can’t see the forest

Processing Peace

The BBC’s Roger Hardy reports:

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is offering to release “many” Palestinian prisoners and hold a “serious dialogue” with the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.

But there are two conditions.

The Palestinians must release the Israeli soldier, Cpl Gilad Shalit, who was captured by militants in June.

And they must set up a national-unity government committed to recognising Israel and renouncing violence.

So the onus is on the Palestinians to deliver – while at the same time maintaining the current fragile ceasefire in Gaza.

Things could still go wrong. But there is undoubtedly a new mood.

The current situation suits no one.

The Palestinians want to escape from the economic boycott imposed on them when their present government – led by the Islamist group Hamas – came into office in March.

The creation of a power-sharing government could give them an exit strategy.

The Israelis want to stop rocket attacks from Gaza and get their soldier back.

And Mr Olmert wants a success to compensate for his perceived mishandling of this summer’s war between Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Among Israelis and Palestinians alike there is now a profound weariness, and this is something leaders on both sides can capitalise on…

As Uri Avnery might astutely (and jokingly) cry: “Help! The peacemongers are upon us, Israel!”

One must note at least two things: first, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza will temporarily curb the bloodshed, as will the cessation of Qassam fire. For that, if we are realists, we should be grateful. But that does nothing to alleviate the squalor and misery left behind, does nothing to pave over the bloody footprint of the IDF which has for decades made life in the region a living hell for anyone who dares challenge the legitimacy of the prodigal rogue state.

Second, this truce speaks nothing of the less acute but no less bleak situation in the West Bank.

Mr. Bushmert wants a success to compensate for his perceived mishandling of the offensive on Lebanon. Yes, that about sums up the position of the Israeli government. We need good news, damn the refugees, screw the dead and the wounded and the cluster-bombed farmland, start the presses. Our reputation must be polished.

The conditions for these “serious talks” are a bit odious. If the Epsilon Palestinians are so kind as to return the Alpha Minus Corporal, then there will follow the release of “many” of the nameless thousands of illegally held civilian prisoners languishing in secret Israeli prisons. Then, and only then, shall Olmert condescend to discuss with Abbas whatever can be done to remedy the upstart arrogance of the democratically elected—and yet somehow illegitimate—Palestinian government. How quaint. I wonder if it is even possible for Israel to come to the table without precondition, that diplomatic luxury of the strong and first line of cynical offense against the powerless.

Perhaps Olmert could begin the dialogue with a simple question: Why won’t your government recognize Israel’s right to exist? And supposing it is possible for Abbas to respond truthfully. He might say: Because you have long ago resolved to treat our people like cur. Because you deny us equitable access to things like water, good roads, electricity, airspace. Because you view our presence in our own country as an intolerable obstacle to your bright-eyed racist quest of short memory. Because you do not recognize our right to exist as anything other than swine in the pen. Because our right to exist does not depend on donated F-16s and UN vetoes, on ancient texts and modern warfare. Because you make sport of killing our women and children, and of doctoring the subsequent news reports to fit your distorted soliloquy of victimization. Because you perpetuate murderous hegemony at the expense of the quality of life of Israelis, much less Palestinians.

Well, there is no need for such dialogue now, beyond mere etiquette. Because the Israeli government, and the Israeli people even moreso, must realize the simplicity of what it would take for the uncomfortable silence in Gaza to become a meaningful one. The “onus to deliver” is most certainly not on the Palestinians, pace Mr. Hardy. Whether in two states or in one, the Israelis and the Palestinians will begin the process of reparation only when the Israeli government (onus be upon them) decides that Arabs are as human as Jews, regardless of the Palestinian lack of firepower and of gunship diplomacy. Then we will begin to see a peace process unfolding, not merely the further processing of peace.

As always, my thoughts are with the suffering on both sides of the ideological divide. Shalom, salaam, and think big. Presses be damned.


3 Responses

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  1. peoplesgeography said, on 11/28/06 at 8:18 am

    Yes, Shalom and Salaam to those unfortunate ordinary souls caught in the middle of this protracted conflict and for my five cents worth, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. A random bit of synchronicity, I was just now in correspondence describing Israel as a ‘prodigal state’, I think that is an apt use of the biblically-derived description in many ways. Also like the characterisation of peace unfolding rather than being processed btw.

    Re. poesie-writing, ‘twas really nothing but glad to hear you are walking in a mist of self-adulation from being enshrined in verse, as you well should. ;)

    There is a legend that all speech was once thus, and the art lost (to all but Hallmark greetings). Not that I’m too familiar with all this, I just pretend to write in verse now and then, and try not to be too corny, but practise makes perfect.

    “The profession and vse of Poesie is most ancient from the beginning, and not as manie erroniously suppose, after, but before any ciuil society was among men”.

    The Arte of English Poesie

    What’s this, not been in verse before,
    A remedy was calling out then to be sure
    You find that once you write just one
    A second and third are just as fun

    A dear friend wrote a treasure for me this year
    So nice to get from a respected peer
    O! The art of poesie should be revived
    I s’pose true whimsy can’t be contrived

    So do walk on air, it is much deserved
    And just as this poem was in admiration served:
    Consider passing on this traditional form,
    To anyone who deserves regards so warm.

    Verse that silly can’t even be whipped up at the Writing is a virus site you featured in the NaNoWriMojo post ;)

  2. Quran Bible said, on 11/29/06 at 12:48 pm

    Middle East news are so depressing that for the time being ignoning all the news of the region.

    Israel should have adeopted this policy of negoations right from the begining of aduction of their soliders by Hamas and Hezblollah avioding all the killings and destruction which basically was the wrong approach. The problem with Israel and US policies are that they are believe so much in their military power that they don’t want to resolve any issue peacefully. Israel and US has learned their lesson of aggression in Lebanon Iraq and Afghanistan must realize that they can’t achieve their goals with bombing and killings.

  3. Charles Coverly said, on 1/18/07 at 1:45 am

    Google is the best search engine

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