Thursday, April 10, 2008

The rare, publicly moderate Arab

This letter to Al-Ahram is unusual, to say the least.

There is no way of knowing how many Arabs share this person's views, and of course they are not in complete consonance with those of many Israelis, but if there is a chance for peace it would be because of the minority of Arabs who think like this:
Sir-- It has become a ritual to blame all our misfortunes, from sectarian feuds to natural disasters, on hideous Zionist strategies. I am neither qualified, nor willing here to confirm or ridicule any of the globally spread conspiracy theories on Jewish dominance over our world, but I can simply say that passing this legacy of hatred from one generation to another could very well bring our fears to reality, with our bare hands.

No conflict should last forever; there must come a time for reconciliation, which might not ever convert hostility into passion, yet could pave the way for a certain extent of mutual acceptance.

What if we choose, as Arabs, to live in peace with Israel? Would not that consolidate the Palestinian case, putting extra pressure upon the Israeli government to recognise the Palestinians' right to live decently on their lands? Would it not deprive Israel of legitimacy for massive armament, including nuclear weapons? Furthermore; it would eventually strip down all the regional leaders that have been fortifying allegations on the necessity to abort democracy while preparing for the sacred struggle to liberate Palestine.

I have had the opportunity during the past few years to correspond with some Israelis via the Internet, and it was amazing to find out that we have much more in common than differences. They have dreams for their children to grow up and live in peace just like we do.

I cannot understand what makes the Arab and Muslim conscience capable of absorbing and tolerating traumas like the invasion of Kuwait, the genocide in Darfur, Chechnya, Kosovo, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine itself, yet reject the concept of living with Israel, a status quo that has been going on for 60 years.

I am pleading hereby, for the sake of our nations, for the inhumane suffering of the desperate Palestinians, for the future of democracy, economy and human rights in our region, to stop the mainstream of violence, a multi-billion dollar business that should have been invested instead in providing Palestinians with decent education, modern infrastructure, healthcare and appropriate dwelling. We can obviously continue ignoring the conflict for it doesn't directly affect our lives, as we can go on repeating the passionate anthems of war we grew up chanting over and over again. We can remain being ostriches, but can our consciences do, too?

Ali Shakir

The ability to understand that Israel is not going anywhere, that Palestinian Arabs have not benefited and in fact have been hurt by the "support" that Arab governments have given them, the importance of democracy and human rights, the distaste for using Palestinian Arabs as an excuse to avoid real problems, and the conscious recognition of Arab anti-Israel mantras as a form of brainwashing - these are all points that seem obvious to Westerners but are rarely mentioned in the Arab world.