requires sustained organization. There
seems to be no strategic vision, no party, no identifiable social movement
and no structure behind the activism in the street. It is heartening to
observe that women of Iran are in the process of figuring out the relevance
of political power in building democracy and in reclaiming Islam, as a faith
rather than a political ideology.
The revolt lacks a forceful leader. To be fair, the
former Prime Minister, Mir Hussein Musavi has an impressive record. But his
critics describe Musavi as a born-again bureaucrat, who conveniently ran on
a “change” message at a time when people are yearning for relief from a
dysfunctional political system. Musavi has not yet identified a vision, a
forceful message for the uprising beyond “moderation” and smart economic
Leadership vacuum may allow covert foreign meddling to
penetrate the current Iranian uprising. The 1979 revolution was diverted
from a struggle against the neo-colonial rule of the Shah. The revolution
went through rapid metamorphoses to unfortunately become a struggle against
modernity, with a religious cover. Religious leaders took over the
revolution from the intellectuals.
There is a lesson to be learned. To preserve the
Persian authenticity of the struggle, the leaders of this uprising should
keep a distance from Western “democracy experts”, for many reasons, not the
least of which the presence of a dismal record of foreign intervention in
For the next round of revolt, women and working class
leadership will hopefully take center stage. It is only a matter of a few
years before the sweeping round of revolt will come.
A new chapter for political
Islam in Iran
[East Meredith New York June 19 2009]
Today, the people of Iran are on the
street not just to protest the results of the elections. The revolt
is deeper and wider in scope; it is aimed at freeing their society
from the authority of clerics in politics.
A note of clarification is due. This phase of the Iranian revolution
is not aimed at separating religion from politics, but at separating
the institutions of religion from the institutions of politics.
Separating the two systems is not a threat to either system but an
act of maintanance and prevention of mutual meddling.
The process of challenging the political system has made a promising
start in a few days. It is still too early to predict if the massive
protest in the streets will succeed in bringing about a new
government. What is clear now is that public trust in the current
political system has largely disappeared. System change is coming
sooner than had been expected only a few weeks ago.
The Iranian people deserve moral support from the Western world but
they are hesitant to ask for such support for good reasons. The
growing political and military strength of Iran over the past three
decades has made it a country of controversy, both in its regional
milieu and in the West.
In the West, Iran is viewed through a security lens. Iran’s
relations with revolutionary groups in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq, as
well as its risky nuclear program, have positioned the Persian state
as a strong adversary to Israel and a perceived threat to strategic
If there is regime change in Iran, future relations with its
adversaries may change significantly. The Arab-Israeli peace process
is particularly sensitive to Israel’s future relation with Iran.
Hamas and Hezbollah would soften if Iran’s future regime were to be
Despite their social distance from the West, Iranians would like to
be viewed differently by the outside world. The people of Iran are
proud and bent on self-determination. They have swiftly eliminated
colonialism. They have survived intact a long war that was inflicted
on them by Iraq, with Western support.
Iran is searching for ways to build a modern state, but not dreaming
of a Western model of statehood. It is important not to judge the
Iranian struggle for freedom by Western criteria. Iran is a Middle
Eastern country with great appreciation for religion. This street
revolt in Iran is not swing from the sacred to the secular. Islam,
as a faith, as a set of principles to relate to God, like
Christianity or Judaism, can be harnessed to work for democracy
instead of working against it.
In 1979, the people of Iran revolted against their government to be
free from excessive international influence, the Shah’s symbiotic
dependence on the West. Today, Iranians are on the street in massive
numbers demonstrating peacefully against their government; they are
continuing the process of state building.
What is happening in Iran has wide international implications. Iran
is a pioneer in political change. By contrast, the Arab world is too
timid in political reform.
To what extent is Iran opening the way to political awakening for
other countries in the Middle East? Is there a simple explanation
for Arab political passivity in contrast to Persian activism? Is it
because the opposition in Iran is the solution, whereas in the Arab
world, the opposition is the problem? Are Arabs afraid to substitute
despotic for radical regimes?
There may be other explanations for Iran’s propensity in risk-taking
in political change. As a nation, Iran is strong; it is ancient and
relatively homogeneous. Society can afford to experiment with state
building without the threat of breaking up into ethnic or sectarian
What is happening in Iran these days may have dramatic implications
for the future of governance of Iran, itself, and for the debate on
political Islam, in the 57 Muslim-majority countries.
One-state solution requires a
shared state of mind
[Palm Beach Gardens FL
Feb 17 2009]
In the future Israelis
and Palestinians may find it natural to live together in a single,
integrated and democratic state. However, planning for a one-state
solution unilaterally is bound to be risky, if not deadly.
But as hope for reaching a two-state solution erodes, the one-state
solution emerges as an attractive alternative. The problem is that
each side of the conflict has its own version of the one-state
solution. While the Israeli version aims at canceling a viable
Palestinian state, the Palestinian version aims at canceling Israel,
as a Jewish state.
Consider the covert Israeli version first. In an Israeli one-state
solution, Arabs would be forced to leave Israel through war or
increased socioeconomic pressure. The continuation of the Israeli
occupation is bound to lead to the natural termination of the
Palestinian state. Increased annexation of Palestinian territory
would leave no room for the creation of a separate and viable
But wiping out nations is not so simple. Palestinians are not
leaving their land. For many Palestinians, the opposite of what
Israel intends to take place is happening.
In a parallel version of the Israeli one-state solution,
Palestinians would populate the area, which is currently under
Israeli rule, to the point of demographically dominating the Jewish
population, and subsequently achieve power transfer.
On the tenth of February Israelis may have advanced the popularity
of a one-state solution by voting massively for Avigdor Leiberman,
the head of Ysrael Beiteinu party. Beiteinu won 15 parliamentary
seats, thus becoming the third most popular party. In addition to
the secular Beiteinu, there are some extreme religious groups that
support the one-state idea.
For Lieberman and his followers, Israel’s survival requires the
departure of disgruntled Arabs from the Holy Land. This far-right
constituency feels threatened by the presence of over one million
Arab (Palestinian) Israeli citizens and by four million Palestinians
in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israeli
ultranationalists believe that Arab Israeli citizens who oppose
Israel’s policy should lose their citizenship and be pressured to
leave the country. Moreover, such exclusivist groups believe
Palestinians who resist the occupation “deserve” to be displaced to
Jordan or to Egypt.
But Palestinians are resilient. They retaliate with a mirror-image
ideology. The Palestinian version of the one-state solution is well
represented by the rejection politics of Hamas, the Islamic
Resistance Movement. Hamas denies the right for Israel to exist and
aims to establish a Palestinian state as a substitute for Israel.
Both sides are creating political facts that reinforce the process
of exclusion of the other. But it is not fair to equate Israel’s
near annexation, or control, of the Palestinian territories with the
impact of a resistance movement seeking the liberation of its
However, the rapid natural growth of the Palestinian population,
their resilience in coping with the occupation and the growing
popularity of Hamas offers a mirage to some Palestinians in aiming
at recapturing the entire land of “historic Palestine”.
A more popular and explicit form of the Palestinian one-state idea,
shared by a tiny minority of Israelis, is secular in nature. In this
second form, a one-state scenario would be a product of uniting
“Israel proper” and “Palestine” in a single, bi-national state,
voluntarily, a la post-apartheid South African model.
Whereas, Hamas plans to reach the future Palestinian state through
force, advocates of the secular version call for an egalitarian
one-state solution through a negotiated peace process. This
integrative solution demands forgiveness and reconciliation from
In fact, all groups who call for a one-state solution dress up their
aspiration-scenarios with diplomatic and moral language. The Israeli
one-state scenario defends the idea of exclusion of Arabs from
Israel as a measure for protecting the Jewish character of Israel.
Hamas defends the idea of creating a Palestinian state in which
Muslims, Christians and Jews would live as equal citizens in an
“Islamic” state. The Palestinian secular one-state offers a
reconciliatory, albeit theoretical, solution through political
integration of the two peoples in one country.
Regardless of the rationale for the one-state solution, its key for
success is missing: agreement on the solution, and on steps to reach
it, by both sides of the conflict. Has the point been made against
the feasibility of the one-state solution?
The two-state solution is not yet dead. Palestinians and Israelis
have a record of convergence on many aspects of the two-state
solution. What is needed to make the two-state solution a reality is
the elimination of the fear factor of the other. Currently the
confidence in any solution is low. The international community
should intervene to push the two-state solution before land
annexation becomes irreversible. Continued conflict allows the
forced, one-sided, one-state solution to emerge as the settlement of
The one-state solution must never become a dream for one side and a
nightmare for the other. A one-state solution requires a shared
state of mind.
Obama will soon have to deal
[Palm Beach Gardens FL
Feb 6 2009]
Next week, on February
10, the national legislative Israeli elections are expected to
return Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party to power. A Likud-led
government is bent on dictating the terms of peace to the Arab
states. By electing a hard line regime, the Israelis reflect a
position of unusual comfort with a tense political status quo.
Israel prefers to maintain the occupation than to make a complete
withdrawal from Arab land.
In 2002, twenty-two Arab states offered a reasonable peace deal to
Israel: withdrawal from 1967 occupied territories in return for
peace with the Arab world and normalization of relations. The Bush
Administration and Tel- Aviv ignored this historic Arab concession.
Now the Obama Administration is considering the 2002 Saudi-initiated
plan as a framework for reinvigorating the peace process. On peace,
Israel is moving in the opposite direction from the American
Administration, but not from the Israeli-centric American public
sentiment. Most Americans regard Israel as a victim and Arabs as the
aggressor. Every Palestinian suicidal act and every Hamas rocket
reinforces this American view.
The Likud and its partners -on the extreme right- face sobering
Palestinian realities: population growth, hardening resistance and
the growing popularity of the one-state solution (more later on the
Under Israeli authority or control, 5.4 million Jews and 5.2 million
Palestinians live. In the two global Diasporas, there are 7.7
million Jews and 5.2 Palestinians. Many in the Diaspora believe they
have the right to live in the land of ancestry, “Israel” or
Fast forward five years, the 5.2 Palestinians, under Israeli rule or
control, through population growth, will be the majority. Fast
forward ten years, Palestinians will be a strong majority.
Changing demography raises questions about shift of political power.
How will Israelis react to the natural growth of Palestinians? How
will Palestinians use their growing demographic power?
Many friends of Israel urge Tel Aviv to cut a bargain peace deal
now: 22% of the land (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) would go
to Palestine and 78 % would go to Israel, by withdrawing to 1967
Resistance and territoriality
Palestinians are glued to their homeland despite an expanding
occupation, disunity in their leadership, isolation of Gaza from the
West bank, unbearable living conditions, collective punishment,
assassination of their leaders, a separation wall and high rate of
Palestinian resilience does not seem to impress the likely future
prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu and his party rely on the myth
that Israel will ultimately break down Palestinian will. Not many
realize that Palestinian grassroots have greatly matured politically
over sixty years of struggle and suffering. When Palestinians are
given opportunity to hold elections they do it freely and
democratically. Their election of Hamas in 2006 was not a preference
of fundamentalism over secular authority; the electoral choice of
Hamas was a choice of a solid resistance movement to deal with a
harsh and unrelenting occupation. With the same protective instinct,
Israelis are about to elect extreme politicians to deal with an
imagined Palestinian threat to Jewish survival.
But old and reliable friends of both Palestine and Israel believe
that neither Hamas nor an extreme Israeli regime will be able to
For the first time in history Palestinians face Israel with equal
political strength. The growing empowerment of Palestinians, their
growing numbers and the growing support they receive from their
immediate neighbors in Lebanon and Syria, from Iran, and from the
Arab street, makes them today a formidable challenge to Israel.
But the curve of political learning for Palestinians is not linear.
Today, two psycho-social factors handicap Palestinian power: lack of
confidence in political strength and lack of experience with civic
resistance. If Palestinians unite on a peaceful struggle platform
they will gain the political edge over Israel within two to three
years. Regrettably, many Palestinians continue to confuse organized
civic political mobilization with passive resistance.
One state solution
Balance of power has generated new ideas about “solutions”, ideas
which look reasonable to one side and threatening to the other.
Impatience with land-for-peace solutions has excited both
Palestinian and Israeli imagination. Each side is pondering novel
alternatives to the most pragmatic scenario, the two-state solution.
Over the last three years Palestinians have overtly advocated a
political solution through integration of Palestine into Israel in
one country. Palestinians argue powerfully: Israel has managed to
fragment the West Bank irreversibly through massive settlements, a
wall and limitless checkpoints. There is no way to reverse the
occupation and create a contiguous and viable Palestinian state.
Forger about borders and give us our human rights as equal citizens
On the other hand, Israelis covertly entertain their own one-state
solution through integration of Palestinians of the West Bank and
Gaza into Jordan and Egypt, respectively. Israelis argue with
passion: There is plenty of Arab land outside Israel; Palestinians
would fit better in Arabia. When Palestinians separate from Israel,
the Jewish state, will achieve security.
The two contrasting “solutions” are attractive but they are
unrealistic. Real piece is achieved when both sides are ready to
support a plan of common ground.
Ironically, the one-state solution is sending messages of moderation
to the other side. The Israeli one-state solution alerts
Palestinians that if they unite they would make it impossible for
Israel to force them to leave or to unite with Jordan. Similarly,
the Palestinian one-state solution alerts Israelis to stop
foot-dragging on withdrawal from the territories.
The Obama Administration and the anticipated Netanyahu regime would
not be on the same wave length politically. But the extent of
political difference between Washington and Tel-Aviv remains
minimal. If the Palestinians manage to unite on a peace platform,
the Obama Administration will be strengthened dramatically in
pressuring Israel to accept the Arab peace plan. If Palestinians
could find a way to cooperate with Washington, the Netanyahu
conservative coalition will either cooperate with a US proposed
peace plan or loose power to a more accommodating Israeli
International community must
stop Gaza war
[Palm Beach Gardens FL
Jan 6 2009]
community should immediately intervene in Gaza and end this war. It
is imposing an intolerable price on civilians, killing more than
500, many of them innocent children, injuring 2,700 people and
making daily life, which was already dire, all but impossible.
The images of this immense suffering gravely alarm the Arab and
Muslim world, inciting hatred against Israel — and by extension,
against its defender, the United States.
Hamas’s rocket shelling of Israeli citizens is also morally
indefensible, useless and provocative. There are much better ways to
resist the oppressive Israeli siege of Gaza and the wider
For Israel, going after Hamas militarily is counterproductive, even
in the short to medium term. Being a grassroots movement, Hamas is
extremely resilient. It has the potential to regenerate its
political muscle, no matter the damage it suffers. Regardless of how
regressively Hamas — formally known as the Islamic Religious
Movement — governs or how unrealistic its rejection of Israel is,
Palestinians are rallying around it because of Israel’s aggression.
Hamas won a democratic Palestinian election in January 2006. After
achieving the electoral right to govern all Palestinian territories,
Hamas was unfairly ostracized and undermined by Israel, the United
States and the European Union. When Hamas was denied access to
political power, more Palestinians identified with it, in defiance
of external intervention.
When the United States and the EU imposed an embargo on Gaza, more
Palestinians rallied to the side of Hamas. In its autocratic rule
over Gaza, Hamas has nevertheless shown discipline and offered
social services and provided local security. Hamas’s rival party,
Fatah, and its leaders in the Palestinian Authority, rule the West
Bank as a separate entity from Gaza with dubious legitimacy bestowed
The international community must allow Palestinians to shape the
character of their governance. For too long political Islam has been
considered a threat to the West and its allied Arab regimes. Trying
to protect Arab regimes from political Islam has consistently failed
in Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
Muslims will have to discover, through trial and error, without
colonial meddling, how to apply their faith in governance.
Reconciliation of Hamas with Fatah is a crucial precondition for
negotiating lasting peace with Israel. Will Barack Obama facilitate
the reconciliation among Palestinians in a creative way, or will he
— like George Bush — try to divide the two? And will Obama restrain
Israel from more aggression, or will he reflexively side with
Israel, regardless of its cruel policies?
Obama must recognize that war is futile. He must recognize that the
siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment, which violates the
Geneva Conventions. He must reconcile the competing Palestinian
factions. And he must make Israel safe.
Countenancing this war will not accomplish any of these goals.
Can war be just or it has to be
[Palm Beach Gardens FL
Dec 16 2008]
When are wars morally just and when are they (artificially) justified? The
literature on just war reveals that war is hard to justify, and it is often
ineffective in resolving conflict, even when it is considered just.
Brian Oren identifies a cluster
of six variables which morally justify war: Cause, intention, authority,
last resort, probability of success and proportional cost. For a war to be
called just, it has to pass all six criteria. (Brian Oren: Michael Walzer
on War and Justice, McGill 2000.)
Some explanation is in order.
First, a just war must have a good cause. Often just wars are waged to
combat threats to national security. Second, just wars are based on good
intentions: e.g. to rescue people, to prevent genocides or to restore
legitimate borders. Third, wars must be explicitly declared and properly
authorized. The use of force across borders must respect international law
of state sovereignty. Within the borders of a free nation only the state is
authorized to use force. Under colonial occupation, liberation movements
have the right to armed struggle. Fourth, wars should be measures of last
resort to allow peaceful means of resolving conflict. Fifth, wars must be
avoided if the prospects of their success are slim. Lastly, the cost of war
should not be disproportional to the outcome of military intervention.
To show how difficult it is to
justify war, I have examined 12 (mostly Middle-East) wars, and classified
them into two neat categories of “just” and “unjust”.
Second war on Iraq
1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait
Turkey's invasion of Cyprus
UN intervention in Darfur
Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon
South Lebanon liberation
Middle East 1967 war
Algerian war of independence
Iraq war with Iran
A war can be called unjust for
violating a single criterion, but for a war to be considered just it has to
pass all six criteria. The following list of wars is considered unjust for
Cause: The 2003 US War on Iraq was unjust because there were no
weapons of mass destruction; in Iraq, there was no connection to
Al-Qaeda and global terrorism.
Intention: Saddam rationalized his invasion of Kuwait to deal
with Iraq’s financial crisis after the Iran war.
Lawful authority: In 1974, Turkish forces launched a surprise
attack on a sovereign state, Cyprus. It was Turkey, not the Turkish
Cypriot community which declared the war on the Greek Cypriote
Last resort: Before diplomacy was exhausted in the border hostage
crisis, Israel launched a devastating war on Lebanon in the
summer of 2006.
Prospects of success: The 1967 Israeli occupation of Arab land
did bring a military success but not a solution to Israel’s future
Result: The Iraq-Iran war of the eighties, which Saddam Hussein
started and the West fuelled, exhausted both countries, ended in a
stalemate and created immense Muslim distrust of the West.
Shifting the discussion from
unjust to just wars, in the middle column of the table, consider the US led
coalition war in Afghanistan to destroy Ben Laden terrorist training camps
and dismantle the Taliban government. When this war was launched it was
correctly linked with the 9/11 tragedy and subsequently justified on
criteria of cause, intension, authority, last resort, prospects and result.
However, after the US led distractive and destructive 2003 war on Iraq, the
Talibans regrouped, international support for US efforts weakened and the
Muslim world became less motivated to participate in the international war
on terror. There are now alternative theories on how to deal with the
conflict in Afghanistan. Increasingly, the resolution of the conflict looks
political rather than military. This war started as just but it is losing
Next, consider the first Gulf war
of 1991, in which an international coalition invaded Iraq. This war is
considered just on cause (Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait), intention (respect
of state sovereignty), authority (world-wide coalition) and last resort
(diplomacy preceded intervention). However, this war is weak on the criteria
of success (a second Gulf war followed) and result (high Iraqi casualties,
immense environmental degradation and growing political discord).
The verdicts on Darfur and Bosnia
are still undecided. The last two wars on my “just” list were liberation
from colonial occupation. Led by Hezbollah, the armed struggle in Lebanon in
the 1980s and 1990s forced Israel to withdraw from south Lebanon in 2000.
With a heavy human toll (1.5 million Algerians and 27000 French soldiers)
the Algerian war of independence liberated the country from France in the
1950’s and early sixties.
The scholars who worked out the
theory of just war were morally demanding. Few wars meet all six criteria of
justice. But the real challenge for making wars work well for humanity goes
beyond meeting the moral criteria.
It is true that going to war
requires a just cause, a noble intension, an authorized force, exhausted
diplomacy, good outcome and limited cost; however, just war can take you
only a limited distance in conflict resolution.
However, making war to resolve
conflict effectively, one has to think of dealing with root causes. War can
not reduce world poverty, generate jobs for millions of youth, level
opportunities among nations, protect the environment or reduce population
Just war theory is limited
because it is just about war. For centuries the world has lived under a
war-fixated paradigm of conflict resolution. Today we understand better the
connection between social, economic and political problems. Our approach to
conflict resolution must reflect the complexity of social causation.
War may be necessary in rare
cases; but it is often not sufficient to restore social order in a “flat,
hot and crowded” world, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Friedman. In an
absolute sense, war can never be just, but it can be justified.
Globally, the day has not come
yet to stop venerating war and its champions. I dream: fast forward a
century, war, like slavery, would be abolished.
A dream: Obama a
Catalyst for Peace
[Palm Beach Gardens FL
Oct 24 2008]
This week in Israel, cabinet negotiations have been as volatile as the
fluctuations on Wall Street. In the next few days, attempts to form a new
Israeli cabinet could shatter the dreams of millions of Middle Easterners
who long for peace.
The current moderate Kadima
leadership is seen as serious about peace with Arabs. But if the Kadima
party fails to form a cabinet and new elections are called, the
ultraconservative Benjamin Netanyahu may well become the next Prime
This impending, nightmare
scenario is somewhat offset by other, powerful forces of peace that hang on
the positive force for peace that an Obama win would usher in.
In the past few weeks, three
separate political developments have made me hopeful that a Barack Obama
victory will build momentum for peace in the Middle East.
The first development is the
steady rise in Obama’s poll ratings indicating that Americans are looking
for the kind of change that he promises. The second event has occurred in
Israel. Sensing Obama’s likely election, prominent leaders in Tel Aviv have
expressed serious willingness to reconsider the six-year old Arab peace
proposal. Prime Minister Olmert spoke candidly on September 29, and Defense
Minister Barak did the same on October 19. Both leaders offered surprisingly
conciliatory public statements to the Arab world. The third development is
in the form of good news for Obama from nations around the world . Polls
indicate that the overwhelming majority of nations prefer the Illinois
Senator to be in the White House. In sum, Barack is now the candidate of
change domestically, he is in demand for conflict resolution in the Middle
East, and he is a political star abroad.
A new era of diplomacy might
start with a pivotal change in Washington leadership.
I see signs of hope for a
transformed philosophy of US foreign relations.
My dream for Middle East peace
develops. Events unfold as follows.
In response to an Obama victory,
the world community is reminded that America’s best tendencies are self
correction, assimilation of minorities and appreciation of diversity.
Voices of cooperation in international relations come from near and far to a
country that is taking risks for the promise of change.
Through Obama, a new America
talks the language of partnership and empowerment and abandons the language
of patronage. This new America starts planning for withdrawal from Iraq in
close coordination with Europe and Iraq’s neighbors.
A breakthrough in Arab-Israeli
conflict is achieved through the engaged leadership of Obama. His record
indicates clear passion for peace in the Middle East. The new US president
has direct influence on Israeli cabinet formation because the security of
the Jewish state is tied to American support. An alliance of moderate
parties with a peace agenda emerges to form a new government. Anticipating
the victory of the Democrats, this new Israeli government accepts the basic
tenants of an Arab-endorsed Saudi peace plan, albeit with some reservations.
In my political dream, conditions
are good for exchange of land for peace: Washington mobilizes its resources
for international cooperation; Tel Aviv bravely faces the urgency for a
major land compromise; Arab regimes assume the full implications of
normalization with Israel. A Palestinian state is established with agreement
on the three most important issues of land/settlements, refugees and
Withdrawal from the occupied
territories is near total. A consolidated part of the Jewish settlements is
preserved, allowing for minor adjustments to 1967 borders. Land lost from
the West Bank to Israeli settlements is compensated with comparable Israeli
land transferred to Palestinians, thus allowing Gaza to better connect with
the West Bank. Israel returns the Golan Heights to Syria with border
security between the two countries assured through an international peace
The Palestinian refugee issue is
creatively solved by return of some Palestinians to their new state and by
compensating all needy Palestinians with massive social and economic
empowerment programs. But money is not enough to redress injustice. Israel
acknowledges its moral responsibility for causing immense suffering to
Palestinian refugees. Arab states acknowledge their exploiting the issue of
Palestine to defend their excessive investment in warfare at the expense of
human investment in displaced Palestinians and in their own societies. A
long-term Palestinian compensation package of scholarships, job training,
adequate housing and nation-building projects is funded by Arab oil revenues
and by Israeli-US-Europe commitments.
Softly partitioned, Jerusalem is
the shared capital of Israel and future Palestine, with the East (Arab) side
and the West (Israeli) remaining integrated. Access to religious sites
remains free to all.
Allow me to continue my dream.
Israel is offered full diplomatic
relations with twenty-two Arab countries. Israelis and Arabs are invited to
invest in each others countries. Regional water projects are activated.
Under an Obama administration,
the psychology of national security in the Middle East changes from a
zero-sum game to a win-win game. Jews no longer have to think of gaining
security through engineering Arab insecurity; Arabs no longer have to
consider Israel’s prosperity as the primary source of their misery.
In this dream I have mixed facts
with wishful thinking to make a point: the parameters of the Arab-Israeli
conflict are known; what is missing is the political climate for conflict
resolution. Obama could be a catalyst for this favorable climate.
The license to target Islam
[East Meredith, New
York Sep 8 2008]
The late Reverend
Jerry Falwell’s comment about the “impersonal” God of Islam is a
dramatic example of televangelical deviation from ethics of
interfaith dialogue. Pope Benedict’s unfortunate lecture on Islam
and reason illustrates the characteristically condescending stance
of the church on the faith of Mohammad. President Bush’s
“Axis-of-Evil “framework” on his “war on terrorism” exemplifies
misuse of moral analysis in political discourse.
At anytime, without fear of public sanction, any loud politician in
the Western world, any ambitious television anchor or any theatrical
evangelical pastor, can launch an attack on Islam, as a religion, or
as a community. Today, Western media have license to attack Islam
and Muslims. Media vulgarity towards Muslims is manifested in
careless, crass, phobic and obsessive reporting on Arabs, Muslims
In sharp contrast, when a celebrity commits a racial slur or jab on
the Black community, retribution hell breaks loose. The media pickup
the story, plays it ad nausea, rightly embarrassing the offender and
often compelling his or her job resignation. Similarly, when a
reporter or a celebrity makes an anti-Semitic slip or jab, the
offender is severely reprimanded in public.
A cartoon, a televised feature or a film venomously targeting
Muslims is justified as “freedom of expression.” The right to
hatefully target certain groups but not others is accepted in the
free world. Should not there be a uniform standard in public
sanctioning of hate speech?
Endless repetition of hostile and often unjustified criticism is
morally reprehensible. Moreover, the public hammering that Muslims
receive in the West builds up societal paranoia of “alien” groups in
Here is a sociological hypothesis which could explain the
inconsistent sanctioning of public expression of hostility toward
minority groups. The greater the social distance from mainline
society to a specific minority group, the more the media is free to
harass it. The insensitivity of Western media to Muslim pain is
growing as political relations worsen between the Muslim world and
Hate speech aimed at Muslims can be grouped into three themes:
obsession with national security, spurious political judgment and
cultural prejudice. These themes range in subtlety from the simple
questioning of the “Islamic demographic bulge” to outright
In a 2006 interview,
Glenn Beck, CNN host of a talkshow, looked our Muslim Congressman
Keith Ellison straight in the eye and said: “Sir, prove to me that
you are not working with our enemies.” Where does Beck get his
license to humiliate anybody connected with Islam?
Islamophobia is pervasive in US public forums. Provocative
commentary websites, culture-clash literature, biased reporting on
the Middle East, end-of-time theological fiction, insensitive
cartoons, terror oriented video games and Christian Zionist sermons,
all of the above and more, make many Arab and Muslim Americans-
especially immigrants- feel alien, if not alienated.
Beck’s obsession with Islam reflects a trend. The Media persist in
reporting on the growing numbers of US and European Muslims. These
reports raise unjustified public fear of anticipated return of
terrorism. Post 9/11 hyper vigilantes proclaim that American borders
are “open and unprotected”. Agitated US communicators warn citizens
to watch out for Muslim and Arab Americans who may be linked
covertly to “terror cells” penetrating the homeland.
Irrational fear of Muslims affects the way they are portrayed and
perceived. A negative overload of information about Islam seems to
overwhelm and confuse Americans. The compulsion to stereotype, to
dissect, to classify, to figure out and to caricature Muslims is
strong and growing.
Despite the avalanche of media output on Islam, there is a better
way to meet its followers. Muslim Americans want their neighbors to
learn out about their faith in the simplest way, through firsthand
experience; a conversation over a cup of coffee would do it, an
exchange interfaith visit would help. What I and others learned
about Muslim Americans through exchange visits in our church
community in Florida was informative, refreshing and encouraging.
Of the six million Muslim Americans, three million are Arabs. Half
of the Arabs in America are Christian. A sizable minority of the US
Muslim community is African-American. Muslims come to America from
many nations and have varied political opinions on domestic and
international issues. There is not a monolithic Arab or Muslim
community in America.
There is not a unified or dominant Arab or Muslim American lobby.
There are many civic and political tendencies. Muslims resist being
on the defensive concerning their fidelity to America; they do not
wish to prove that they are patriotic and loyal to their country.
Muslims of America try their best to be a bridge between their
America and their countries of origin.
Bridge-making with home country is not welcomed by alarmed
immigration border-control advocates or outright xenophobes. The
demographic rise of Muslim Americans provokes culturally narrow
minded politicians to call for a tightly restrictive immigration
policy. Proponents of hard line policy immigration point the “threat
of having too many aliens.” In some circles, the debate has
regressed to the level of asking “how many Arab or Muslim immigrants
can America tolerate?”
Europeans ask the same question about their Muslim emigrants. But,
the situation of Muslims in America is different. The unrest of
Muslim youth in Europe is a result of socio-economic factors. The
unrest of the Muslim and Arab Europeans is not religiously
motivated. Many Muslim emigrants who came to Europe as cheap labor
never had the chance to assimilate.
In contrast to Europe, America’s Muslims have assimilated. The
typical Arab or Muslim American is your real estate man in Miami,
your grocer in Brooklyn, NY, your student in North Virginia, your
doctor in Dearborn, Michigan, your teacher in Los Angeles, your
plumber in Chicago, your insurance agent in New Jersey and your taxi
man in New York.
After 9/11 our fear of Muslim related terrorism has remained steady
despite the domestic peace we have had since this nightmare event.
Yet, the media keep asking endlessly what if an Islamic terrorist
hits this strategic port or that central chemical facility, this
government office or that public health facility, this target or
that. The recurring message for the American people is to remain on
perpetual alert and to be conscious of Muslims.
The response of the Muslim Congressman Ellison to Glenn Beck’s
verbal assault expresses the sentiments of all Muslim Americans.
Ellison said: “Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth
Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection
for my country. There's no one who is more patriotic than I am. And
so, you know, I don't need to -- need to prove my patriotic
America could better cultivate the six million Arab and Muslim
Americans to re-open channels of diplomacy with 1.3 billion Muslims.
Arab and Muslim Americans should not be made to feel responsible for
deepening East-West conflict and for the cruelty of politics in
their countries of origin.
We seem to be unable to shed our hostility toward Islam as long as
we are shocked with oil prices, as long as we feel lost in Iraq,
seem overwhelmed in Afghanistan and look helpless in our mediation
of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We seek refuge in theories of spurious
social and religious logic to cover an incoherent foreign policy.
In order to deal with our national guilt for taking war as a primary
strategy in resolution of conflict we argue that we are fighting
just wars. In two major defensive strategies we rationalize our
First, we justify our hyperactive military culture through a
simplistic theory of “culture clash.” Second, we rationalize our
foreign policy in the Middle East with political theology.
The Harvard ideologue, Samuel Huntington, has popularized the
culture clash theory that “Islam” and the “West” are two
ideologically contrasting civilizations which are doomed to steady
confrontation. For Huntington, the key source of conflict between
the West and Islam is contrast of values. Huntington’s framework of
inevitable conflict with Muslim civilization has been refuted by
many scholars. The culture-clash theory has minimum consideration
for political variables such as the economic contrast, gender gap,
corrupt leadership, poor civic education, lust for resources, hard
line diplomacy and minimum intercultural exchange.
The “axis of evil” policy is affected by the culture clash theory.
The “clash” theory gives moral comfort to statesmen who are tied to
hawkish foreign policy, punitive sanctions, extensive troop presence
overseas and massive defense budgets. Culture is often misconceived
as political software. But social scientists tell us that culture is
about “way of living”, and not about “way of governing”.
Washington’s second strategy of rationalizing aggressive foreign
policy in the Middle East is based on a revived church-based
Crusader mentality. The Christian Zionists of today resemble the
This branch of fundamental Christianity ties personal salvation to a
belief in the returning Christ, the warrior-savior. Many consider
themselves Christian Zionists. They believe that Christ will battle
with Muslims in Israel when the world ends. And it will end soon,
the fundamentalists warn. This theology predicts that a new era of
peace will start after Christ and his soldiers win the battle
against Palestinian and other Arab Muslim infidels. In preparation
for the return of Jesus, this apocalyptic movement demands
unconditional support of Israel.
Ironically, Christian Zionists are not clear on what happens to Jews
when Christ returns to end the rule of the non believers. Christian
fundamentalists are in a bind to justify their conditional, self
serving and temporary love for Jews.
The cult of Christian Zionism has already penetrated American
culture. Extreme evangelicals sell personal salvation and colonial,
US-supported Israeli policies in one package; they peddle salvation
as a life insurance policy.
A war-oriented foreign policy, a xenophobic political theory and a
theology recasting Jesus as a Crusader have set America on a
dangerous political fault line for generations to come. Of the many
policies I reject but easily understand in the political
conservative agenda, it is not pro-life thinking, it is not a strict
immigration, it is not private health care, and it is not the
ascendancy of militarism. What I really worry most about in the
extreme right ideology of religious America, is the rejection of the
validity of other faiths, the blessing of social injustice when
applied to Palestinians and the covert support of wars of choice.
Unless we change our foreign policy and the socio- religious
rationale that supports it we are destined to clash endlessly in the
future with the rest of the world, not only with Muslim societies.
Is Israel one disaster from collapse?
[East Meredith, New York Aug 16 2008]
Israelis are not united in supporting
their government’s policies of a four-decade festering occupation of
Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories. The occupation is
costly, morally troubling and beyond the capacity of Israel to
maintain. Israelis are relatively free to question the occupation;
surprisingly, American politicians, especially politicians who are
running for national elections, find it hard to question the
occupation. If for nothing else, mere concern for Israel’s future
should embolden Americans to be more discerning on issues of the
Middle East. An important Carnegie recent study shows that Israel is
precariously open to breakdown.
The study implies that tight-lipped Americans need to open their
minds to Israel’s vulnerability as an occupier. The heaviest cost of
the 1967 occupation of Arab land is the impact on Israel’s national
security. Israel receives dire warning in the July- August issue of
Foreign Policy magazine in the article “The Failed States Index of
2008.” The Index’s latest results give the Israel/West Bank regime a
rank of “borderline” on national security. The Index lists and
discusses a long list of vulnerable countries and identifies twelve
variables that undermine their national security. According to this
ranking tool, the Israel/West Bank regime is among sixty fragile
countries that are “just one disaster away” from “collapse.”
Israel has recently joined this club of high risk countries. The
Index rates Somalia number 1, as the most insecure country in the
world. Iraq ranks 5, Lebanon 18, Syria 35, Egypt 40, and Iran 49.
Georgia, this week’s disaster area, ranks 56. The Israel/West Bank
regime ranks 58 and falls in the “Borderline” category, after
“Critical” and “In Danger”. The study measures each country on
twelve risk factors. Israel scored high on 8 out of the 12 risk
indicators: demographic pressure, group grievance,
uneven-development, delegitimization of state, public service, human
rights, factionalized elites and external intervention.
If this diagnostic tool is valid, American foreign policy makers
should rethink their Middle East strategy. America’s support for
Israel’s Jewish settlement communities in the Occupied Territories
has immensely complicated the peace process.
In the same vein, by not applying US pressure on Israel to dismantle
the wall of exclusion and an endless network of humiliating
checkpoints - in and around the West Bank and East Jerusalem -
America is passively condoning the delay of reconciliation between
Israelis and Palestinians. This “Berlin” wall, which is a work in
progress, makes life unbearable for Palestinians. The wall arouses
strong sentiments for revenge among the five million Palestinians
who live divided under Israeli rule.
Thanks largely to American unconditional support, Israelis have
adapted to an occupation mentality of denial of danger. Israelis
today enjoy the safety of their daily-living and their economic
prosperity. Their safety and affluence are at the expense of
increased political arrest, liquidation of dissidents and reduction
of mobility in the occupied territories. But stability of daily
living should not be confused with long-term national security.
In the Holy Land today, on both sides of the conflict, the extreme
has become the mainstream. Our two presidential candidates who are
currently competing to appeal to the Jewish voters should ponder a
dangerous dynamic in the Arab-Israeli conflict: As Israel relies on
punitive politics, Palestinians rely on militancy.
It is easier for Americans to comment on Palestinian terrorism but
not on Israeli excessive retaliation. It is difficult for Americans
to view political oppression as a contributing factor to Palestinian
Israeli land annexation is moving parallel to Palestinian
demographic expansion, a formula that is leading to system collapse
in the future. The signs of political danger are scripted on the
wall, but American and Israeli politicians refuse to read the
Linking Obama with Islam and
Terror is a Double Offense
[East Meredith, New York Jul 19 08]
The cartoon cover page of The New
Yorker July 21 issue depicts Obama, the “Muslim”, and his wife the
“terrorist.” While the Obama campaign finds the cartoon unfair,
Muslims find it pejorative and profane. Muslims wonder: “Is Islam
considered a plague in America?”
In this cover cartoon The New Yorker has taken an aggressive
editorial step against Obama and against Islam. Obama’s opponents
have been trying to ruin his reputation in one media scheme after
another. Early in the primaries the alleged problem of Obama was his
“shady” real estate dealer, then his “anti-American” pastor, then
his Muslim father, then his “mixed” faith, and most recently his
The significance of Obama’s association with Islam has been
artificially manufactured. Psychology 101 comes to mind. Every
college student learns how Pavlov trained dogs to salivate when they
heard a bell ring. The effect of the bell ringing on salivation is a
result of repeated episodes of associating the bell ringing with
rewarding the dog with food.
Social psychologists have shown how Pavlovian conditioning is often
exploited in both political image making and stereotyping of
communities. The effect of repetitive association in conditioning is
often the cause of irrational fears, prejudice, racism, and
brainwashing. Today, Muslims make perfect targets for provocative
American artists, writers and television anchors.
There is a historical background for prejudice against Muslims in
the West, and reciprocally for prejudice against Christians in the
East. Despite extended periods of interfaith harmony, tense
international relations between Islam and the West go back to the
seventh century. In modern times, over the last six decades, Muslim
societies have been in direct conflict with the Western world,
culminating in 9/11. Contemporary conflicts mirror the hatred that
the Western Crusaders had for Islamic societies in the eleventh and
twelve centuries. In turn, the Crusaders were influenced by the
rivalry between Byzantium and the Islamic East starting in the era
of rapid Mohammedan expansion.
These age-old animosities make today’s front page news. Following
the historical bias and the current political climate, US mass media
and power brokers habitually condition Americans to associate Islam
with violence and evil. Similarly Arab and Muslim communication
agents have conditioned their public to view the West as morally
decadent, imperialistic and materialistic.
It is now well known that Barack Hussein Obama, an African American,
has some connection with Muslim society - and not with Islam-
through his Kenyan father who abandoned the family when Barack was
very young. As a young child Barack also lived in Indonesia, the
largest Muslim country. Barack’s secondary school education in
Hawaii added to the richness of his international background.
Obama’s mixed heritage tempts bigoted opinion makers to project
their bias on his public image.
It is also known that Obama is a serious Christian with ecumenical
ideas of liberation theology: forgiveness in peace making,
sensitivity to social justice and respect for the integrity of
creation. His political critics have taken his theological ideas out
of context to portray them as anti-American and pro-Muslim.
What his critics miss is that Obama is privileged with a unique
constellation of attributes. He had a white mother and a black
father. He had a Christian upbringing and varied exposure to Muslim
society. He has an American identity and an international
background. The popularity of the Afro-component in Obama reflects
America’s yearning to move to the final stage of integration of its
black minority. The Muslim connection, though remote and largely
cultural, gives him the capacity to better address the issues of the
third world. And finally, the ecumenical orientation in his
Christian faith empowers him to embrace world religions to promote
Obama’s life record is a rare juxtaposition of fate, personal
achievement, cultural diversity and politics. While his opponents
try to translate his racial, religious and cultural diversity into a
liability, Obama’s supporters promote him as an agent of reform for
Back to The New Yorker, Obama’s Cartoon does not qualify as artistic
satire. For many it qualifies as hate literature.
Peace? Not in my lifetime.
[Jul 1 08]
“Peace in the Holy Land? Not in my
lifetime,” is an opinion I hear too often from my Jewish American
friends. Arab Americans have a similar pessimistic view of the
prospects for peace in the Middle East.
Making peace is a process of commitment. To make a deal one merely
needs a client willing to bargain, but to make peace one needs a
respectful and responsive partner.
Currently, Arabs and Israeli leaders are trying to make deals on
three parallel and separate fronts: Israel’s occupation of the
Syrian Golan Heights, Tel-Aviv’s severe siege of Gaza, and prisoner
exchange between Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Jewish State.
Middle East politicians may be able to score limited gains in these
current negotiations but lasting peace they will not achieve through
a fragmented approach. To reach a peace breakthrough, Arabs and Jews
need to undergo radical changes in attitude.
Imagine an Arab awakening that prepares visionary statesmen for
peace. In such an awakening Arabs would recognize Israel’s fear of
being a minority state within an Arab collective of 22 countries.
Arabs would pledge not to take revenge if power were to shift in
their favor. Rulers would seriously engage in political reform. If
this fundamental change were to occur, Israel would then perceive
the Arabs as responsive partners for peace.
Imagine a parallel Israeli renewal of orientation. In such a renewal
Israelis would acknowledge the consequences of their land occupation
and displacement of all people involved. Israelis would fully accept
a free, viable and independent Palestinian state. They would assume
moral and financial responsibility to compensate Palestinians for
their multifaceted suffering. When all these revolutionary changes
take place, Israelis will then become an attractive partner for
peace with Arabs.
Regrettably, neither side is on the path to peace. Facing desperate
conditions, leaders in Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza are gambling
over fragmented political solutions that do not require
reorientation of policy and remobilization of efforts. Weak
leadership does not take risk, make sacrifice or solve fundamental
national problems. In seeking relief from Battle-fatigue and
political stress Israel and three Arab countries are now engaged in
a process of deal-making. On the surface the deal-making looks like
What are these three deals that Arabs and Israelis are trying to
First, Syria and Israel are talking covertly about peace
possibilities if the Golan Heights is returned to Syria. Israel
occupied the Golan Heights in 1967 and annexed the territory in
1981. Strangely, while Israel conducts these talks with Syria it is
threatening military intervention in Iran, Syria’s closest ally. But
this may not be the best time to revive the Golan issue. Not only is
Syria is under US sanctions, not long ago Israel launched a surgical
attack on Syrian facilities that it claimed were nuclear. Today is
Israel really ready to return the strategic, Golan border-district
to Syria after years of integrating the territory in its society.
The second Arab Israeli deal covers the crippling siege of Gaza
which is under Hamas rule. Israel has already signed a six-month
truce with Hamas, effective June 19. The deal stipulates that Hamas
will stop shelling rockets into border towns in Israel. In return,
Israel will gradually lift the siege on Gaza. Hamas agrees to
reign-in the shelling from other Palestinian factions and Israel
stops its assassination campaign of resistance leaders. The
chemistry of this deal has been sour from the start. Ehud Olmert
accuses leaders in Gaza of being “blood-thirsty terrorists”. And
Hamas reciprocates by refusing to recognize the existence of Israel.
Despite the rhetorical denial of the state of Israel, Hamas pleads
with Egypt to mediate. It desperately seeks Cairo’s intervention to
terminate the Israeli siege on the strip. Both sides are trapped.
For Israel, the siege policy has not worked to break the will of
Hamas. Consequently, Israel seems to be rethinking its failed policy
of brutally forcing political change.
The third parallel and separate deal relates to Lebanon. Israel is
negotiating with Hezbollah a prisoner exchange. At the same time,
Israel has invited Beirut government to direct bilateral peace
talks. But Lebanon today is stressed and fragile; it cannot be a
norm breaker. Individual Arab states consider unconditional direct
talks with Tel-Aviv a taboo. Israel wishes to make deal with
Hezbollah, an organization it has considered a criminal agent. Is
Tel-Aviv willing to swap prisoners with Hezbollah after launching a
war two years ago that tried to obliterate this resistance movement,
a war that is sadly still considered unfinished?
The prognosis of these three separate, parallel and hesitant rounds
of peace talks is poor. The difference between peace making and deal
making is in attitude and process. In the search for peace the
actors are respectful of one another and their efforts are relevant,
genuine, timely and coordinated.
To achieve lasting peace Arabs and Israelis must look each other in
the eye and start direct, coordinated and comprehensive
negotiations. The two sides will reach productive exchange of ideas
on their interlinked future when they recognize mutual concerns and
imagine relevant and decisive solutions.
“Not in my life time”.
Dr. Ghassan Michel Rubeiz is a
Lebanese-American Middle East analyst with special interest in political
sociology, social justice and democracy. He is a former professor of social
work and psychology.
He was Secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches for the
Middle East during the eighties and early nineties. He also served Eastern
Europe for six years from the Geneva office of Christian Children’s Fund.
Between 2000 and 2005, he was the Washington Liaison Director of CCF. He is
now focused on public speaking and writing on the Middle East.
Over the last five years, he has contributed a series of articles to the
Christian Science Monitor online edition, the Lebanese Daily Star and the
Arab American News.
Currently, Rubeiz is writing regularly from his home office in Palm Beach
Gardens, Florida. His special interest is in politics and religion and in
promotion of Arab American understanding.
Keep up with Ghassan on his