How Can We Get Peace in the Middle East?
Peace is something that certain peoples cherish without even knowing its real value of it. They preserve it because they realize it benefits every living thing as it connotes the absence of conflict, which means no deaths of loved ones, no loss of property or jobs, and no life in constant fear. In a military conflict, for instance, such assets as humans, animals, vegetation, social institutions, and natural resources among others are being destroyed. Peace is therefore important and it must primarily reign in places that have suffered from the trauma brought about by war, terrorism, and racially motivated killings for extended periods. If there is a region that begs for peace as a parched land begs for water, it is the Middle East, the theater of war for the last 100 years, especially in the tense collision of uncompromising forces that gave birth to a phenomenon known all over the world as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is possible, however, for peace to set in Palestine if both sides of the conflict agree on the shared heritage, embrace commonalities in religious beliefs, celebrate their shared passion for the sacred scriptures, and learn to share a specific geographic area that they are not willing to give up for the sake of harmony and mutual respect.
Overview of the Conflict
Before going any further it is important to clarify that the discussion is centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As of the present time, the world’s attention is riveted to a war effort initiated by an extremist group committed to destabilizing and conquering Syria and Iraq. Nonetheless, one can argue that these conflicts that are emanating from Syria will come to an end shortly. However, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will live on for a very long time unless serious peace negotiations are initiated and brought to completion.
There are several reasons for supporting a swift resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, the conflict’s death toll, collateral damage, and the cycle of violence have affected not only the residents in the region but policymakers, national leaders, statesmen, and ordinary citizens with emotional, cultural, and religious connections to the area. It will benefit a significant number of people once the bombings, shootings, and various forms of harassment from both sides cease to become a normal occurrence on the said territory. Second, as soon as peace settles in like a soothing balm, the region’s economy reveals its powerful potential. Tourism alone can become a tremendous source of income for both countries. Human talent mired in warfare can well be redirected to create cutting-edge technology for farming, water conservation, and other valuable endeavors. Finally, when peace becomes the standard over Palestine and the order, both political and economic settle there, the indirect effect is to eliminate the region’s de facto status as a hotbed for terrorism or the source of emotional and psychological trauma that provides effective advertising content for religious extremists eager to find recruits.
It is also prudent, to begin with, the identification of the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to construct an appropriate and effective strategy. The conflict between Arabs and Jews began in 1948, immediately after the end of World War II (Barzilai 362). Partially conflicted and partially appalled by the Holocaust that claimed at least 6 million Jewish lives, Europe’s leaders, specifically the victors of the just concluded global war decided to create a permanent home for the victims of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing (Barzilai 363). The ancient and ancestral lands of the Jewish race were the logical choice, the territory where one can find Biblical names like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Hebron. However, there are at least two major complications that peace negotiators had to deal with to forge a lasting peace in the said corner of the globe. The first and primary difficulty was rooted in the ownership of the land. During the Diaspora, when the Jews were forced out of their homeland and scattered all over Europe, the Arabs were the ones who filled up the social and political vacuum as they became the de facto native inhabitants. One can argue that several Jewish families remained. this and because such was human nature, and not to mention the fact that Arabic culture and disposition attracted them to the life of traders, moving about the Middle East like nomads and earning a living through buying and selling goods, many Jews did believe they had full rights for the lands of their grandfathers. Nonetheless, after several decades, Palestine became the home of the Palestinian Arabs, and with time, it was impossible to challenge their claim to that part of the world.
It is possible to stress that although a negative reaction from Palestinian Arabs was expected, there was probably no one from the Europeans or the Americans who were able to anticipate the anger and frustration expressed by those who were displaced to bring in thousands of Jewish families from Europe. It is also likely that only a few were prepared to counter the negative reaction to the radical emergence of the State of Israel. A territory was carved out to accommodate the returning Jews, giving birth to the modern version of Israel. Since 1948, the majority of the Arabs in the Middle East, most especially the Palestinian Arabs are plotting, scheming, campaigning, and hoping that one way or the other, they can implement a strategy to return the region to its pre-World War II status.
The secondary complication is religion. When the Jews were dispersed all over Europe and Palestinian Arabs started moving in, a new religion began to sweep through the Middle East. The religion is called Islam and the proponent is a self-styled prophet named Mohammed. It was around 600 A.D. when the Prophet Mohammed united the Arabian Peninsula with the aforementioned new religion. At first glance, it does not seem like a tremendous obstacle to peace. However, the Prophet Mohammed claimed he was in the same order of importance as Moses and other Biblical prophets. The same prophets adored by the Jews and the same holy messengers are celebrated in the Jewish Bible. Mohammed also added that he was the last and the greatest and that he carried the ultimate message. Therefore, Islam has been claimed as the greatest religion on Earth, higher than Judaism, the religion of the Jews.
The Shared Heritage
These problems may seem like insurmountable hurdles at the beginning of the peace negotiation process. However, after moving beyond the obvious source of conflict, finding common ground between these two factions is plausible. It is possible to turn around the problematic issues and use the same as stepping stones toward lasting peace. For example, the conflict concerning the ownership and control of territories in Palestine is rooted in the shared love for their ancestral lands. It must not come as a surprise because both Jews and Arabs are bound by the heritage they share. They are of the same stock and are called Semites or the Semitic people. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the term Semite includes ancient people groups like Akkadians, Arameans, Arabs, and Jews (Tesch). Arabs and Jews are not strangers going to war over a disputed piece of property, they are practically distant relatives.
It is extremely important to recognize the shared heritage between these two people groups. Outsiders may have an erroneous perception of the difference between Arabs and Jews, thinking perhaps that one group is alien to another in terms of culture and language. The best way to illustrate the commonality is to look at the formation of the United Kingdom. Ireland, Scotland, and England may have their differences, but there are also far more similarities that bring them together and only a critical few that can cause them to go to war. According to Tesch, the Semitic people are labeled as such because the language that they use originated from the same source (Tesch). It is not possible to think about the Japanese as being of the same ethnic origin as the British due to extreme differences in language and culture, but the same thing cannot be said of the Arabs and Jews.
Embracing Shared Beliefs and Common Ground When It Comes to Religion
Although religion truly is one of the major obstacles, there is a way to turn this issue on its head in favor of the peace process. When the Prophet Mohammed talked about his religious experience, he said that he had a supernatural encounter with an angel named Gabriel. He said that the angel told him to read a message from God (Jewish Virtual Library). Even Muslim scholars agree with this version of the story (Al-Islam). It is interesting to note that Gabriel is the same angel that was discussed in the sacred scriptures of both Judaism and Christianity. This is the same Gabriel who was sent to Mary, the mother of Jesus, to proclaim the Messiah’s birth (ReligionFacts). Mohammed was born in an environment that was influenced by Judaism and Christianity because he was born five hundred years or so after the emergence of Christianity.
It is also important to point out that the historical background of Mohammed revealed the context of the creation of Islam. When the scribes wrote about Mohammed’s teachings, and when this was later recorded in the Muslim holy book, Mohammed referred to the Jews as the “People of the Book” (Jewish Virtual Library). It is not therefore a surprise to discover that Islam and Judaism are very similar. The stories in both sacred scriptures are alike. It is not impossible to unify both religions and agree that either of the sides worships the same God.
Both Sides Must Give Up Their Claim on a Specific Land Area and Learn to Co-Exist
One of the most important concessions that both sides must be willing to make is to give up their claim on Holy Land. Both sides must realize that no one should have a claim to a land that is revered as the most sacred in the whole world. This is like sharing a priceless painting rather than locking up the masterwork in a private residence. This is also likened to telling about an important discovery of medicine to save lives. Therefore, it may be inferred from what is mentioned above that violence surrounding the Holy Land is rooted in the idea of private ownership.
The Western world provided the idea of controlling land as if it is part of a person’s private property. There is no need to be a historian to understand how certain cultures abhor the very concept of it. For example, Native Americans did not believe that one person or a group of individuals should have the sole right to the land because it was given by God as the higher creature to be shared. Using the same principle, one can develop a framework of sharing that would allow both factions unfettered access to the Holy Land.
The unfettered access to the Holy Land and the development of different types of government to allow for peaceful co-existence will become a blessing for both Arabs and Jews. In addition, it would prove advantageous for other nations as well. Even those who are far away will rejoice in the idea of establishing this type of co-existence. Thus, many will support this new move with the hope of ensuring peace beyond the region of conflict. Again, it is not impossible to develop a framework of sharing because the historical background of both Arabs and Jews will reveal that they were able to co-exist for thousands of years. There is historical proof from secular and religious sources to prove that there was peaceful and even beneficial co-existence between the Arabs and the Jews (Ahmed). For example, in the Bible, there was the story of Joseph being sold to a group of Ishmaelites, that is Arab traders. It is also interesting to note that when the wise men of the East came to visit Jesus, these men were not from China or other parts of Asia. These men were Arabs. In addition, when Jews were scattered all over the world, many of them successfully integrated into the kingdoms and geopolitical states that were ruled by Muslim leaders (Meri 12). Jews were able to settle in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt (Meri 12). They learned how to live by foreign laws as is the behavior of Jews in Europe and America. In other words, it is quite easy for them to live peacefully with Muslims.
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It is possible to change the mindset of the Arabs, especially when it comes to Palestinian Arabs when the idea of Jews giving up full control of the Holy Land is brought forward during the negotiation process. The Jews will also find a lot of incentives because their return to their homeland has been characterized by tales of war and terror attacks. There is a chance to develop a framework similar to the European Union wherein an external governing body will oversee the emergence of a new state, a state that is not characterized by solely Jewish or Arab traditions. It will be a country that is open to all, a shared land, and a shared economy, and Arabs and Jews discovering and celebrating similarities and not their differences.
Jews and Arabs will soon feel the extreme burden and the constant weariness of fighting each other. As the years pass by, and as technology allows for greater communication and understanding, the ideas that were discussed in these pages will be disseminated in every corner of Palestine. There will come a time of wonderful discovery of shared beliefs and common cultural traditions. The Jews and Arabs will soon learn to embrace like brothers. However, they must learn the painful truth that peace is only possible if both sides are willing to give up not only their land but their sense of pride.
It is possible to experience peace in the Middle East. However, it is not an easy process. There are so many things that both sides must come to a compromise in. The difficult course must begin with the realization that amidst the differences and the conflict, there is a common ground, shared beliefs, and similar passions. It is interesting to note the similarities in religion, and it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that both groups worshiped the same God. The historical background of both groups is also intertwined. There was peaceful co-existence between the two groups for thousands of years. The Jews also lived in countries under Muslim rule and they learned how to integrate into a different and foreign social order (Gruen 15). In the same manner, the Arabs will easily understand that they share a lot in common as a part of the Semitic group. There is an opportunity to develop a peaceful framework if the Jews decide to give up total control of the Holy Land and agree to develop a framework similar to the European Union’s agreement that is based on cooperation and mutual support.