Deep down, we all know that peace is best
By Ray Hanania
Saudi Gazette, Sunday Dec. 5, 2014
Being Palestinian is like living on a roller coaster, a ride that has its ups and downs, its fear and its excitement. There are some days where I am angry about the violence that takes so many lives. And there are other days when I am frustrated by the lack of common sense.
Still, there are a few days when reason overcomes emotion, and deep down I know that if Israelis and Palestinians were to ever sign a peace agreement creating two-states, and then gave it a little time to heal the passions, we would be the closest of peoples.
Yes, Palestinians and Israelis would be allies in the Middle East. Everyone in the Middle East has paid a price for the endless Arab-Israeli conflict. Everyone is a victim. The only things that really separate us are politics, religion and our attitudes.
It’s not easy being human and it’s not easy as a human to turn the other cheek and ignore an insult, or forget about pride. It’s not easy to forgive an enemy, or to remember the victims of violence without also stoking the flames of vengeance with hatred.
Hate is a byproduct of mixing anger and frustration. It’s a state of mind that causes people to act against someone else. During the past few months, we’ve seen violence on both sides. Palestinians and Israelis trying to kill each other and inflict harm. Sometimes they have succeeded. Depending on where you stand, the chronology begins at your own suffering.
It’s so easy to be dragged down the road of pessimism and even anger. The haters are out there. The haters are a minority who exploit the larger community of good people who, because they are human, are overcome with anger. The haters make that anger look like hate. Extremists drown out the moderates because moderation is so less passioned while extremism is the mother of uncontrollable emotional outbursts. We all suffer from it. The good, the bad and the ugly.
And it’s hard to see through this fog of conflict, or to recognize that beyond it lies hope and survival. I don’t want to see any human being hurt. I don’t want to see human beings lose their lands or their homes or their possessions. Land is life. The conflict is both about land and about fear. We have to keep trying to make peace.
I’m moved by leaders like Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni. They have it tough. Abbas reigns over a people who can never be happy with anything as long as they are Palestinians who live outside of their own sovereignty. Abbas is right when he says that the BDS movement is wrong to include Israel in its boycott activism. Boycott the settlements. That’s moral. That’s ethical. But don’t say you want peace, and speak out against Israel’s injustices, and then boycott the people you are expected to find agreement with.
Livni is also courageous. She has spoken out strongly against settlement expansion. She recently said correctly that the settlements harm Israel’s security. The settlements are populated mostly by fanatics, with a small mix of well-intentioned people who have closed their eyes to principle but deep down hope for real peace. Many Israelis hate her because she speaks the truth. Many Palestinians hate Abbas because he speaks the truth, too.
In the end the choice is very simple. Do we want to keep fighting for everything we believe in, while sustaining the suffering and the continued loss of life? Or are we willing to compromise and give up something in order to bring an end to the conflict and prevent the loss of life?
We can’t completely stop violence. There isn’t a nation in the world that has no violence. There will always be some violence between Palestinians and Israelis, and Arabs and Jews, even if peace is signed and two-states are created.
But it will be less violence. Peace will remove much of the anger, which fuels the hatred that enables the violence and the oppression. And the longer peace is sustained, the more the hatred will be reduced and the violence eliminated. That’s my wish for this secular New Year, a time that I believe is very important.
One of the most detrimental side effects of the conflict is how it has captivated the people in the West. Americans look for hope at this time of the secular New Year even though for Muslim Arabs and Jews, the secular New Year is little more than an accounting system of time. Their New Years come at different times.
But it is the people who cheer on the violence, knowingly and unknowingly, who need to be changed. And they will only change when Arabs and Jews change first. It wasn’t so long ago that Jews were being persecuted across the world, including by Americans. Less than 100 years later, the tables have turned and Jews are not suffering so much any more, but are enjoying an unprecedented political power base that sustains Israel’s existence in conflict.
But that existence is a mirage. And if the chain of hatred is not stopped, it will turn again. Things could easily be different. Who knows if Israel will continue to exist in continued conflict and violence. Anger and hatred can change things, or reason and compassion can change things for the better. Reason and compassion can help secure the future for everyone.
If Israelis were to be more reasoned, and Palestinians less angry, maybe we could see each other for who we really are, cousins with the same past and the same future. I hope that future is peace.
– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheArabDailyNews.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania
Categories: Middle East Topics
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