Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The moral issue of taking sides without taking sides

The real challenge for all those outside the Middle East, but concerned by the ‘cycle of violence’ continuing to cost more and more people’s life, is how to resolve all the questions and still to let justice prevail.

Yet it hardly seems possible for justice to be upheld under the condition of equal treatment of either Israelis or Palestinians.

Military imposition and atavistic tendencies matched by subtle and open forms of corruption are also not conducive to uphold any public morality. So the release of so many who have been suspected of terrorism, while the real planners of these attacks can claim the high grounds of morality, is just a sample of the extend to which people living in the Middle East have gotten used to a system of injustice and with it an abuse of power.

In their eyes too many have been left off the hook, while killing someone or oneself has become if not a hero or martyr, then a part of the equation of ‘number killed’ compared to what really damages the peace process.

There is a double absurdity within such a situation, for number of people killed makes news as measure of failure while counted by the protagonists as a success. It is absurd because the Israeli’s army’s incursion in April2002 was justified as stopping the ‘terrorists’, that is those willing to give their life in a suicide bombing mission. But by June 2002 the intensity of suicide bombing missions is on the increase. As everyone predicted the kind of methods deployed to fight these suicide bombing missions by retaliating with the brute force of an army equipped with tanks, helicopters, airplanes and bulldozers to disrupt normal life of the Palestinians will make things worse, not better. The more walls go up, the less future can be seen while that what cuts through the land intensifies the pain of no longer being open to cross the fields to reach the other village in order to visit a friend. The hindrance of any normal movement spills over into the economy, that is into the flow of goods while human manpower has no longer so easy access to the resources needed to survive on.

Then there is the kind of ‘moral relativity’ in place so that justice hardly has a chance to prevail. On the Israeli side everything is ‘OK’ since as a sovereign state Israel has a Right to defend itself. Enough is enough. On the Palestinian side the exasperation with the overall situation has grown so much that people pit their own life’s against the absurdity of the situation which they perceive as one in which reasonable arguments do not count. What matters here is not merely violence, but the willingness and determination to use violent means to get one’s way. It is that kind of absurd legacy that fuels the ‘cycle of violence’ and which cannot be stopped as long as people differentiate between illegitimate murder and killing as act of self-defense. Killing is killing, there cannot be any semantic difference prevailing in order to allow taking side with either the Palestinians or the Israelis.

The reflections above underline the fact that there is a situation completely out of control and way beyond any human sense for community of man resting upon principles of equality, freedom and respect for the opinion of the others. Instead of self-criticism, there is self-praise and rather than reflecting upon one’s value premises, they are simply set whether the other likes it or not. As Cornelius Castoriadis said, values cannot be discussed, but to dispute them will lead to a conflict in permanence.

Already Israelis feel the news media is biased towards the Palestinian case. The fact that Jewish people are involved who went through the Holocaust makes it even more complicated and sensitive. People who have been denied for such a long time the Right to live will want to make double sure that this risk is no longer incurred by future generations. Consequently there is a much larger struggle going on then what can be reduced to the crisis in the Middle East and which is only inadequately circumscribed with the term ‘Anti-Semitism’.

As the writer Mahmoud Darvish wrote, “not only Jews, but everyone has the obligation and duty to remember the massacres by the Nazis. For all those who still have a conscience and who love peace must draw some lesson out of it and remember the victims of the Holocaust.”

He added, that it is important to keep that in mind all the more so because today’s many racist and militant movements appear to be similar in methods to that of the Nazis, when in fact they are not. Like Gramsci advised not to defame everyone as a Fascist, lest to increase the potency of the Extreme Right, it is important according to Mahmoud Darvish to distinguish between different kinds of terror regimes and what the Jewish people experienced especially after the Wannsee conference in Berlin. For that came close to a near total genocide of their people. Add to that the gruesome stories of what happened in the concentration camps, then all that is something not to be forgotten.

Subsequently Mahmoud Darvish adds out of conviction and in keeping up a human degree of differentiation following thought: “irrespective of the degree of animosity between Arabs and Israelis, it cannot develop to such a degree that Arabs act according to the emotion ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ because National Socialism is and remains to be the enemy of all people.”

If this holds true for the Arabic attitude towards the Israelis, the same should apply for how the Israelis name the actions of the Palestinians. There are unfortunately tendencies towards the contrary. A former prime minister of Israel stated in CNN, June 21 that Arafat is using Nazi methods to threaten Israel. The images of the Holocaust ought not to be invoked alone out of the respect to its victims. There is nothing comparable. The conflicting parties must find their own political terms to deal with the situation.

On the other hand there is some bitter truth as to why this particular conflict in the Middle East has perpetuated itself irrespective of change of government in Israel and independently from the various engagements especially of different U.S. presidents.

Indicative of how difficult it is for any political power outside the Middle East to take sides was recently commented upon by Todd S. Purdum. He makes first the observation that the Bush administration did not hesitate anywhere to take a strong stand, “but on the Middle East, the administration avoided involvement for as long as it could and then waded in only tentatively.” (Todd S. Purdum, “The trouble with measuring out Mideast policy in teaspoons”, International Herald Tribune, June 22 – 23, 2002)

There are sets of constraints that explain somewhat the difficulties of taking sides. At a first level, there is an overt tendency to say nothing will happen towards peace unless America imposes itself, but then the counter argument begins with stressing the need to do things independently. Fore mostly Israel, but lately also someone like Edward Said would argue “but who else but the Palestinian people can construct the legitimacy they need to rule themselves and fight the occupation with weapons that don’t kill innocents and lose us more support than ever before” (Edward Said, “A New Palestinian Order”, International Herald Tribune, 22 – 23 June 2002)

So then any outcome ought to be not singly defined by Israelis or Palestinians, but also not be American imposed or international instigated. It is as if there is a lack of categories to describe really what solution is sought and what would fit into the reality undergoing daily transitions due to all kinds of impositions, including settlers turning frantic by shooting into Arabic crowds or else a new culture perpetuating the death syndrome by making it into a weapon ready to be used without any further training – to explain the new and equally frightening disposition amongst the Palestinian youth towards suicide bombing missions.

Todd S. Purdum raises, therefore, the interesting question but why an American administration known for its foreign policy as being based on ‘unilateralism’ suddenly tends to believe (but does not say it in so many words) that ‘multilateralism’ will likely to work better in the case of the Middle East. He says “there are good reasons to try multilateralism” because “and some provision for the return of Palestinian refugees the conflict has daunted American presidents for decades, and there is an unusual degree of international consensus on the broad outline of a solution: a new Palestinian state with a negotiated settlement  on borders, shared control of Jerusalem.” (op. cit.)

Yet such a new approach would require both within America and abroad quite a different approach to international affairs, and that above all would mean a critical distance from the so-called ‘nation state building projects’ attempted right now in Afghanistan with mixed results. Consequently it is said that the division between senior officials within the Bush administration is quite high and reflects the risks of either trying too little and loose out or else entering the conflict and loosing equally both in reputation and friends needed within still other constellations of interests and alliances defined by what everyone would like to achieve together.

However, there is also one clear reason why President Bush is reluctant to make a definite stand on the question of Israelis and Palestinians, and this is because any president, but in particular this Conservative one has to face “the combined force of Jewish voters and Christian conservatives and near unanimous congressional backing for Israel” (op. cit.)

That then explains why America faces tremendous difficulties in mediating between the two conflicting sides, while any inactivity will be taken as bowing to powerful interests and lobby groups making sure that Israel has the full backing not only of the American Congress, but also of the American people, that is the tax payers.


One voice of the American Congress

The following speech was given on the Senate floor by Sen. Jim Inhofe who is serving his 2nd term in the Senate from the State of Okla. He is a Republican, a Presbyterian and according to those who monitor his political path closely in terms how he stands especially with regards to the question of Israel a very ‘clear thinker.’

It is important to read first the whole speech since it outlines seven reasons why Israel can rightfully claim the land it has done since 1948.


Senate Floor Statement by U.S. Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla)
March 4, 2002

I was interested the other day when I heard that the de facto ruler, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah, made a statement which was received by many in this country as if it were a statement of fact, as if it were something new, a concept for peace in the Middle East that no one had ever heard of before. I was kind of shocked that it was so well received by many people who had been down this road before.

I suggest to you that what Crown Prince Abdullah talked about a few days ago was not new at all. He talked about the fact that under the Abdullah plan, Arabs would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for the Jewish state surrendering the territory it received after the 1976 (sic) Six-Day War as if that were something new. He went on to talk about other land that had been acquired and had been taken by Israel.

I remember so well on December 4 when we covered all of this and the fact that there isn't anything new about the prospect of giving up land that is rightfully Israel's land in order to have peace.

When it gets right down to it, the land doesn't make that much difference because Yasser Arafat and others don't recognize Israel's right to any of the land. They do not recognize Israel's right to exist.

I will discuss seven reasons, which I mentioned once before, why Israel is entitled to the land they have and that it should not be a part of the peace process.

If this is something that Israel wants to do, it is their business to do it. But anyone who has tried to put the pressure on Israel to do this is wrong.

We are going to be hit by sceptics who are going to say we will be attacked because of our support for Israel, and if we get out of the Middle East--that is us--all the problems will go away. That is just not true. If we withdraw, all of these problems will again come to our door.

I have some observations to make about that. But I would like to re-emphasize once again the seven reasons that Israel has the right to their land. The first reason is that Israel has the right to the land because of all of the archeological evidence. That is reason, No. 1. All the archeological evidence supports it.

Every time there is a dig in Israel, it does nothing but support the fact that Israelis have had a presence there for 3,000 years. They have been there for a long time. The coins, the cities, the pottery, the culture--there are other people, groups that are there, but there is no mistaking the fact that Israelis have been present in that land for 3,000

It predates any claims that other peoples in the regions may have. The ancient Philistines are extinct. Many
other ancient peoples are extinct. They do not have the unbroken line to this date that the Israelis have.

Even the Egyptians of today are not racial Egyptians of 2,000, 3,000 years ago. They are primarily an Arab people. The land is called Egypt, but they are not the same racial and ethnic stock as the old Egyptians of the ancient world. The first Israelis are in fact descended from the original Israelites. The first proof, then, is the archaeology.

The second proof of Israel's right to the land is the historic right.History supports it totally and completely. We know there has been an Israel up until the time of the Roman Empire. The Romans conquered the land. Israel had no homeland, although Jews were allowed to live there.
They were driven from the land in two dispersions: One was in 70 A.D. and the other was in 135 A.D. But there was always a Jewish presence in the land.

The Turks, who took over about 700 years ago and ruled the land up until about World War I, had control. Then the land was conquered by the British. The Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany. The British knew they had to do something to punish Turkey, and also to break up that empire that was going to be a part of the whole effort of Germany in World War I. So the British sent troops against the Turks in the Holy Land.

One of the generals who was leading the British armies was a man named Allenby. Allenby was a Bible-believing Christian. He carried a Bible with him everywhere he went and he knew the significance of Jerusalem.

The night before the attack against Jerusalem to drive out the Turks,  Allenby prayed that God would allow him to capture the city without doing damage to the holy places.

That day, Allenby sent World War I biplanes over the city of Jerusalem to do a reconnaissance mission. You have to understand that the Turks had at that time never seen an airplane. So there they were, flying around. They looked in the sky and saw these fascinating inventions and did not know what they were, and they were terrified by them. Then they were told they were going to be opposed by a man named Allenby the next day, which means, in their language, ``man sent from God'' or ``prophet from God.'' They dared not fight against a prophet from God, so the next morning, when Allenby went to take Jerusalem, he went in and captured it without firing a single shot.

The British Government was grateful to Jewish people around the world, particularly to one Jewish chemist who helped them manufacture niter. Niter is an ingredient that was used in nitroglycerin which was sent over from the New World. But they did not have a way of getting it to England. The German U-boats were shooting on the boats, so most of the niter they were trying to import to make nitroglycerin was at the bottom of the ocean. But a man named Weitzman, a Jewish chemist, discovered a way to make it from materials that existed in England. As a result, they were able to continue that supply.

The British at that time said they were going to give the Jewish people a homeland. That is all a part of history. It is all written down in history. They were gratified that the Jewish people, the bankers, came through and helped finance the war.

The homeland that Britain said it would set aside consisted of all of what is now Israel and all of what was then the nation of Jordan--the whole thing. That was what Britain promised to give the Jews in 1917.

In the beginning, there was some Arab support for this action. There was not a huge Arab population in the land at that time, and there is a reason for that. The land was not able to sustain a large population of people. It just did not have the development it needed to handle those people, and the land was not really wanted by anybody. Nobody really wanted this land. It was considered to be worthless land.

I want the Presiding Officer to hear what Mark Twain said. And, of course, you may have read ``Huckleberry Finn'' and ``Tom Sawyer.'' Mark Twain--Samuel Clemens--took a tour of Palestine in 1867. This is how he described that land. We are talking about Israel now. He said:
A desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given over wholly to weeds. A silent, mournful expanse. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.

Where was this great Palestinian nation? It did not exist. It was not there. Palestinians were not there. Palestine was a region named by the Romans, but at that time it was under the control of Turkey, and there was no large mass of people there because the land would not support them.

This is the report that the Palestinian Royal Commission, created by the British, made. It quotes an account of the conditions on the coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea in 1913. This is the Palestinian Royal Commission. They said:
The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track, suitable for transport by camels or carts. No orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached the Yavnev village. Houses were mud. Schools did not exist. The western part toward the sea was almost a desert. The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many villages were deserted by their inhabitants.

That was 1913.

The French author Voltaire described Palestine as ``a hopeless, dreary place.''

In short, under the Turks the land suffered from neglect and low population. That is a historic fact. The nation became populated by both Jews and Arabs because the land came to prosper when Jews came back and began to reclaim it. Historically, they began to reclaim it. If there had never been any archaeological evidence to support the rights of the Israelis to the territory, it is also important to recognize that other nations in the area have no longstanding claim to the country either.

Did you know that Saudi Arabia was not created until 1913, Lebanon until1920? Iraq did not exist as a nation until 1932, Syria until 1941; the borders of Jordan were established in 1946 and Kuwait in 1961. Any of these nations that would say Israel is only a recent arrival would have to deny their own rights as recent arrivals as well. They did not exist as countries. They were all under the control of the Turks.

Historically, Israel gained its independence in 1948.

The third reason that land belongs to Israel is the practical value of the Israelis being there. Israel today is a modern marvel of agriculture. Israel is able to bring more food out of a desert environment than any other country in the world. The Arab nations ought to make Israel their friend and import technology from Israel that would allow all the Middle East, not just Israel, to become an exporter of food. Israel has unarguable success in its agriculture.

The fourth reason I believe Israel has the right to the land is on the grounds of humanitarian concern. You see, there were 6 million Jews slaughtered in Europe in World War II. The persecution against the Jews had been very strong in Russia since the advent of communism. It was against them even before then under the Czars.

These people have a right to their homeland. If we are not going to allow them a homeland in the Middle East, then where? What other nation on Earth is going to cede territory, is going to give up land?

They are not asking for a great deal. The whole nation of Israel would fit into my home State of Oklahoma seven times. It would fit into the Presiding Officer's State of Georgia seven times. They are not asking for a great deal. The whole nation of Israel is very small. It is a nation that, up until the time that claims started coming in, was not desired by anybody.

The fifth reason Israel ought to have their land is that she is a strategic ally of the United States. Whether we realize it or not, Israel is a detriment, an impediment, to certain groups hostile to democracies and hostile to what we believe in, hostile to that which makes us the greatest nation in the history of the world. They have kept them from taking complete control of the Middle East. If it were not for Israel, they would
overrun the region. They are our strategic ally.
It is good to know we have a friend in the Middle East on whom we can count. They vote with us in the United Nations more than England, more than Canada, more than France, more than Germany--more than any other country in the world.

The sixth reason is that Israel is a roadblock to terrorism. The war we are now facing is not against a sovereign nation; it is against a group of terrorists who are very fluid, moving from one country to another. They are almost invisible. That is whom we are fighting against today.

We need every ally we can get. If we do not stop terrorism in the Middle East, it will be on our shores. We have said this again and again and again, and it is true.

One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America is that the policy of our Government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them.

Since its independence in 1948, Israel has fought four wars: The war in 1948 and 1949--that was the war for independence--the war in 1956, the Sinai campaign; the Six-Day War in 1967; and in 1973, the Yom Kippur War, the holiest day of the year, and that was with Egypt and Syria.

You have to understand that in all four cases, Israel was attacked. They were not the aggressor. Some people may argue that this was not true because they went in first in 1956, but they knew at that time that Egypt was building a huge military to become the aggressor. Israel, in fact, was not the aggressor and has not been the aggressor in any of the four wars.

Also, they won all four wars against impossible odds. They are great
warriors. They consider a level playing field being outnumbered 2 to 1.

There were 39 Scud missiles that landed on Israeli soil during the
gulf war. Our President asked Israel not to respond. In order to have the Arab nations on board, we asked Israel not to participate in the war.
They showed tremendous restraint and did not. Now we have asked them to stand back and not do anything over these last several attacks.

We have criticized them. We have criticized them in our media. Local people in television and radio often criticize Israel, not knowing the true facts.
We need to be informed.

I was so thrilled when I heard a reporter pose a question to our Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He said:

Mr. Powell, the United States has advocated a policy of restraint in
the Middle East. We have discouraged Israel from retaliation again and
again and again because we've said it leads to continued escalation--that it escalates the violence. Are we going to follow that preaching ourselves?

Mr. Powell indicated we would strike back. In other words, we can tell Israel not to do it, but when it hits us, we are going to do something.

But all that changed in December when the Israelis went into the Gaza with gunships and into the West Bank with F-16s. With the exception of last May, the Israelis had not used F-16s since the 1967 6-Day War. And I am so proud of them because we have to stop terrorism. It is not going to go away.
If Israel were driven into the sea tomorrow, if every Jew in the Middle East were killed, terrorism would not end. You know that in your heart. Terrorism would continue.

It is not just a matter of Israel in the Middle East. It is the heart of the very people who are perpetrating this stuff. Should they be successful in overrunning Israel--which they won't be--but should they be, it would not be enough. They will never be satisfied.

No. 7, I believe very strongly that we ought to support Israel; that it has a right to the land. This is the most important reason: Because God  said so. As I said a minute ago, look it up in the book of Genesis. It is right up there on the desk.

In Genesis 13:14-17, the Bible says:

The Lord said to Abram, ``Lift up now your eyes, and look from the
place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward and westward:
for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever...... Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breathe of it; for I will give it to thee.'' That is God talking.
The Bible says that Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar before the Lord. Hebron is in the West Bank. It is at this place where God appeared to Abram and said, ``I am giving you this land,''--the West Bank.

This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true. The seven reasons, I am convinced, clearly establish that Israel has a right to the land.

Eight years ago on the lawn of the White House, Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. It was a historic occasion. It was a tragic occasion.

At that time, the official policy of the Government of Israel began to be, ``Let us appease the terrorists. Let us begin to trade the land for peace.'' This process continued unabated up until last year. Here in our own Nation, at Camp David, in the summer of 2000, then Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak offered the most generous concessions to Yasser Arafat that had ever been laid on the table.

He offered him more than 90 percent of all the West Bank territory,
sovereign control of it. There were some parts he did not want to offer, but in exchange for that he said he would give up land in Israel
proper that the PLO had not even asked for.

And he also did the unthinkable. He even spoke of dividing Jerusalem
and allowing the Palestinians to have their capital there in the East.
Yasser Arafat stormed out of the meeting. Why did he storm out of the
meeting? Everything he had said he wanted was offered there. It was put into
his hands. Why did he storm out of the meeting?

A couple of months later, there began to be riots, terrorism. The
riots began when now Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount.
And this was used as the thing that lit the fire and that caused the explosion
Did you know that Sharon did not go unannounced and that he contacted the Islamic authorities before he went and secured their permission and
had permission to be there? It was no surprise.

The response was very carefully calculated. They knew the world
would not pay attention to the details.

They would portray this in the Arab world as an attack upon the holy mosque. They would portray it as an attack upon that mosque and use it as an excuse to riot. Over the last 8 years, during this time of the
peace process, where the Israeli public has pressured its leaders to give up land for peace because they are tired of fighting, there has been increased terror.

In fact, it has been greater in the last 8 years than any other time
in Israel's history. Showing restraint and giving in has not produced
any kind of peace. It is so much so that today the leftist peace movement in Israel does not exist because the people feel they were deceived.

They did offer a hand of peace, and it was not taken. That is why the politics of Israel have changed drastically over the past 12 months.
The Israelis have come to see that, ``No matter what we do, these people do not want to deal with us. ..... They want to destroy us.'' That is why even yet today the stationery of the PLO still has upon it the map of the
entire state of Israel, not just the tiny little part they call the West Bank that they want. They want it all.

We have to get out of this mind set that somehow you can buy peace
in the Middle East by giving little plots of land. It has not worked before
when it has been offered.
These seven reasons show why Israel is entitled to that land

(Anyone wishing to comment this speech may email him at: Jim_inhofe@inhofe.senate.gov)

When it comes to taking side, the Senator has no hesitation. He supports the course Israel has been taking in the past 12 months. The changes are based on the conclusion “that these people (the Palestinians and the Arab nations altogether) do not want to deal with us…They want to destroy us.”

Out of that the Senator develops the seven reasons why Israel is not merely justified in defending itself, but also is entitled to ‘that land’.

Such is then the kind of support that the American Congress gives to Israel. The conviction for that position is a mixture of religious, military and global arguments amounting to knowing what the fight against terrorism amounts to, if one neglects to strike back or to show restraint in any kind of retaliation.

It is taking Morgenthau’s doctrine further: every move from the other side shall be countered with ever harsher responses while knowing that one shall have to live with terrorism ‘forever’. That transcendence of time leads to seeking a test how true is the word of God, and to be sure that this test answers one’s questions and interest positively, there is advocated to combine the bible with the military sword to ensure the land claimed remains really in one’s hand.

As a forward-looking strategy of aggression, there is not tolerated any deviance from God’s word. It is for the Christian Right the source of legitimacy.


On whose side are you on

Understandable if anyone questions Israel’s claim to the land on biblical grounds is put immediately into the wrong camp, and if not careful, not merely declared to be anti-Israel, but if not directly a terrorist, a potential supporter. That is why prevailing viewpoints on the Middle East are more confused, if at all well articulated once neither agreeing with the Senator, but also not on the side of any political movement justifying violent means as substitution to negotiation.

Certainly almost all diplomatic missions in the Middle East try to resist in becoming involved to such a degree that they loose ‘face’ to one or the other side. Crucial here is the institutional aspect of mediation, something completely lacking once naked force strikes over and again at the street level. For instance, at the end of June a stray bullet kills a pregnant Palestinian woman. It means the level of violence has become so general and arbitrary, that anyone can be struck anytime anywhere. There is no certainty that the political representation of the various nations, but also international bodies and churches shall be respected.

As Todd S. Purdum says, the unusual international consensus about what solution needs to be offered and take hold is countered by a “reluctance to pursue a bold agenda”. The president of the United States hesitates due to the strong support Congress gives to Israel to try anything else but securing the conservative and Jewish vote. Consequently the outcome, and here he quotes Aluf Benn, the diplomatic correspondent for Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, is an “exhausted recycling of ideas that have been floated in the past and are intended to pacify everyone, without taking any risks.”

(Todd S. Purdum, “The trouble with measuring out Mideast policy in teaspoons”, International Herald Tribune, 22 – 23 June 2002)

This means diplomatic initiatives are limited to what can be achieved in altering the nuances of understanding where the powers can agree.

This means no one is going to do something serious. International diplomacy is but an extension of those powers wishing symbolic successes without getting really involved.

Such a change in the nuance of meanings is expressed from a safe distance. Accents in the international consensus shift once previously held interconnections between symbolic and real power holders is altered. That seems to be the case with Arafat being increasingly discredited and perceived as no longer capable to linking inner and outer dispositions of power to what should be upheld at all times, namely the authority and face of the international powers wishing to deal with the Middle East without upsetting Israel in the process.

Thus a signal is send to everyone once “King Abdullah of Jordan said in an interview published Friday that Arafat had substantially lost control of militant groups and even worse violence lay ahead. ‘What I can say over the years I always thought Arafat was capable of controlling Palestinian public sentiment and extremism’, he was quoted as telling the Belgian weekly Le Vif/L’Express. ‘I think that is no longer the case today.’” (quoted by John Kifner, “Israel to seize West Bank if violence continues”, June 22 – 23, 2002).


The real problem of taking sides

It has always been a matter of truth to take sides with the one being threatened in his or her life by someone else. Such a position means to uphold the sacredness of life, equally ‘innocent life’. In a situation marked by merging civil population with either the composition of the military forces or with the militants undertaking for their part responsibility to retaliate, that principle cannot be applied so easily. In the Middle East this is all the more the case when Israel’s ‘Right to defend itself’ turns out not to be merely a defensive, but an offensive war strategy while the despair of the Palestinians since 1947 begs an answer to the question, but what is ‘legitimate resistance’.

To come to terms first of all with the need to end all violence, but then also with the need to resolve the reasons for the ongoing conflict, ‘practical dimensions’ have to be articulated first.

This means both conflicting parties have to assume such a position that can be identified as being sound, politically and culturally speaking, so that it can be used as a critical measure for monitoring purpose. That leads to another mediation effort being non- diplomatic in order to avoid perpetuation of misunderstandings and prejudices. A civil council of peace would be needed to substantiate that initiative. It would mean:

  1. Any outbreak of violence would require deliberation through a joint body created by people recognized as wishing not to exploit any hostilities between the two sides.
  2. Delegates to this body means they are representatives from organizations like ‘Doctors without Frontier’ or those Palestinian Intellectuals who signed the petition for being against ‘suicide bombing’.
  3. For reaching decisions, there must be applied ‘cultural consensus’ building measures under conditions of ‘cross-cultural references’ in order to allow a mediation between population and political authorities.
  4. The principal aim must be to get the peace concept ‘right’, that is to free it from any fear that any agreement would mean being trapped in a situation that would disadvantage the one or the other side.
  5. Consequently any agreement must first of all institutionalise means of correcting any such agreement, that is there will have to be created ways and means to challenge ‘bad practices’ whether corruption in the Palestinian Authority or illegal encroachment upon the land by the settlers using military protection to enforce their claims of the land.
  6. A land register has to be established with clear rules, whereby religious claims shall not be recognized while the arbitration in case of conflicts must allow joint councils made up of Palestinians and Israelis to come into place.
  7. The peace process in the Middle East should follow the model of the European Union insofar as ‘intercultural dialogue’ as prerequisite for a joint constitution that holds for the entire region means undertaking an examination of all texts, agreements and treaties to find out what law holds according to the double predictability of land and knowledge about legal dispositions to exploit the situation and the potentiality of the land.

Such a peace council as prime position would have to be autonomies from the present parties involved, if it is to assume a real meaning as being capable of stopping ‘violent acts’. Related to that have to be two conditions: a position in favor of living together in peace and, even if this agreement is broken, the critical measure is upheld and decisions taken not answered with further violent means if not acceptable to the one or the other side.

Such a peace council does little to de-escalate the violent situation if no one believes in the validity of such a body that is both a monitoring and mediation tool.

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