Thursday, April 13, 2006

Peace Or War?

"lost-tiger" asked me, in a discussion in Cyberkwoon that started over a year ago:
"David, as someone who lives in the midst of so much of what has shaped terrorism, do you believe that peace or reconciliation of sorts will ever be possible, and if so in what form will it take and how? By this I mean between the Israeli's and the Palestinians/wider Muslim community. I know this is an almost impossibly large question to ask, but as someone sitting on the far sit of the planet I feel so distant from understanding soo much of the blood/tears that has flown under the bridge since the inseption of Israel, that I'm really curious to hear of the dreams/hopes/ambitions of the area from soneone living there."

Here is my reply:

Ask me some easy questions, why don't you? Like, Is There A God, or Why did Budha come from the West, or Who Shot Kenedy?

I might surprise my father with some unaccustomed (and very careful) optimism here, so pay attention - this may never happen again!

It seems the Arab world is becoming very extreme-Muslim, which means no compromise and no peace (wait for the optimism, it's coming...). In every Arab and Muslim country that tried free democratic elections, the extreme Muslim parties won by a landslide, and in each one democracy was the first casualty: it was either put aside by the elected Muslim party or suspended by the Army, which took over in order not to allow the Muslims to take power. The power-structure in all Arab countries is such that the governments rely on the Army, Police and Security Services to stay in power - and even within those organizations, the Muslims are growing stronger. In private conversations my father predicted that within 10 years Israel will be the only non-Muslim state in the middle east; all the others will be taken over by the extreme Muslims. The conclusion of this prediction is war, as the extreme Muslims refuse to compromise - and without compromise, conflict is inevitable (wait for the optimism, it's coming...).

It is obvious to me that the Arab world will lose such a war, even if it will have ABC weapons, even if Israel will not survive, simply because the Arab world does not have the scientific and industrial base the West has, and it will not be able to sustain a long war without it; denied Arab oil, the West will turn to other sources - both other oil-producing countries and other sources of energy, as it should have done years ago: fusion, solar, natural gas, nuclear and so on. The West is in a much better position than the Arab world is to deal with another oil crisis. The West will recover and fight back. The result of this war, to the Arabs, will be devastating - something along the lines of post-WW2 Germany and Japan. In one of the sequels to Ender's Game, Orson Scot Card predicted the Muslims will stop fighting only after the Ka'aba and Mecca were turned into a see of molten glass by nuclear bombs; if Allah allowed the destruction of the holiest place to Islam, he reasoned, then those who fought in Allah's name must have got it wrong, and He was against war after all... Card is a science-fiction writer, not a political analyst, but I'm inclined to thing it will take a disaster of such magnitude to make the extreme Muslims re-consider their views, or the moderate Muslims take action and kick them out of leadership.

As long as there is no real, internal opposition to the extremists, they will stay in power and lead towards war; the only hope for peace lies in the hope for free arguments within the Arab and Muslim world; it is the only chance of change from within. Any change forced from outside will be considered a shameful kowtowing to the Enemy.

This process - the moderates taking over the Muslim world - is the ONLY chance for peace, and it is nowhere in sight anywhere in the Arab or Muslim world; while some Muslim leaders in the UK, USA and Europe speak in favor of peace and compromise, they are considered traitors in the Arab and Muslim world. They are almost never heard in the Arab media, when they do they are fiercely opposed by every side – not only by the extreme Muslims, but also by the intellectuals, academia, book writers and journalists. The Muslim world has yet to realize that democracy does not mean Rule of the Majority but Equal Rights to the Minority, most especially the right to freedom of speech.

The only place in the Arab world where a peaceful democratic transition of power, along with a democratic governmental process SEEMS to be going on, not forced upon the population by foreign powers, is in Gaza, where Hammas has won the elections and Fatah had – unbelievably – conceded defeat. And that is the source of my very, very careful optimism.

Hammas had vowed to destroy Israel. But, as a legal hair to agreements signed by the former Palestinian Authority's government, they are bound by international law to stop attacks against Israel, to disarm the militant non-governmental armed groups, and to deal with the state across the border – Israel.

That is a huge dilemma for Hammas. If they stop the attacks and deal with Israel they are traitors in their own eyes, if they don't they will bring untold suffering upon their people. They now have no-one else to blame for success or failure – Israel has pulled out, and so had most other countries. They are on their own, to swim or drown in the seat of power. For the first time, they must not only criticize, but DO – and they MUST deal with real-world politics, which they have never done. What the Arab world would face in 10 years, according to my above prediction, the Palestinians are facing right now. Whichever course they take will affect the rest of the Middle East, for better or worse.

If the Palestinians will turn towards compromise and non-violence (not necessarily peace, a prolonged ceasefire would do), it will strengthen the moderates in the entire Arab and Muslim world; if they turn towards more violence, it would strengthen the extremists.

I very much hope they will turn to non-violence, but I am also realistic. Most chances are that they won't, and there will be war between Islam and the West. Israel may or may not survive this war, but the West will win, and then there will be peace, for a time.

For war to be averted, the Arab and Muslim world must argue within itself over tactics and strategies and goals, and chose another path; so far it has not happened, but a Hammas turn towards non-violence might spark it.

As I said, I am not optimistic – but if I was, that would be the base for my optimism.

David Kafri,
Israel

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