Opinion: How to Turn off the violence?
- How to Turn off the violence
By J. Zel Lurie
How can the violence in Israel/Palestine be turned off when no one really
knows who turned it on and why? Stalin's wartime allies called him a puzzle
wrapped in an enigma. PNA Chairman Arafat is an enigma around
which are wrapped feudal family loyalties, corrupt enriched associates,
brutal competing intelligence services, fanatical religious zealots and armed anonymous
gunmen. Any one or all of them plus other factors still unknown may be
responsible for Arafat's refusal of Israeli PM Ehud Barak's offer of a Palestine state in
94`percent of the West Bank and Gaza and the subsequent outbreak of open
The violence may ensure the election of Arik Sharon as Prime Minister on
February 6. Ehud Barak gambled his political future on an agreement with
Arafat. "The Israeli voters don't tolerate failure," Brookings Institute
Mideast expert Shibley Telhemi told a meeting last week of the Florida
Society for Middle East Studies at AU.
Prof. Telhemi, who is a Palestinian American, warned that the Arab-Israeli
conflict might turn into a religious war of Moslem against Jew. This warning
surprised me. I have been reading Tom Segev's "One Palestine Complete: Jews
and Arabs Under the British Mandate" (Metropolitan Books).All of the riots
and pogroms in Palestine before the State --in Tel Hai in l921, Hebron and
Safed in l929, Jaffa and Jerualem in l936 and others--were all products of
Moslem incitement. The Moslem states, from Morocco to Indonesia, and states
with large Moslem populations such as India and Yugoslavia, have always voted
against Israel in the United Nations. In Egypt and Jordan, which have signed
peace treaties with Israel, the Moslem clerics continue to rail against
Israel in their Friday sermons. The conflict has always been Moslem against
Jew and it is spreading to the United States.
In the recent elections, American Moslems voted as a bloc for the first time.
Moslem organizations endorsed George W. for no better reason, it seems, than
that the majority of American Jews favored Al Gore. The Moslem political
action committees fabricated a story that Bush favored the Arab position..
They now claim that 60,000 Moslems in Florida voted for Bush which gave him
the election. According to an exit survey conducted by he American Muslim
Alliance, over 90 percent of the Florida Muslim voters chose Bush for
president Nationwide 72 percent of Muslim respondents said they voted for
Bush, l9 percent voted for Nader and only 8 percent voted for Gore. A
September poll, prior to the official Moslem endorsement of Bush. showed 24
percent support of Gore. It may be important to note that 36 percent of the
Moslem voters said that they had never voted before in an American election.
Rational Israelis worry more about Sharon than Bush. What would be the
effect of Sharon's election on the gunmen in Gaza and Beit Jalla. In the
January l8th Ha'aretz Meron Benvenisti feared "an escalation of the violence
in the territories that will necessitate drastic measures and will only
intensify the conflict, aking it to a very dangerous point indeed."
It may not happen. Remembering Sharon's upbringing and Labor background, the
optimists in Israel believe that it is perfectly possible that Sharon, if
elected, will achieve with the Palestinians the same temporary state of
non-belligerency which has marked Arab-Jewish relations since l920. They
also believe it's possible that the gunmen may have achieved their goal of
burying the Oslo peace process and may closet their arms for a while and turn
to supporting their families.
Meanwhile as this is being written on January l9, Arafat has suggested that
the peace negotiators meet in marathon session at the Egyptian resort of Taba
which adjoins Eilat. Perhaps they can arrive at an armistice agreement which
will end the intafada before the February 6 election.
TAKE JERUSALEM OFF THE TABLE
The optimum agreement in my opinion would be more or less status quo. Sharon
has already promised in his campaign speeches that he would not expand
settlements except for the plans for the area around Jerusalem that carry
Barak's imprint. As for the thorny questions of Jerusalem and the return of
refugees on which Final Status negotiations broke down, I agree with Rabbi
Arthur Hertzberg, who wrote in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that all
sides should agree to do nothing about Jerusalem. The current arrangement
"for Arabs to administer the shrines on the Temple Mount and for Jews to
exercise police power in Jerusalem as a whole, has worked far better than any
of the alternatives that keep being proposed," Rabbi Hertzberg wrote.
As for refugees, Hertzberg proposes steps to "make life better for some of
the Palestinians who have lived in the camps for half a century."
The fundamental mistake according to Hertzberg was Barak's "dream of a
perfect peace." Because of the unbridgeable differences between Israeli and
Palestinian goals "we can only make pragmatic arrangements that bring some
calm to the world."
The unbridgeable differences will have to be bridged some time in the future.
The experience of the last few months has proven tht it won't happen until
the Israeli and Palestinian public are educated to want peace enough to make
compromises on their core national and religious myths and beliefs. . That is
the gigantic task that Yitshak Frankenthal, whose son was killed by Hamas
terriorists has taken on himself. He has formed an organization of l50
Jewish and Palestinian bereaved parents who are "hungry for peace." As an
Orthodox Jew who loves Israel, he says to his peers: " I ache with you and
share the pain of having to tear the land but there is no choice. It is
either peace or war, compromise or bereavement, loss or saving of life. Yes
to peace and the end of t he conflict and no to war."
In a communication to his "Brothers and Sisters in Bereavement" dated January
l6, Frankenthal wrote: "We mean to bring about reconciliation between the two
peoples and market the values of democracy, tolerance and peace...We care
about the treatment of 'the other', we respect human rights and we want to
see the State of Israel as a place worh living for, and after the death of
our own children, a place worth dying for."
Unfortunately there may be many more bereaved parents on both sides before
there will be a permanent end of conflict. Meanwhile "practical arrangements"
that well minimize the conflict and allow for a return to the staus quo ante,
normal life and tourism in Jerusalem and Gaza should be the goal of whoever
is elected Prime Minister on February 6. I believe that it can and will be
done despite the difficulty of dealing with the enigmatic Arafat. But I have
always been an incurable optimist.
J. Zel Lurie
2925 Riviera Dr.
Delray Beach, FL 33465