It may be purely symbolic but someone has got to make a beginning. Somewhere. I reckon Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas will go a long way to break the proverbial ice in the often acrimonious history of hostility between Israel and Palestine. The journey of a thousand leagues, as they rightly say, begins with a single step. We must never neglect any work of peace within our reach, however small.
To work towards peace, it is important that all parties find a saddle. Sadly the violence in the middle-east has spawned intense heat and hate. Western perception of the war – and sympathies -- often lie with Israel. Among other things it could be the European holocaust guilt compounded with the current Jewish stranglehold on American foreign policy and public opinion. However there are good Samaritans who don’t feel compelled to side with a bully just because it can dragoon. President Carter is one of those guys.
It is always a blame-game in the middle-east and no one side is the winner. Israel may not like the Palestinians but it is destined to live with them, forever. Palestinians on their part know that Jews can’t be thrown into the red sea and Israel won’t be wiped off, notwithstanding the clumsy remark of the Iranian Prez Ahmedinejad. Eventually all sides – after all the bloodletting and positioning – have to come to the negotiating table.
Americans find themselves in a funny situation in the world’s most difficult, blankety-blank and continuous conflict. Israel is a valued ally. It is a hot-potato that kills the poor Palestinians at will, expropriates their land, practices apartheid and has a clandestine nuke program. Israel has a terribly appalling human rights record, among the worst in the world. Yet the US seconds Israeli positions.
The Zionist state has a policy of not talking to Hamas. US, naturally supports it. Reasons offered: It is a terrorist party with an unreasonable manifesto. It calls for Israel’s destruction and does not recognise Israel. Mad-caps. But wait a second. In Israel, most streets, parks and squares are named after a dude called Jabotinsky. The Jabotinsky Medal is awarded for distinguished service to the State of Israel. The guy is a Zionist ideologue who coined the infamous term: Two banks has the Jordan [River], this one is ours and so is the other. He founded the notorious Jewish terrorist organisation Irgun. Jabotinsky is rational. Convenient.
That brings us back to the point. Is Hamas untouchable? The answer is no rocket science. Although Hamas is not exactly mellow like Fatah but it is a genuine stake holder and has every right to any future negotiations on a Palestinian state. Hamas is democratically elected and the world has a right to hear Hamas’ vision regarding the situation. Having Hamas completely excluded even from conversations or consultations is counterproductive, as Carter correctly avers.
Indeed there is no way to peace, peace is the way. Israel is no hermit territory. Despite their attempts to marginalize Hamas, they have only ended up strengthening it. Prez Bush’s latest endeavor, the lame duck attempt to get Israel and the powerless Mahmud Abbas along with friendly Arab countries to flock to Annapolis in November 2007 ended up in another joint statement. The highly readable Uri Avnery perhaps sums it the best: They meet, embrace, smile, pose for photographs, convene joint teams, hold press conferences, make declarations - and nothing, absolutely nothing, really happens.
Time we have some real confabulations. Time to stop taking sides. Time we stop calling names. Time we get serious without bringing any past baggage. Time all parties involved --- Fatah, Israel and Hamas -- sit and discuss to smoothen out the rough edges.
In a quarrel, we ought to leave room for reconciliation, always.
PS: Prof Kevin Sanders of the prestigious War and Peace foundation has this to say about Carter and his peace efforts:
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