Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Takes on a Tragic Struggle

I found this short piece on achieving peace in the Middle East in the New York Review of Books. It's a good read, and is broken up into two parts. One is by Amos Oz, an Israeli, and the other by Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian. Both are excerpts from acceptance speeches given when they were jointly awarded the Siegfried Unseld Prize. Here are short passages from each one.

Oz: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragic struggle between two victims of Europe—the Arabs were the victims of imperialism, colonialism, repression, and humiliation. The Jews were the victims of discrimination, persecution, and finally of a genocide without parallel in history. On the face of it, two victims, especially two victims of the same oppressor, should become brothers. But the truth, both when it comes to individuals and when it comes to countries, is that some of the worst fights break out between two victims of the same oppressor. The two sons of an abusive father will each see in his brother the face of his cruel father. And this is the case with the Jews and the Arabs—each of us sees the other in the image of the former oppressor. The Arabs look at Jewish Israel and do not see it as it really is—a half-hysterical refugee camp. Instead, they see it as the long, arrogant, oppressive, and exploitative arm of European colonialism. We Jews look at the Arabs and instead of seeing them as our fellow sufferers, we see the persecutors of our past—the Cossacks, the antisemites. Nazis who grew moustaches and got suntanned, but who are still eager to slaughter us"

Nusseibeh: "With everyone’s eyes set on the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and with foreign journalists busily scanning Palestinian territory for signs of renewed settlement activity as if for a mysterious portent of things to come, there must be millions of questions on everyone’s minds. What has in recent years become the conventional model for peace, namely, the two-state solution, or a two-state solution, is now up for the test. Let us hope it passes this test—though with a House fractured on the Palestinian side, a narrow-minded Government on the Israeli side, and a pathetically feeble international community, prospects for such a success seem dim"


T. Paine said...

Very interesting, Dave. Enlightening view points for sure.

Dave Splash said...

Even though I am not a practicing Jew anymore, I did meet with my old rabbi not too long ago for coffee. He was born in Israel, and has a good perspective on things there. He explained it in much the same way the first guy did: that arguing about who has suffered more is a losing argument. Both sides have been oppressed, both sides have engaged in brutality. Trying to go back thousands of years to settle old grievances is what perpetuates the problem even more.

The Israelis and Arabs need to realize that they have much more in common than not, and to work from there. Things are so polarized now, and extremists have taken over both sides. It is really sad how bad it has gotten there.