Op-Ed: The Invention of MidEast Peace
[Sent to INN by MP Nirestein, published in Italian on Il Giornale]
How distant is the Middle East, and how fuzzy its image, an image which we tirelessly hope will give life to that dream of peace that inevitably evaporates again and again… Rather thanscrutinizing it from afar, we prefer to picture a scenario in which everyone will, in the end, want peace, in which the unyielding extremism of the Middle East is only a fantasy dictated by fear, and the menace it emanates a mere exaggeration. This springs from the desire to be left in peace, the same syndrome that convinces us to consider figures like Tarik Ramadan as a “moderate Islamic”, or to class as a dialogue between religions a situation in which, behind the scenes in London, the Islamic courts are gaining ground. We find it engaging that the most popular name in certain countries of the Old Continent is now Mohammed, or that the burqa is permitted in the name of multiculturalism, or we merely shake our heads when we hear that over 200 thousand people in Paris now live in polygamous families.
From our viewing point over the Middle East, the dangers of war are subject to censorship. The first object censored is Iran, with its future atomic bomb, with its advancing international hegemony and its atrocious attitude towards the rights of women, homosexuals, dissidents and freedom in general. The international community still insists on believing that dialogue is possible with Ahmadinejad, the raving rais whom we have repeatedly heard pontificating from the platform of the United Nations, inciting the President of the United States to convert to Islam and declaring his intention to kill all the Jews and extend the dominion of Islam throughout the world. In a month's time, the meeting between Iran and the 5 + 1 group will try yet again, even although the regime, with its recent waves of arrests and purges, shows signs of rallying around the atomic project. No-one attempted to help the opposition after the fake election results, even although its size is unquestionable, given the fact that millions of people have been desperately demonstrating in the city squares for months.
The USA has remained in silence even in the face of the Iranian war games on the Strait of Hormuz, even in the face of the fact that Iran has extended its war front in Afghanistan, has prevented the pro-American faction that won the elections in Iraq from forming a government, imposing the reinstatement of the Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki, and has made conspicuous investments in South America so as to foment an attitude which is now extremist and foster Anti-Semitic hate, of which President Chavez of Venezuela is an extreme example.
Iran is frightening, and this is why it is allowed to continue its advance undeterred, frightening us more and more as a result. And this deceptive judgment is spreading to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and to the Palestinians.
Turkey, which is also the venue of the upcoming meeting of the 5 + 1 group, continues to be, in the collective imagination, the country that has played the role of trait d'union between the West and Islam, ever since the time of the revolution of Kemal Atatürk. The truth is that the secular revolution has been shelved to give leeway to an Islamist drift in which friendship and alliance with Iran wins through. The alliance with Syria, a country with which numerous commercial and military treaties have been signed, and even with Hamas, with which the Foreign Minister Davutoglu met last July, clearly reveal the path chosen by Turkey, whose political attitude is overtly pro-Islamic and has transformed its anti-Israel policy into a political flag. Last week, as a news Marmara ship was returning from its ill-fated mission to Gaza, it was greeted at the port by a crowd shouting "death to Israel", an attitude in line with the repeated verbal attacks on the Jewish State by Erdogan, among which those against Peres himself at Davos.
As far as Syria is concerned, we like to think of it as a country that does not yet know which side to take and that, in the end, common sense will prevail, causing it to abandon the Iranian axis. Hillary Clinton has also reinstated the ambassadorship in Damascus, appointing Robert Ford, in the hope of influencing Bashar Assad. But he keeps on, unperturbed, on his merry way: continuous threats of war, intensive re-arming, a strategic summit in which, in the presence of Ahmadinejad – the guest of honor – both the supreme head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal and, exceptionally, the head of Hezbollah, Nasrallah, met up with Syrians and Iranians. There has been no change of route: Syria has distinguished itself for the re-arming of Hezbollah which possesses more than 30 thousand missiles, for its aid to Hamas which now has missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv, and for its battle alongside Hezbollah to prevent the International Court from publicizing the result attesting to the guilt of the Lebanese Shiite militia in the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.
And this is the tragedy of Lebanon: we keep telling ourselves that in an eclectic and pluralist Lebanon, there is only one interfering force, represented by Hezbollah and that aiding the government and the Lebanese army will help keep this force under control. The truth of the matter is that Hezbollah is the dominant force in Lebanese politics, which are held to ransom both by the threat of the Country of Cedars being dragged into a new war, and by the threat of a bloody internal revolt: Hezbollah has already proved itself to be capable of both, and both the army, burdened by the Shiite component, and the Government, which fears the discoveries of the International Court, are hesitant to oppose the Iranian power which, through Hezbollah, has taken possession of the country.
Last but not least, the Palestinians: the idea that we like to convey is that of a world in which Fatah, in opposition to Hamas, is amenable to achieving peace, through a partition plan that would enable the two States for two Peoples solution. But this is far from reality: all the most recent statements, including that of some days ago in which Abu Mazen declared that there would be no room in a Palestinian state for even one single Israeli, or that of his chief negotiator, Sa’eb Erekat, according to whom there would be an inevitable “return” of 7 million refugees – grandchildren and great grandchildren included – within the borders of Israel, which has itself precisely 7 million inhabitants including the Arabs, or the declared lack of willingness to negotiate land swaps and to recognize the existence of a Jewish State, are all in keeping with what is perhaps the most dramatic signal of the rejection of peace: the culture of hate and terrorism which the TV, the press and the Palestinian schools disseminate.
Squares bearing the names of suicide terrorists, the Fatah congress opening in their name with standing ovations, the "study" of a Vice-Minister of Culture on the Palestinian Autonomy site, who declares that there has never been any trace of Jews in Jerusalem, or the odious invention of a Palestinian Jesus persecuted by the Jews while, at the time of Jesus, before the Romans gave the name of Palestine to Israel, the concept of “Palestinians” did not even exist... all this, together with the weakness of Abu Mazen who now wields his power with substantial use of the police forces while Hamas threatens him from afar. Perhaps all these truths should point us in the direction of new ways to peace, as the old ways are blocked.