Eyeless in Gaza II
After Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley, it is the turn of the Fertile Crescent. Once more the region rings with the all too familiar cries of hatred, anger violence and bloodshed. The cradle of civilisation, that has given humanity some of its greatest achievements in science, law, literature and the arts, is again soaked in the blood of the innocent dead. While the media continues to report the abstracts of attacks and intercepts and collateral damage, the people of Gaza and of the entire region are living the real life calculus of hope and fear on a daily basis. Fear and suffering, the misery of those who mourn their dead and massive destruction burden the living.
It is time to stop the madness before it sweeps through the region and beyond.
Jordan has long promoted interfaith dialogue. Through the Amman Message and other efforts, HM King Abdullah, who I am honoured to represent this week in meetings with British Muslim Parliamentarians and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has championed efforts to shine a light on Islam’s values of respect and moderation. Yet at this time, as we witness the horrors of unfolding events in Gaza, we must surely ask ourselves whether we are truly committed to the Golden Rule and to the tenets of our faiths, all of which are united in rejecting terror and the intentional killing of innocent people, whether perpetrated by individuals or states. Where are the voices of the peacemakers? And where have they been in the last few months? What hope is there for a Charter for Compassion?
The ultimate question is how to achieve peace. The ultimate certainty is that the monopoly of right is a guaranteed formula for perpetual conflict. Security can never be achieved through weapons, nor by erecting walls and barriers, be they physical or psychological, rather as we grieve over our plundered pasts and devastated present, both spiritual and physical. Without a change of attitude or a new global mindset, we have failed to find truth, let alone justice and peace.
As we witness the situation on the ground today, we see the mutilation of our pluralist identity, the potential creation of a hundred bin Ladens and the destabilisation of the entire region with predictable global repercussions. Those anonymous young men taking up arms in Gaza and elsewhere, the Israeli military, the reservists and freedom fighters must be given an alternative, or the future bespeaks rising extremism and fundamentalism on all sides.
If we have a serious wish to proscribe conflict and change enmity, if not immediately to friendship, at least to a recognition of shared interests, equal sovereignty and a shared humanity, it is time to move beyond historic grievances, beyond iron wall strategies and iron wall mentalities and beyond a mindset which defines the enemy as permanent and the conflicts as insoluble.
Of course I do not need to tell the people of Israel of nightmares, but I do need to remind that they are not alone. There is a people living alongside Israel who have also experienced loss of lives, of families, homes and whole communities, and who feel the same fear, frustration and despair.
Muslims and Jews share a common culture, history and religious tradition. It was intellectual interaction between them that led to a renaissance in the fields of philosophy, science, arts and law, as seen for example in the achievements of Maimonides and Averroes amongst others.
I am inspired by those Israelis, both young and old, who are prepared to risk opprobrium when they voice their desire to live with Palestinians on terms of equal sovereignty and shared aspirations, as I am by those Palestinians and Arabs who defy accusations of treachery when they express the belief that peace is possible.
The quest for peace and justice; and I am talking about inner peace; inner-net not internet, is a sublime aim for all the children of Abraham – Jews, Christians and Muslims and it is time that political elites challenge the evidence of political science that it is usually they who act as the catalyst that turns potentially volatile situations into open warfare.
The choice today is MAD (mutually assured destruction) or MAS (mutually assured survival), and I call on all people of all faiths and none to recognise and address consequences: the consequences of poverty and injustice, oppression and abuse of power, anger and fear, all of which are capable of leading ordinary people to contemplate violence.
Additionally, to deal with the consequences of violence itself. It is no longer enough to separate belligerents or ostracise them until the next outbreak of hostilities. Reconciliation and healing are needed to ensure that former antagonists living in close proximity can put past injustices and atrocities behind them. The cycle of violence must be broken within societies, just as it must be among and between them.
Finally, we must look to fundamental values. Religion is a source of the humanitarian vision capable of summoning believers and non-believers alike to committed action for peace. The three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, may not say exactly the same things about peace and peace-making, but there are enough analogies to indicate the general direction in which our common journey will take us. Our starting point is our common humanity, our veneration for life and our obligation to God and to each another. Our goal is the peace that surpasseth understanding.
But we have been given freedom of choice. In the immediate it is up to us all to stand up and be counted. We cannot continue to stand by, wringing our hands, as the death toll mounts.
El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan