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Dread and hope for the Middle East

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  • grossman@mcs.net
    Dread and hope for the Middle East  http://www.msnbc.com/news/581732.asp What s next for Israelis and Palestinians ANALYSIS By Hanson R. Hosein SPECIAL TO
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2001
      Dread and hope for the Middle East
      What's next
      for Israelis and
      By Hanson R. Hosein
      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=
      ts course.
             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.

             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.

             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=
      Israeli extremist.
             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.
             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.
             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.
             Hanson Hosein was an NBC Middle East producer based in Tel Aviv.
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