Can there be peace in the Middle East?

The City Bible Forum in Sydney recently held a dialogue/dicussion with Ron Weiser (Zionist Council) and Jake Lynch ( the Sydney Peace Institute).  For the video see here:

Can there be peace in the Middle East? 

The moderator, Stephen O’Doherty, asked probing and wide ranging questions and kept the discussion going without rancor. Ron Weiser answers the questions extremely well and describes in a clear and forthright manner the reality and what would be needed for peace.

Ron provides one of the best discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict one could hear.

Well worth watching the debate.

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6 thoughts on “Can there be peace in the Middle East?

  1. Ron Weiser presented very well, and made good arguments. I agree with him that a peaceful solution rests not with Israel but with a Palestinian true acceptance of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.

    I disagree, though, with his comment (14 minutes) that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a political one, not a religious one. If the conflict was political from the Arab/Muslim point of view, it would have been solved quite some time ago. While he was certainly no Nelson Mandela, Arafat was perhaps the only person with sufficient stature to make a deal. Yet, he was incapable of it, partly because of a fear that he would be killed if he did. Also, he was unable to publicly take away the “return of the refugees” card, and he certainly used the doublespeak you mention, including denying the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

    Now, unfortunately, Abbas is far weaker than Arafat, and the Islamist movement is far stronger. The Wakf – Islamic holy land – drums beat louder, and Abbas is trying to use it to his advantage, with his own Jewish denial speech and using UNESCO as a tool to delegitimize Israel’s and the Jewish connection to Jewish holy sites.

    President Obama’s rhetoric and actions (hopefully naive and not malevolently calculated) have weakened the West and helped let loose the Islamist tendencies – as seen in Egypt. The poor Coptic Christians are in big trouble, as are Christians increasingly throughout the region e.g. Lebanon, Iraq; and probably Libya and Syria. Turkey and Iran are also competing to ride the radical Islamist wave, while Saudi Arabia exports radical sentiment.

    While the conflict certainly has a political dimension, I think that religion has added, in increasing amounts, an intractable element. Ron may well be right that religion is being used by people who don’t want the problem solved, but it doesn’t take away the fact that the lack of an Islamist acceptance of the vaild rights of a Jewish nation is a major block. But it also points to where the direction for where acceptance of Israel acceptance has to come.

    As an aside, the Leftists and other antiZionist academics/pundits have also played a significant role in perpetuating and worsening the conflict.

  2. Rafael covers many aspects of the situation. I also disagree that it is a political problem. Even the name “Fatah” comes from a religious Islamic term, as Walid Phares explains it in his book “Future Jihad”. Fatah was the opening up (as in the Hebrew word “patach”) of a new front of the Jihad, or holy war of expansion. According to Islamic law, no Jew is allowed to have sovereignty over any piece of land that was ever ruled by Moslems. This is the religious aspect of the conflict, held to by the Palestinian Authority just as much as the Hamas movement or Iranian supported Hezbollah. To make the picture clearer, one should mention, not just that Abbas referred to a 63-year-old occupation, but that the Palestine Liberation Organisation was founded in 1964, long before any problem of 1967 settlements.
    I liked how Weiser highlighted the ‘double-speak’ of the Palestinians, in this case, in two languages. I also thought the compere was very fair. The so-called “Peace” academic was blatant in his refusal to answer any question that would have called a ‘spade a spade’ and made the Palestinians look intransigent. He used jargon and evasion, but was not convincing, I think.
    But I think the UN bid has made the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state a lot clearer.
    As Melanie Phillips put it in a quote in her book “The World Turned Upside Down”, p 160, Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Yaquob said on Al-Rahma TV in 2009, “The Jews… are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies if they did not occupy a thing … We will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth. It is not me who says so. The Prophet said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until you fight the Jews and kill them. .. The curse of Allah upon you, whose ancestors were apes and pigs.”
    This is the kind of message Muslims get when they go to Mosque on a Friday. This is the kind of religious sentiment that lies behind the anti-Israeli incitement in the areas run by the Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas. This is what motivates the suicide bombers and throat slitters, and is carefully hidden behind Abbas’ double speak. Even in his speech to crowds waiting for the released prisoners in Ramallah today, which was being translated into English, Abbas carefully ended his speech saying: Let’s not forget the martyrs. He was giving the cue to glorifying the suicide bombers, reminding his people to keep the violence going.

  3. The basic blocking point in Middle East Arab/Muslim mentality is their unwillingness to tolerate a State of Israel of any size in their midst.

    To classify this as a “religious” question is to misunderstand both the cause of the conflict and the path to a resolution.

    As was mentioned, it is certainly a conflict with religious overtones and clothing and cloaking by those on all sides who do not wish to see, or believe in, any resolution.

    But to blame Islam generally, or Islamists specifically, is to give the Arab world a get out of jail free card. It implies that if only secular leaders were in control, the dispute would be ended.

    And this of course is not the case.

    To date we have not seen a difference in objective between the so called secular Palestinian leadership – say Abbas – or the Islamist leadership – say Hamas.

    One of them merely speaks more clearly and honestly in English.

    At the end of the day this is a poltical dispute with political solutions available, once the Arab world knows it will not succeed any other way.

    Indeed it may well be possible that should the Arab world continue to miss opportunities for political resolution, such resolution will occur anyway – but between Israel, pragmatic regimes in the Middle East and the so called moral minority otherwise known as the democratic countires of the world.

    One should not forget that 2 major fault lines run through the Middle East that have nothing to do with Israel or the Jewish People – the Arab non Arab divided – and the Sunni Shi’ite divide – and both of these effect the political alliances made between repsective Arab and/or Moslem countries and the Jewish State.

    So political alliances and deals at the end of the day are made with Israel in an area where interests and survival are of far greater importance than the diversion of religious overlay which while influential, is not the central issue, but merely a convenient cover.

  4. My thoughts regarding moves to peace would be to first acknowledge that neither Abbas nor Netanyahu are capable of making significant steps… Besides having little authority, Abbas would be incapable even if he wanted to, of giving up on the so-called right of return for the descendents of refugees in Lebanon etc, nor of working out a deal on Jerusalem. I don’t think Netanyahu is capable of telling people in Kiryat Arba that Israel is abandoning them and Hebron.
    I also think it would be foolhardy for the Quartet to try to ram through a deal at this time. On the other hand, a lot could happen on the periphery. Firstly, the Quartet should resettle the refugees e.g. in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere. It should be taken out of UNRWA’s hands and simply done. My Right Word has a good column on it here http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2011/10/resettlement-not-settlement.html. Secondly, a huge effort should be made to emphasise Israel and Judaisms right to have a tiny place for its nation land – whichever Muslims who support this using Koran etc, should be given major coverage. Thirdly, the leftist spoilers who perpetuate the conflict through university bias and BDS, need to be blocked. Fourthly, an alternate to Arab oil has to be rapidly found; hopefully the environmental push will have some benefit here; Iran has to be blocked – unfortunately, the USA leaving Iraq doesnt inspire confidence from that point of view. Some of this may be pie in the sky, but the bottom line is that the Israel- Palestinian impasse should be seen as an opportunity to take care of the outside issues.

  5. My difference with Ron Weisers comment regarding the relative importance of politics versus religion may be a matter of degree and timing. I remember hearing Lebanese-born US Muslim, Hussein Ibish, describe the conflict as 3 phases in time – first, Israel vs the Arab countries in 1948 and 67, then Israel vs the Palestinians, and finally Israel vs Islam. Ibish hoped that it would stay in the 2nd phase, rather than move into the 3rd phase. However, I think that when Arafat failed to close a deal in 2000/2001, the conflict moved into the 3rd phase. Now the religious/Islamist backdrop is playing an increasing role behind the scenes, even for people around Abbas who deny the Jewish historical connection to Israel. Christian Palestinian Arabs like Hanan Ashrawi are now playing far less of role, while the Muslim nature of an envisaged Palestine is emphasised, even if by people who may be more secular.