For a long time, especially during the times of Arafat, they said "they don't have a partner for peace." Then came along Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas was the man Israel had been looking for: a soft and compromising leader, almost a political "pushover."
Israel had the now-infamous settlement activity frozen for the past 10 months. Then, with President Obama's efforts, the recent peace talks have been restarted a few weeks ago. Israel had seemingly finally found her peace partner in Abbas.
But the settlement freeze came to an end on Sept. 26, 2010, AND in spite of all the above "wait" and "efforts," Israel did not extend the moratorium on settlement activity. Yes, that is right, they are not extending the settlement freeze, while the much-anticipated peace talks have just started!
(Mind you, a couple of months ago, they had the audacity to announce settlement activity in East Jerusalem--again, an internationally recognized Palestinian land--even while the US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel supposedly to jump start the very peace talks we are talking about!)
I have been following the whole Israeli-Palestinian issue more than ten years, very closely. This issue is most critical for the stability of the whole world. If not dealt with soon, and that in a just way, sooner or later it will trigger a larger regional war encompassing the greater Middle East, drawing in the great world powers along with it. This thought will send shivers down anyone's spine.
I have pasted below a map I got from the BBC website showing the cumulative Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, the land on which most of the future Palestinian State will supposedly be built. Please have a look at it, and while listening to your hearts, tell me whether you see a peace-wanting Israel in it.
Caption by BBC:
Anyone with an iota of brain will know that Israel must have different plans undercurrent here. They are clearly on a path to totally colonize the West Bank, and drive out the Palestinians by making their lives miserable with scores of checkpoints and land restrictions (again, see the map below). The Israeli settlers --from overseas, whose native tongues are not even Hebrew- have long been terrorizing the Palestinian farmers.
I cannot rationalize their behavior to be other than a direct result of a potentially fatal arrogance to have the nerve to tell the rest of the mostly unsuspecting world that they want peace even while they are gobbling up more and more West Bank land.
Muslims at this stage are useless to be able to do anything. They perhaps had a better chance pre-9/11 days. But thanks to Al-Qaeda and other terrorists who hijacked Islam, and who positioned themselves to be at the center of this whole "interaction" between the West and the Muslims, Muslims have an insurmountable public relations mountain to scale before they can even come close to be of any help in this issue.
Leery of their own corrupt governments, some Muslims bought into the illusion that Al-Qaeda might provide the answers to many of their problems with the West. Ten years on, what do we have?
After 9/11, the Palestinian situation got unconscionably worse... Some Muslim countries got occupied by Western armies, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslims... Muslims started killing each other even in their sacred mosques... Muslims in the West began to be profiled, and in certain cases discriminated against, and on and on and on...
What other results would a sane person expect from people who believe that they can reinstate the glory of the Islamic civilization by indiscriminately killing civilians using an un-Islamic combat method, i.e. terrorism, and still expect to win the hearts and minds of people toward their cause?
What other results would a sane person expect from people who believe that they can restore the glory of the Islamic civilization by measuring the length of beards of young men, instead of "measuring" the human genome; or by blowing up the girls schools, instead of blowing up protons as they do in CERN.
Bin Laden and his protege are under the fatal illusion that they are the glorious "mujahedeen," who will restore the glory days of Saladin, while posing to photographers with soviet-made AK-47's, not laser-guided precision missiles made in "Talibanistan." They are under the fatal illusion that they are the ones worthy of the legacy of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, while their mentality does not so much have the vision to make even one single nail.
Then we have the Hamas mentality which presupposes that success can only come through violence, incognizant of the fact that there might be many different legitimate and feasible means of achieving or at least getting close to one's goals, especially if one is dealing with a shrewd and super-powerful adversary.
All of this made the Muslim position unimaginably weak, and the other parties pressed on with their intended goals unabated. They know best how easy it is to make inroads while the extremists are at the helm of the Muslim side.
Muslims must wake up before the situation becomes worse for them...They can start first by disillusioning themselves from the extremist hogwash that democracy is un-Islamic. Little wonder why corrupt and ruthless dictators have been ruling us for decades until their death after which their sons takeover the power in a seemingly unending cycle.
They can start waking up by reclaiming the quintessentially Qur'anic characteristic of ratiocination, not regurgitation of 1000 year-old (perhaps then fresh but now stale) fatwas and thoughts. To me today's Muslims don't seem to be the Qur'anic people of "those who think/reason." It is long overdue that we shuck off our crippling ignorance.
But all that does not mean that the other side of this whole issue, that is Israel and the West, does not have any lesson to take from here. I wrote my version of that lesson in a piece titled "Turkey is Crucial to a Stable Middle East," which ran on Jim Lobe's blog. A slightly modified version of it is this:
Israel does have every right to exist peacefully in the region. This means that Israel will want to live in this overwhelmingly Muslim neighborhood of the Middle East forever. Who in their right mind can believe Israel will achieve that by always maintaining a superb military edge? Arrogance is folly. Don't trust your seemingly invincible strength! Tides pertaining to militaristic power do always turn! What will happen then? The Jesus' saying "those who live by the sword will die by the sword" will necessarily come true. Do the Jews want that? I doubt it.
Is there any other way? Yes! No matter how powerful a country Israel is today, no matter how successful, rich, and most importantly, how they produce (in my mind) some of the wisest people on Earth, they should humbly start to work with Muslims to start a new era of peaceful coexistence. That can be achieved by first being sincere in wanting to have peace. An incontrovertible sign of that sincerity in our context is to stop the settlement activity unconditionally, and evacuate the all the illegal settlers from Palestinian territories, and simultaneously seize the opportunity with President Abbas to establish a viable Palestinian state next to Israel.
Dr. Serkan Zorba is assistant professor of physics at Whittier College, CA, USA. He is originally from Turkey.
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