Dread and hope for the Middle East
- Dread and hope for the Middle East
for Israelis and
By Hanson R. Hosein
SPECIAL TO MSNBC.COM
June 2 In a land where many of the bumps of daily living have been smoot=
hed over, we are forced to get our dose of risk from reality television, fre=
ak weather patterns and roadside accidents. The relatively safe living of No=
rth America makes what is happening in Israel and the occupied lands where=
I once lived and worked look surreal.
FOR MOST of the three years that I was based in Tel Aviv, Palestini=
ans and Israelis prayed for peace. Hope was strong, and journalists began to=
think that the decades-old drama of violence in the region might have run i=
Of course, that hope was misplaced, and I left my assignment with vi=
olence raging throughout the region. From a great distance nestled in the No=
rth American suburbs, I could not help but closely follow my former beat, vi=
sualizing the places and people I had come to know so well as the region was=
torn asunder. I wanted to cry out, but I found I was left with no voice.
And then moderate Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini died from a hea=
rt attack and a suicide bomber murdered those young people at a Tel Aviv dis=
cotheque, and my silence left me. I watched scenes on television and on the =
Internet that I had once witnessed in person. The Tel Aviv beach where I h=
ad often enjoyed a meal, a quick dip or a jog was now the site of a massac=
re. East Jerusalem a glorious city that evoked far too much emotion among =
the faithful had been taken back by thousands of Palestinians mourning the=
death of a leader who had advocated co-existence.
CYCLE OF MIDEAST VIOLENCE
So it is that the peacemakers are disappearing and we are left with =
the tyranny of the extremists, inspired by the heated emotions that the viol=
ence of the past eight months has produced. In typical style, Israeli Prime =
Minister Ariel Sharon will be forced by the anger of his people to retaliate=
against the Palestinians and more innocent people will die along the way.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will speak out of both sides of his=
mouth once again and suddenly beg for a cease-fire, knowing that he cannot =
control the fury on the street, or the ungodly acts of the terrorists he rel=
eased from his own prisons months ago.
Statistically, it is an uneven war: More Palestinians have died than=
Israelis. It is impossible, however, to judge the acts of either side by th=
at the Israelis have the tanks, the stateless Palestinians have the terror=
ists and say only one is wrong. Both sides
believe they have a mandate in the will of their people, who have lo=
st all faith in peace agreements and the ability to live quietly side by sid=
e. And so they fight and kill.
OBVIOUS CHANGES NEEDED
The answer is obvious: This unenlightened occupation of the Palestin=
ian territories must end, Jewish settlers must stop believing that they have=
a right to live on land that is not theirs, and the Palestinians have to as=
sure the Israelis that they can live safely and securely in their own countr=
And now I can say this after leaving the region: Arafat's corrupt, a=
uthoritarian rule must be replaced by a democratic and populist one.
But we knew that already; that's what the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords we=
re all about. Those good intentions, albeit flawed, were stillborn once one =
of its authors, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by an=
After that, came
terror attacks, hard-line Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israelis d=
ragging their feet on their withdrawal from the territories and the Palestin=
ians not completely assuring Israel that it would be left in peace. With the=
procrastination, the brutal, humiliating occupation endured, and the Palest=
inian people lost their faith in the "peace process."
Israel offered all it was willing to give last July at Camp David, a=
nd the Palestinians decided that it was not enough. When Israel withdrew las=
t year from southern Lebanon after intense military pressure from the Hezbol=
lah, many Palestinians learned by example and concluded that the only way to=
get what they were entitled to was to fight for it.
They were convinced that the Israelis had grown soft in peacetime an=
d economic prosperity and could no longer stomach the sight of the death of =
their own. So many of them prepared for war. After the violent demonstration=
s that followed Sharon's provocative visit to a Muslim shrine in September, =
that's what they got.
WILL IT NEVER END?
Here in North America, I grow tired of hearing people say, "It will =
never end" when they look at what's happening in the Middle East. It sounds =
like a thoughtless cliché, spouted by people who think that the inhabitants =
of the region actually enjoy the violence.
It will end, because it has to, because most people are rational and=
want to live in peace. But the violence and anger of the last eight months =
have guaranteed that the bloodshed will not end easily or to either side's s=
This cycle of violence will intensify, anger and mistrust will grow, and on=
any given day or week, many people will die.
This cycle of violence will intensify, anger and mistrust will grow,=
and on any given day or week, many people will die. The conflict will escal=
ate to a point where some international body might be compelled to intervene=
and pull both sides apart, like a referee at a boxing match.
And they will be forced to comply with an unhappy peace agreement th=
at the extremists will be unable to influence because it will have been impo=
sed upon them and policed by an international force that is not hampered by =
the emotion or heated passion of the local inhabitants. It's a way out, but =
it may never happen.
DREAD AND HOPE FOR BEST
Before I moved from the Middle East in February, the reality TV show=
"Survivor" had just hit the airwaves. Now I can only wonder how anyone ther=
e could enjoy looking at happy, comfortable North Americans deliberately put=
ting themselves through hardship when daily life in Tel Aviv and Ramallah is=
so tense and insecure.
From Rabin's assassin to Islamic Jihad, the extremists have destroye=
d hopes for peace and have forced both Palestinians and Israelis into a tigh=
t uncomfortable corner. Watching from afar, I dread the outcome but still ho=
pe for the best.
COPYRIGHT 2001 MSNBC
Hanson Hosein was an NBC Middle East producer based in Tel Aviv.