The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily
Wednesday 14 January 2009 (17 Muharram 1430)
The elusive search for peace
Osama Al Sharif | firstname.lastname@example.org —
For decades the people of this troubled part of the world have been expressing the same hope over and over again: To see peace realized so that they and their children can live normal lives. And for decades they saw their wish repeatedly blown to smithereens. My generation lived through many wars and conflicts, and today, as I consider the future of my children and their children, I find myself frightened and restless.
The war on Gaza has extinguished the last flicker of a possible peaceful settlement between Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, in the holy land and beyond. Barring a miracle, this region appears to be heading into the mouth of a wild beast. The scars of the Gaza pogrom will take many years to heal, if ever. The case for peace, always a noble undertaking, has been dealt a terrible blow.
And in spite of all the needless deaths and injuries, and senseless destruction and fanatic display of arrogant military power, we are today in the same thorny spot that we have always found ourselves in. The evil agents of war loom large over the Middle East today. The dreams of a better world have been cut to pieces like the soft dead bodies of Gaza children. Those who promote war and death have won the day. It is a sad and desperate confession. But the butchery that took place in Gaza brought back horrific images of past massacres. Our recent history is full of them. And after each aggression on human life, in Jenin and Hebron, in Jerusalem and Qana, in Bahr Al-Baqar and Sabra, there were those who still believed peace was possible.
But the trail of blood is driving us farther away from that goal. In Gaza, the world looked closely at the faces of the victims and the victimizers. The slaughter that has been going on for weeks underlined the world's incapacity to bring peace, or keep it. The killing of peace in Gaza was not an accident, but a deliberate scheme carried out by ruthless men and women who rule armies and politicians, from Washington to Tel Aviv.
And regardless of the immediate political gains, if any, that the aggressors wanted to achieve. The reality is that it is now shameful to speak of coexistence, ludicrous to promote a just political settlement and madness to believe that the coming generations of Arabs will be less angry, more forgiving or accommodating than the present ones. On the other side we have also seen the true face of the enemy.
When over 70 percent of Israelis strongly supported the war on Gaza, the case of the peace camp collapsed. And the irony is that the government that waged this barbaric aggression is the one that wants to make peace with the Arabs. It represents the moderates, those who believe in a land-for-peace deal. We have been duped for years into believing that peace was possible if only we can rein in our radicals and extremists. But no one in Israel is restraining Zionist radicals and Jewish extremists. They are Cabinet ministers and Knesset members. They are part of the political establishment, not outside it. They have a right to express hatred, threaten ethnic cleansing and justify war crimes against millions under occupation. This is the kind of democracy that is Israel's pride and America's joy.
The war on Gaza has exposed many other accomplices. We have discovered that we are alone in this dangerous world we live in. International law and conventions could not protect the children of Gaza from a nightmarish fate, sometimes worse than death. The UN and its agencies stood still as the systematic liquidation of civilians, sometimes entire families, was carried out in broad daylight under the eyes of the press and humanitarian agencies.
We have discovered that our European "friends" will lecture us for hours and days on law, morality and good citizenship but shy away when we ask them to turn their words into deeds. We already know that our American "ally" is only interested in our oil and petrodollars. No one, not the Russians or the Chinese, really cared enough to take a stand. This was our nightmare and Israel's frenzy. But we have also discovered that our people and kin are our only asset. From London to Lahore, Jakarta to Casablanca, Amman to Istanbul, rallies and vigils reminded us that we belong to a bigger nation, far sturdier than any other. The Palestinians are not alone, even when they face the brunt of Israel's madness with their bodies and lives. This is not war. It would be degrading to any honorable soldier in uniform to call it such. This is a massacre of civilians under occupation. If the killing of one protester in Ramallah or Tulkarem by the occupation army is a possible war crime, how would one describe the annihilation that took place in the biggest concentration camp the world has ever known?
Peace has eluded this region and its people for decades. Many innocent lives have been lost, and hope has been trampled on too many times. For now, let us not talk about peace and negotiations. Let us honor the dead and extend our thanks to the millions who said "no" to the killers. For now, let us focus on helping the survivors rebuild their lives in an honorable fashion.
Only when the culprits of this evil deed are punished will we begin to listen. Israel is not above the law; it must face the consequences of its action if it wants recognition, if it wants coexistence. Maybe then we can cultivate hope. But for now let us tell the world that the message of peace is buried somewhere under the rubble in Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya.
— Osama Al Sharif is a political commentator based in Amman