Middle East 1
THE SERIES "AL QUDS"
Al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem. Quds is derived from the Arabic verb qadusa (to be holy). Al Quds can be freely translated as "the holy city" and, indeed, for centuries the city has been holy to three great religions: in chronological order, to the Jewish, then to the Christian religion and then to Islam. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham / Ibrahim, common forefather of all three religions, first gave this place the name haschem jir´eh, from which jeru is derived, in the literal meaning "God will see"or in Biblical-Hebrew: "This is the place which God will choose".. The second half of the Jewish name goes back to Sem, one of Noah's sons and the forefather of the Semites, who designated this place as shalem, a place of peace and justice.
It would make little sense at this point to delve into the later rabbinical controversy as to whether the Hebrew kedusha (meaning the holiness of Jerusalem, derived from the same root as the Arab qadusa) has been lost or remains intact for all time. In a time such as now when the one side battles with the overpowering military might of the state and the other with the suicidal terror of the desperate and both unavoidably victimize the innocent and poison the chances for peace, a very different thought comes to the fore: Is this present struggle over the Holy City not just as blasphemous as once the Christian crusades aimed at the conquest of Jerusalem? The thought is not new. To the contrary, it is common to all three of the religions which trace their roots to Abraham / Ibrahim: "Only God, the Lord of the world and the Creator of humanity, is holy". Put in another way, the message is that there is no such thing as a holy place, a holy mountain, a holy city, a holy tree, a holy spring, river, sea, etc., etc. Of course such things have existed and continue to exist in human history because humankind has always needed to hold on to concrete manifestations. But such objects are only justified when it is clear that they serve only as symbols of the divine, not as God Himself, because in such a case the object then becomes an idol, a false god. In Islam it is the greatest sin to place someone or something "next to" God (the Arabic verb being aschraka). Similarly, the Judeo-Christian commandment forbids placing any other divinity "before" God. Nevertheless, human history is full of just such instances. Not only idols and objects, but also entire countries, territories, cities and nations have been declared and defended as "holy". Such has always been the case with the struggle over the possession of the "Holy Land", right up to the present day. A German theologian, whose contribution to this series will appear soon, wrote:
"Israel doesn't need Jerusalem; it has enough of God. If, however, it should seriously believe that with the possession of Jerusalem it can also have God, or at least be closer to Him there than elsewhere, then it binds God to an object and comes dangerously close to violating the second of the Mosaic commandments, the prohibition of images, which is really only a variation of the first commandment, the prohibition against idolatry. Israel doesn't need Jerusalem; it has enough of God."
Not only this or the other religion, this or the other church, this or the other philosophy is placed "next to" or "before" God. If he finds it convenient, man also displaces God from his throne in favor of "science" or "progress" or a "world view" or this or the other model of society ranging from racist and totalitarian types to all the various socialist, liberal, capitalistic and democratic models for social salvation. Behind all of these we always discover some form of "Holy Inquisition" to examine and prosecute those who deviate from the presently prevailing doctrines and "political correctness". Whether explicitly or not, an entire world view is thus declared "holy" and its pseudo-religious political dogmas all too easily serve as justifications for war. What is more, such processes took place not only in the distant, barbaric past or in the so-called "dark ages". They are, unfortunately, part of our present and future. As a result, the human consciousness first loses sight of God (being consigned to a far corner of awareness, safely removed from a daily life oriented exclusively to utility and profit). The next loss is that of the sense of justice among humankind, especially towards "those who are not like us". And the final loss is that of peace among all of humankind. What is currently taking place in the "Holy Land" ought to be viewed in this perspective. It affects not only diplomats and military strategists or intelligence services. Whoever believes that is mentally shortsighted.
The International Institute for Ethnic-Group Rights and Regionalism (INTEREG), together with Lord Hugh Caradon, Michel Jobert, Josef Stingl and a number of European Middle East experts founded the "European Study Group Middle East" in January of 1982 in order to assist in the search for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Outside of the public limelight and with minimal financial means, contacts were established and finally secret conversations were conducted between Europeans, Palestinians and Israelis with the aim of achieving agreement on a project dubbed the "minimum consensus". A common text was produced, but just before the project could become the basis of official negotiations the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait led to a suspension of all activity when the Israeli partners withdrew from the conversations in response to Yassir Arafat's open support for Saddam Hussein. After the USA succeeded in assembling a Gulf War coalition which included a number of Arab states and defeated Iraq in Operation Desert Storm beginning in January, 1991, mainly American efforts led to the third International Peace Conference for the Middle East, which began in October, 1991, in Madrid. The George Bush (Sr.) administration had realized that it is impossible to fight a war against an Arab state without making a contribution towards solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US thus recognized the PLO as the Palestinian partner in international peace negotiations. But the ten rounds of the Madrid talks proved largely unproductive. The breakthrough came later, following fourteen months of secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel arranged by the intelligence services of the two sides, which excluded the Americans. The Oslo talks began in July of 1992 and produced the agreement of mutual recognition signed in Washington on September 13, 1993. The ultimate failure of this peace process is analyzed by Mohammed Rabie in his contribution to this series: "The Oslo Peace Process and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict".
Since the majority of Middle East experts recognized by the summer of 2001 at the latest that the Oslo peace process has definitively failed, leaving only mutual recriminations behind; and
- since the various plans for reaching a cease-fire, while they may make sense in and of themselves, cannot bring about a return to the failed "peace process"; and
- since the attempt on the part of Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to impose with military measures a one-sided pax israelica can bring neither security for Israel nor for the region as a whole, but rather the contrary; and
- since the escalation of violence and insecurity cannot lead to peace but only to the clearly inferior alternative of a total separation between Israelis and Palestinians by means of walls, barbed-wire fences and minefields on the basis of borders based not on the mutual consent of two equally empowered states but rather, to put it bluntly, based on lines imposed by the regional superpower Israel with all its modern weaponry, including its nuclear arsenal, between itself and a largely disarmed Palestinian homeland which would possess little more than a flag and formal sovereignty but nothing which could prevent further Israeli police or military intervention; and
- since it is becoming ever more clear that the situation could rapidly deteriorate to the ultimate point long advocated by former general Rehavam Zeevi, head of the right-wing "Fatherland" party and minister in Sharon's cabinet until his assassination by Palestinians: the "transfer" of the Palestinians, as the euphemism has been known since the 1945 Potsdam Conference and the "transfer" of millions of Germans from their homelands (although in normal usage one can only "transfer" cattle and objects but not people), and as the Czech Republic's Prime Minister Miloš Zeman suggested to Ariel Sharon during his state visit on February 16 and 17, 2002: "Israel ought to do what Czechoslovakia did in 1945 with the three million Sudeten Germans - chase them out.", an act which, should it be carried out, would provoke the outcry of hundreds of millions of Moslems throughout the entire world: "Israel must disappear from the region", an outcry which not even the moderate Arab regimes would prove capable of containing,
the result would be the breakdown of American policy in the region and a regional crisis would become a world crisis, one which could not be solved à la Afghanistan with bombs and rockets, and one which could also not be dealt with by a "world-wide coalition against terror", but only by a different kind of world-wide coalition, namely a coalition against the causes of terror, which lie in the injustices perpetrated by established states against minorities or other nationalities, in the hubris of individual states culminating in outbreaks of genocide and in the misuse of the concept of sovereignty in defense of such crimes.
In consequence: other means must be found.
Two years ago our European Study Group planned to conduct an international symposium in Amman entitled "Peace and Security in the Middle East", with the aim of discussing a regional system of security, its elements and consequences, but the gathering had to be put off. After considerable further thought, we remain convinced that the subject is as important as ever and therefore INTEREG has decided to present to the public the English texts from the preparatory work for the symposium in the Internet. We welcome critical responses. Depending on developments, a real or a "virtual", i.e. Internet symposium may then follow.
Since so many events have taken and continue to take place in the meantime that must all be brought into consideration, the Institute has decided to present material in the form of a series of papers on its website: http://www.intereg.org, to which additional texts will be appended as required, with appropriate titles indicating updates and revisions. The texts will be provided first in English and in German, then in Arabic and other languages when required.
The present titles are:
At a Crossroads for the New Century: How Can the Terror Be Stopped?
A. September 2001
concerning consequences for the Middle East region resulting from the September 11, 2002, terror attacks on New York and Washington;
B. October 2001
concerning the military intervention of the "coalition against terror" in Afghanistan;
C. February 2002
following the State of the Union Message by President George W. Bush and his commitment to combat the "axis of evil";
D. Summer 2002
with an analysis of the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in preparation).
INTRODUCTION: Peace and Security in the Middle East
Elements of Peace and Security - A Regional Security System
For an Israeli-Palestinian Federation - With Jerusalem As Its Federal Capital
We have not edited or revised the earlier contributions to this series and shall not do so in future. It is our intention to make the process of the intellectual dialogue transparent and we are not concerned with imposing political correctness.
The further expansion of our website will also provide space for an open discussion. Our intent is to create an open-ended series to which we invite all interested persons from the Region, from Europe, Russia and America or from other continents to contribute.
Dr. Rudolf Hilf, Munich