Politicians' words of peace had little relevance to the Israeli pilots flying American Phantoms as they wreaked havoc in Lebanese villages last Saturday. Frightened villagers looked in horror at the fragmented body of an old woman. Dozens of people were seriously injured and houses destroyed.
In the Occupied West Bank town of Hebran Jewish zealots were on the rampage destroying and burning Arab shops and moving around Rambo fashion with their trigger on their freely supplied M-1 rifles. It was in this town that an American Israeli sprayed Arab worshippers to death.
President Bill Clinton back in Washington may have felt that he deserved a pat on the back. He really believes that peace is around the corner if not fully attained during his whirlwind trip to the Middle East.
Washington and Tel Aviv have been explaining to all and sundry that peace is breaking out in the region. They are giving the examples of the PLO and Jordan. President Clinton expressed satisfaction about his meeting with Assad, although Israeli officials voiced their disappointment that his visit did not advance the peace process.
But while all this was going on and President Clinton drummed up his support for peace and the peacemakers an important element in a comprehensive peace process was left out- the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
While Clinton praised the Israelis in the Knesset and spoke of dire consequences to those who try to derail the peace process he omitted by commission the reasons for these acts of violence. Perhaps he was addressing the Jewish congregation at home on the eve of the mid-term elections. The occupation of the West Bank by Israel and the deliberate provocations by the Jewish settlers. A Western newspaper had a headline "Jewish settlers in West Bank fear Arab terror". The question one may ask is why be there in the first place! The double standards applied to the Middle East problem has left many Arabs disappointed. Clinton's speech at the Knesset was even more disappointing - at least to those Arabs who can comprehend and think. He showered praises on Israelis resolute spirit and its defense of the great land. He spoke of how the US had maintained Israel's qualitative edge in military superiority. He spoke of the undying relationship and deep bonds with the Jewish state. And of course he gave several examples of terror wherein "innocent" Jews were killed. No reference to Hebron, no reference to the hundreds of Lebanese villagers torn to shreds by Israeli tanks in South Lebanon. No reference to the demolition of the hundreds of Arab houses in their own lands. It was as if Israeli lives mattered more than Arab lives.
To the Arabs who were overcome with euphoria and began to sing about peace a word or words of advice should be given.
We all want peace. We want to exchange the sword with plowshares. But we want peace with honour.
Israel is a democracy. This is what the West says. It is a democracy which has disenfranchised the majority of its population- if you consider the Palestinians as Israeli subjects since for all practical purposes they are.
In a democracy there are diferent political "strains". Today it is Rabin who leads a government who along with Peres believes that Israel needs some respite. And therefore he and Peres can afford to throw some chunks of land to the Arabs. The irony is that they are throwing seized Arab land.
However Israeli extremism which is just around the corner may prevail and the rabid right wing Likud Party with its heartless leader Natanyahu may win a future election due in Israel in 1996. The rise of fanaticism will follow and Israelis will then again demand a greater Israel stretching from the Euphrates to the Nile.
Let not readers scoff at this. Just look at the Israel entity in 1948 and look at it today. Even the land they have agreed to give back in the peace treaty with Israel is to be leased to them for 25 years. I am sure that after 25 years they will again demand and get another lease for a pittance. And of course Jordan is not China which demanded that Hong Kong which was leased by the British as stipulated in the one sided treaty of Nanking be given back to them.
As some Arabs sing and praise the peace they should also remember the first Qibla of Islam Jerusalem.
The issue of Jerusalem is very dear to the entire Muslim world. It also is of concern to the Christians as well. But it is the Jews who are calling the shots. Rabin mentioned Jerusalem in his Knesset speech about four times. He invited King Hussein to visit Jerusalem.
However neither he nor his guest Clinton mentioned the fact that this issue is to be discussed in a larger perspective.
It is a very thorny issue. And the United States which has cowed down Haiti into submission and forced errant dictators to backtrack failed to take care of this problem. Rabin who's brutal treatment of the Arabs has always been overlooked is doubtful to ever let Jerusalem go out of his hands. Indeed he is openly supporting the building of more Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.
The Israelis are a very cunning people. Nobody can blame them. Their wiles and guile's have been used to further their cause on the diplomatic and military front. Supported by the mass media in the United States and the immense financial power of the Jewish lobbies in America the Israelis are now trying to railroad the peace process right into the Arab heart land. While woman in pink and blue chiffon dresses, their heads shielded from the blazing sun by hautre coutre hats listen, Rabin speaks of peace between Jews and Arabs. And while these gullible women applaud and shed a tear or two he speaks of making the land green.
But the question arises what land? Is it the land that is to be leased to Israel or is it the new land which Israel will acquire or is it the land of the Palestinians which has been taken from them by force.
All these questions have to be answered. As the Arab world already pushed into the doldrums by the peace diktate tries to take stock of the situation, quick solutions have to be found.
There are those who speak of an Israeli cultural and economic hegemony over the Arab world. Yes, the fear is there. But one can still make the best of an almost no-win situation.
As I said earlier the Arabs want peace. No Arab woman would want to be a widow or have her children blown up by Cluster bombs. She wants to live in peace. And in Israel also there elements though small who want peace. But if peace is to come then there should be justice especially for the oppressed and deprived.
If the United States can help enforce the dormant UN resolution 242 and 338 and the Israelis exchange land for peace and the Palestinians have their own state then only lasting peace will endure.
As for Israel economic and cultural hegemony and the fear of its spread I can only compare it with the recent Indian plague. The plague started and spread because all the ingredients for its nurture and growth- the filth and garbage were there . In addition there were no remedial measures taken by the Indian authorities.
Similarly it should not be forgotten by the Arabs that they have a long history in Islam and a strong culture that has endued Mongol invasions, Napoleanic incursions, British and French occupation and attacks from within. Let there be an unhindered flow of thought and expression. The Arab world has a reservoir of talented men and women who are seemed to none and can withstand any cultural onslaught. Culture can not grow in a vacun. Dialogue and tolerance are needed for its growth.
It is on the economic front we have to be wary. We have amongst us top brains in business and industry. However we have to note that these people not be hampered by antiquated and obscure commercial rules and regulations.
Beauracratic red tape should be unwound. Inter-Arab trade should be encouraged and investments promoted. The flow of Arab capital across borders should proceed unhindered and unthreatened.
There will be many challenges confronting the Arab world as it hurtles towards the twenty first century. The peace process is one of them.
How we deal with the challenges, contain them and in the final analysis exploit them to our advantage will determine our success.
We have to be frank with ourselves and do a lot of soul searching.