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A logic of War and a logic of Peace


Akram Antaki


To understand everything is to forgive everything
Lev Tolstoi War and Peace


In his Open letter to Mahatma Gandhi that he wrote as an answer to Gandhi famous article titled Jews in Palestine[1], the great Jewish and Hasidic philosopher Martin Buber called for:

Seeking new ways of understanding and cordial agreement between the Nations[2]

But no one, at the time paid enough attention to this sincere call emaning from a man who truly

Belong to a group of people who from the time Britain conquered Palestine have not ceased to strive for the concluding of a genuine peace between Jew and Arab[3]

Indeed, the vast majority from both sides did not pay enough attention to this sincere and honest call. Nor his own coreligionists that put him politically aside at the end, neither most of us from the other side, that were (and mostly remain till now), thinking (like the most of them) that this Land, that is Holy for the three religions which emerged from it; belong only and fully to us.

And, as a result of this exorbitant error, happened what happened. The results that we got during the past century, and still reaping till now, which means more hatred and more intolerance, and its consequences of wars and destruction that obstructed the normal and proper development of the people of our region. And I ask myself, navely maybe, but with full compassion and dedication: Is not it time yet, and without renouncing to our rights, without that nobody renounce to his rights, to rethink more deeply and sincerely about what happened, and about the prospects that are offered to us? Is not it time yet, to rethink from our perspective, about the perspective of the other side that we are trying now to reach a compromise with through negotiations? Is not it time yet for dialog and negotiations to which very sincerely and it is not the first time the head of our state has called during his last visit to Cyprus, when he talked about:

the need for achieving peace in the region and that negotiations are the only way to achieve it and bring things back to normal among all[4]

The Heart of the Problem

Because what we first understand from a call for negotiations and dialogue, and the seeking for a peaceful settlement, emanating from any of the conflicting parties, is recognition of the basic rights of this other that shall not remains an enemy if we reach a settlement.

Did we agree on that? I think that all of us agree. But

There are still pending issues that hinder the negotiation and prevent the solution. And the cause of these issues, from my point of view, is that till now, the logic that is still prevailing on both sides is logic of war.

As a result of what happened before, during the last century and till now, this situation is understandable. This means that it is a state of things that cannot be eliminated overnight. Especially that it is a conflict between two different approaches, if not say two opposite "legacies", and what may result from this situation as different conclusions. So, let's look more deeply into the matter.

According to Edgar Morin, the logic, that still prevails till now on the other side can be resumed as follows:

Israel sees that the historical process that led to the current situation is not the product of a desire to dominate, but the manifestation of a vital necessity to avoid a constant threat of extermination.

Accordingly, Zionism was the necessary response to the European anti-Semitism, and the desire for a national state was the legitimate aspirations for a homeland sanctuary.

And that the Zionist settlement was peaceful until 48: it was effected by the purchase of land and not by looting, and that it took place in a small part of a vast Arab territory that was underpopulated and underdeveloped.

Rejected by the Arab world, the Jewish state, which had accepted on time the partition plan of Palestine, was threatened with death at its birth and survived only thanks to its victory over its allied enemies.

This is as the result of "defensive" wars, conducted under the threat of annihilation that was the extension of the territory originally planned by the UN, and the control of territories, and of Arab populations. And the Jewish settlements in those territories are justified by vital strategic necessities [5]

While the logic that is still prevailing in our side (according to the same thinker) can be resumed as follows:

Palestinian sees that the historical process that led to the current situation is the result of a foreign forced installation on an Arab land.

(And that) The Arab-Muslim world is not responsible of the European anti-Semitism, and of the Nazi genocide.

(And that) The Zionist settlement was made by the Jewish money collected worldwide and the de facto occupation of many lands.

(And that) The 1948 war has caused, not only the flight of the Palestinian people from the Israeli troops, but their expulsion under threat of and the prohibition of their return.
(And that) Since the total occupation of Palestine by Israel in 1967, there was colonization, domination and settlement activities. The Palestinian population is constantly subject to checks, harassment, retaliation, ghettoization. And as soon as there were attacks, retaliations and collective responsibility was relentlessly applied

So, the solution to the problem, that still prevents in depth negotiations, is to find ways to bypass the single-view that is still prevailing on both sides. And this is feasible in principle, as everyone recognizes, only through negotiation, which assume that the logic of peace prevails and the logic of war disappears.

Is it the prevailing situation today? No, for sure.

Can it be achieved now, or in a near future? Yes, for sure. And this because there is not in front of us, unless we lacked completely of logic and of wisdom, any other way that allow us to live in peace in this land that is holy for all of us. And this needs before everything else utmost honesty, clarity and frankness. And to look to the matters

More deeply

Because, if we look to the situation from a unilateral point of view, we reach directly a dead end. Because every perspective has its own logic that seems coherent as well as its own legacy that cannot accept any debate. And this situation, according to Morin, put us in front of an infernal dialectic where

There is an antagonistic complementarity between anti-Semitism and   Zionism. (Because) The Zionist idea born as a reaction to the European anti-Semitism. And the historical consequence of the Nazi anti-Semitism legitimized the existence of the State of Israel. And also because, antagonisms have worked in the same direction on the dialectic of both anti-Semitism and Zionism: In isolating the Jews leaving among the nations, negatively in the case of anti-Semitism by withdrawing them from any national right, positively in the Zionist case by giving them the right to have their own nation.

(And) This (infernal) dialectic has been renewed in the Middle East between Israel and the Arab world. (Where) The Arabs anti-Israeli positions worked in favor of the Israeli power, which prompted a dialectic of: occupation> resistance> repression> terrorism.

Terrorism is therefore, and at the same time, the cause and the consequence of this dialectic, where the Israeli victims of indiscriminate attacks update the tragedies of the Jewish history and the repression of the Palestinian population increase their misfortune.

Meanwhile, the Arab states have used the Palestinian misfortune to hide their internal problems, while keeping the Palestinian refugees crammed into camps[7]

It is indeed a dead end, if not say an almost impossible dialogue.

But this very difficult situation has, since 1939, been foreseen by the Jewish Hasidic philosopher Marten Buber that makes his best on time to avoid the tragedy and to find a solution to this very complicated problem. And we remind on this concern, what he states in his Open letter to the Mahatma Gandhi:

We considered it a fundamental point that in this case two vital claims are opposed to each other, two claims of a different nature and a different origin which cannot objectively be pitted against one another and between which no objective decision can be made as to which is just, which unjust. We considered and still consider it our duty to understand and to honor the claim which is opposed to ours and to try to reconcile both claims. We could not and cannot renounce the Jewish claim; something even higher than the life of our people is bound up with this land, namely its work, its divine mission. But we have been and still are convinced that it must be possible to find some compromise between this claim and the other, for we love this land and we believe in its future; since such love and such faith are surely present on the other side as well, a union in the common service of the land must be within the range of possibility. Where there is faith and love, a solution may be found even to what appears to be a tragic opposition[8]

It is, from my humble perspective, a real logic of peace that can brings us out of this impasse and put an end to the logic of war that is still prevailing on both sides of the conflict. Why?

Because, for example, and based on this logic, we can find a compromise concerning the city of Jerusalem as a Holy capital for the sons of the three religions that refer to it. And also

From this perspective - and not only according to the decisions of the International legitimacy, like the UN resolution 194 and 242 we can approach the difficult and complex issues that are facing us, and are becoming more complex by time like the right of return and compensation for the Palestinian refugees, as well as for the Arab Jews that left their countries after the Naqba of 1948. And also the recuperation of the occupied territories, among them (concerning us) the Golan Heights.

Accordingly, it is only from this perspective and this logic that we can reach a real peace.

The Result and the End

As I have grown up enough, I discover each day that I cannot understand anymore, if not say that I feel no more concerned by the prevailing vulgar and pragmatic political logic of our days. This is why, I find myself today, talking a language that is maybe neither used nor understandable for the most of us. This is why, and from the perspective of a peace that I always dreamed about for my country, my children and my grandchildren, I find myself coming back to the conclusion of the Open letter of Buber to Gandhi[9], identifying myself to this wise man, and repeating in my own language, with some adaptation maybe, excerpts of what he said on time with utmost honesty and pain

Because, what I had expressed in this article (like what he had expressed on time in his letter) is my view to the state of things. Because I fully agree with him that nothing, but compassion, is more important than justice. And that it is our duty to fight for justice on condition

to fight for (it) - lovingly.[10]

This is why (like him maybe) my friend I have been very slow and very deliberately cautious in writing these lines in which I express an opinion that I tried to make understandable and clear for all. This is why

... I made repeated pauses - sometimes days elapsed between short paragraphs - in order to test my knowledge and my way of thinking. Day and night I took myself to task, searching whether I had not in any one point overstepped the measure of self-preservation allotted and even prescribed by God to a human community, and whether I had not fallen into the grievous error of collective egotism. Friends and my own conscience have helped to keep me straight whenever danger threatened. Weeks have now passed since then, and the time has come, when negotiations (should proceed and) a decision is to be made.[11]

This is why, and always dreaming about a peace that if I cannot see during my life time can be seen and lived by my children and grandchildren, I end this letter. And as a man that has no more any relation with what is surrounding him of direct policies, I did say what is enough .

Because we have to understand, like our cousins the Jews should understand, the true meaning of what Gandhi concludes at the end of his article Jews in Palestine that

...Every country is their home (and our home and everybody home) including Palestine not by aggression but by loving service.[12]

*** *** ***


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[3] Same Ref.

[4] SANA, 5/11/2010, Joint press conference between president Bashar al-Assad and the Cypriot president Demetris Kristofas.

[5] Article publi dans Libration du 11 septembre 1997, pp. 5-7 : texte reproduit dans le Bulletin Interactif du Centre International de Recherches et Études transdisciplinaires, n 12 Fvrier,

 1998, avec lautorisation de lauteur. Ref. Maaber at http://www.maaber.org/eighth_issue/double_regard_fr.htm

[6] Same Reference.

[7] Same Reference.

[9]  What was print out at Maaber was only exerpts from the full letter. To read the full letter, please refer to  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/BuberGandhi.html

[10] Same Reference.

[11] Same Reference.




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