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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 12:42 GMT
What hope for Middle East peace?
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Some political leaders are saying that until the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is solved, there can be no real end to what they call the war against global terrorism.
The US, concerned that regional instability could jeopardise its anti-Taleban coalition, has put pressure on both sides to stop the violence of recent weeks.
But the killing goes on both sides, despite the partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Palestinian towns and cities that they reoccupied after the murder of an Israeli Cabinet Minister by Palestinian gunmen last month.
Is peace in the Middle East crucial to the coalition's war on terror? Can the bloodshed be stopped? Do you think leaders in the Middle East are making genuine progress toward peace in the region?
We took your calls on this subject in Talking Point ON AIR, the BBC World Service and News Online phone-in programme which was presented by Robin Lustig. Our guest in the studio was Ghada Karmi, Vice chair of the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Patriotism used to mean courage to defend truths, now it seems to mean a blind acceptance to whatever the President directs. I have to applaud Arrafat for not accepting the peace terms offered to him at Camp David....he would have betrayed his people if he had accepted the Oslo division of land - what an absolute affront to the Palestinian people that map conveys! I also have a great admiration for the American Jews' contributions to our country's identity....I see a people who have been so deeply traumatized that no one can expect them to shake off their nightmares any time soon, and yet they have risen to greatness in many professions and civic efforts in this country. It is strange to me that Israel's hardliners are defining the Jewish identity in the Middle East, when it is the Jewish vote that keeps our political hardliners in check.
Simon G, London
If people are talking they are not killing. If neither side is happy then compromise is working. There is always hope of non-violent solutions as long as both parties are talking.
Peace will only come when both sides recognise the justice of the other side's claims. Israelis view themselves as the original inhabitants. From a Jewish point of view, they are returning to their own country. That is precisely the point of view of the Palestinians as well. Both have to recognise each other's rights to all the land, and then sit down to figure out the next steps.
Dr Daoud Hilal, Abu Dhabi, UAE
It is the Palestinians' turn in the peace process to make their move.
Their move should be to put an end to terrorism. After all, what's the whole idea of a peace process about?
It's about ending the violence. So far, the Palestinian Authority hasn't done anything in that direction. On the contrary - the official media of the PA has programming filled with hatred and incitement of violence against Israelis. Until this is stopped there will be no peace.
Thank you for an excellent programme, a crucial issue, covered in depth
Israel would not be in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, if, in 1967, the surrounding Arab countries had not massed their troops on Israel's borders, called for Jews to be driven into the sea and forced the United Nations peacekeepers to leave.
Only when these countries genuinely accept that the Jews are entitled to one tiny country where they can have self-determination and protection, should Israel give back the West Bank and Gaza strip, including all settlements. The old city of Jerusalem should become an international city and then there will some hope for peace.
stephen Bertram, san francisco
Nobody has yet mentioned a simple fact: the groups of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and pflp, who regularly take responsibility for the terror attacks on Israeli buses, restaurants etc, are OPPOSED to any settlement with Israel. They have been so since the beginning of the peace process in 1993, and have remained so even during periods of Israeli concessions. The inevitable conclusion is that no Israeli concession is ever going to convince them. They are terrorists because they are terrorists. Whether or not they are linked to Bin Laden is a different matter, which I hope the BBC will investigate and inform us.
Unless and until the US gets back the confidence of the Arabs ,there will be no peace in the ME.
Only the US can take actions, which will gain the confidence of all parties.
Until that day there will be attacks on both Israelis and the US interest in the World.
The problem is neither Osama nor Afghanistan but the partnership of US and Israel.
Rob Harding, Spain
The root problem in the Middle East is the determination of the US and UK to maintain their domination over, and exploitation of, the peoples and natural resources of the region. Sponsorship of Israel is one component of this, as is also the corrupt relationship between the so-called western democracies and the Arab elites.
There needs to be a just solution for the Palestinians immediately, however this will not dissipate the energy garnered by extremist and terrorist groups. Israeli and American injustice becomes a convenient ideological hook on which to hang their disaffection. Were this hook to be removed, these people would doubtless find another cause to engage their energies, not least a sense of unfinished business in the form of evening up of the account with Israel.
We in the West could do well to consider and reflect on just what it is that incenses some Muslims and Islamic nations. Not that we should compromise beliefs or ideologies, but at least to appreciate the differences. Our Western Liberal tradition - based on the sovereignty of the individual - freedom to do pursue our self-interest in difference to others, but not to any moral code is what appears to conflict with Islamic sensibilities and casts us in the West as the 'infidel'.
If the US continues its policy of supporting Israel, and not resolving the Palestinian problem, then there can never be peace in the middle east and more bin laden's will come.
The attack on 11th of September was directed at America not the World community.
One of the main reason for this is a perceived one-sided American foreign policy favouring the Israelis.
Until this changes there will be no peace in the Middle East.
A big part of the Middle East problem is the massive ignorance among the American people about the plight of Palestinians over the past half-century.
I am a non-Jewish American, but I perceive now is that Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular have been massively inept at selling their point of view to the American public. Americans are disposed to justice, but the Palestinian case has never been made to them-- compellingly, systematically, persistently.
The BBC's own Jeremy Bowen made the point last August that Muslims need a good public relations agency!
If the western world does not wake up to the fact that the only way there can ever be an end to one of the main justifications for terrorism is the recognition of the right of Palestinians to self-determination like any other people in this world, then the consequences will be dire for all of us, Arabs, Israelis and western democracies alike.
Of course there is a tie-up between the Isreali-Palestinian affairs and the present crisis. Whoever is right or wrong is another point. We'll never know for sure if we don't, not just talk but listen, to one another. Whatever happened to "Better jaw jaw than war war"? It's fine to say we're fighting terrorism but what else is the deployment of cluster bombs but to create ongoing terror in the area where they are dropped? So whose hands are totally clean then?
There'll be no resolution to Afghanistan etc., until Israel observes the UN resolutions on land in Palestine. This means the key move is for the US to break their link with Israel.
I sympathise whole-heartedly with Israel. India too has had its 'bitter experience' with Islamic extremists. They exist because of their belief in 'holy war'. Well,someone should tell them that this 'holy war' is not so holy after all because it breeds terrorism
While peace in the Middle East may not eliminate the kind of atrocities the world has witnessed in Israel, Palestine, and, since 9/11, in the US, it will go a very long way to reduce them. Much as I condemn the actions of Mr. Bin Laden's al-Qaida network, his argument that the people of the US will have no peace unless the Palestinians do, is painfully true.
A Middle East peace treaty will not only lessen support for the Bin Laden's of this world, but will also substantially reduce the risk of something on the scale of 9/11 ever happening again.
Tom, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
In response to Rachel, USA: The reason why most people feel it is the responsibility of the US to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is because the US is the biggest supporter of Israel. And therefore has the most influence over them. Military grants alone, over the last 15 years, has been over $40 billion. And these are the very weapons and military units, used by the Israeli forces, to kill Arabs on a daily basis. So this explains the anti-american feelings held by many Arabs in this region.
Even if the Palestinians get some kind of 'homeland', I don't believe the fundementalist groups like Hamas and Hizbollah will be able to let sleeping dogs lie.
As with the Taleban, they are tunnel-visioned, full of hatred and incapable of compromise.
So, I don't think peace in the Middle East, however much we all want it, is going to happen.
"Some political leaders are saying that until the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is solved, there can be no real end to what they call the war against global terrorism." is the headline. Hell---o? It seems to me as if the whole world is saying this, but lack of balanced reporting means that it is a side issue to most people. It has conveniently been swept aside until now, but if world peace is important (sounds like a daft question), then this issue needs to be addressed.
You can keep this talking point open for several years, but the fundamental question will ever remain unanswered. Should the two sides be seriously interested in solving this draconian problem once for all, they have to first sink their differences and return to the negotiating table. Any amount of mediation by a third country including the US will not do any good unless the peoples of the two states start believing in restoring trust, peace and non-violence. Diplomacy bears fruits when the violence ends.
Brett, Denver, Colorado, USA
President Bush has said: "these are hard times, we have to make tough decisions..." Why does he not make some tough decisions and do more than talk about a Palestinian state?
Can anyone tell me why the Palestinians should stop fighting and negotiate when Mr. Sharon has already declared they will not get an offer as good as the one they have already rejected? And also, why they should have accepted this "great" offer that left their new country split into four separate sections with its airports, borders, and even all drinkable water left under Israeli control? What country would agree to live under these conditions?
How can Israel claim it wants peace while simultaneously occupying most of the West Bank and part of Gaza, expanding Jewish settlements and
Jewish-only roads, destroying Palestinian houses and uprooting Palestinians from their homes? Actions speak louder than words!
David, Houston USA
Can anyone give an simple statistics: How many Israelis and how many Palestinians have been killed since 1948?
I feel as though the US has acted like a school marm, over the past 3 or 4 decades, constantly separating two boys (Israel & Palestine) destined to fight till one is clearly yelling uncle. "Have at it boys", we are not looking.
There can only be peace in the Middle East when the people of the Middle East decide they truly want it. I feel that because several generations have grown up in war that they know nothing else but war. Peace is a foreign concept to them! You must alter the mind-set of the new generations before peace can be a reality, and this won't happen overnight. If, however, the citizens of the middle east want to enjoy an industrialized and "peaceful" society rather than remain 2nd class citizens in the third world they had better consider viable options to achieve peace on there own rather than waiting for the U.S. to solve there problems for them.
Israelis do not want to fight. They have fought long enough. The State of Israel fights for its very existence. Essentially, the Israelis know that they need peace. However, they cannot allow Arafat to engineer a "peace" that will ultimately lead to the eradication of the state of Israel. For example, the "right of return" is something that would lead toward the end of the Jewish state. One can ask for peace, but not for a compromise that will bring an end to the only Jewish state in the entire world.
Until Jerusalem becomes an international city with the sites of all monotheistic religions protected there are few chances for lasting peace in the region
Alex Cutelli, Gloucester UK
The bloodshed will stop only when the two parties fighting one another are tired of dying.
Diplomacy is the way to peace. In other words, when one party hears arguments they don't like, they should negotiate further instead of throwing all the toys out of their pram. Some people here agree with Arafat's demands that not only should a Palestinian state be created but that refugees (three million!) should return to Israel. Not to Palestine but to Israel!! Amazing. So, because Israel said 'no thanks', the Palestinians chose to replace negotiations with murder. When the killing stops, the negotiations will begin again. I hope. In Northern Ireland we had a devolved Government after the IRA declared a ceasefire, not before.
If Bush continued to make the progress in the peace process that Clinton started he could have probably saved a few thousand deaths.
Neither side wants this to end. There is too much money involved. If peace came about, the money at some point would dry up and then the leaders of both side would have to lead, and not play the blame game.
Of course the bloodshed can be stopped. Just let those countries responsible for "spoiling" Israel and "blessing" its atrocities against the Palestinians, to stick to international law, Geneva's conventions, and the 1967 borders. Israel, the USA, and the UK must know that under no condition are our brethren Palestinians going to become another conquered group like the native Americans or aborigines, in Australia.
We are very, very different.
Nell Black, Seaford, East Sussex, UK
Nell Black says the Palestinians sold ownership of their land so they could go and live in refugee camps. With this level of understanding of the conflict is there any wonder that there is no peace in the Middle East? Does it take someone to set up a Jewish homeland in Seaford, East Sussex for people like Nell to realize that a great injustice has been done to the Palestinians?
I do think people and leaders in the Middle East want peace, but they are not ready to accept the sacrifices required for peace. Sharon will continue the incursions in the West Bank every time there is a terrorist attack in Israel while Arafat will not reign in the militants who carry out attacks in Israel. Arafat doesn't have the required support or political will to arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants, whereas Israel's incursions and blockades only instigate more attacks. I think a new generation of leaders from both the Palestinian and the Israeli side is needed, a generation prepared to make historic sacrifices for long-term peace. This, however, will not happen overnight.
There are some ill-informed comments here that need to be set straight. Firstly, Nell Black, UK states that the Israelis originally bought the disputed lands from the Palestinians. This is not quite true nor is it the whole story. The British were forced to abandon their mandate, after uncontrollable violence broke out between the indigenous Palestinians and the newly immigrated Jews. This was followed by the forced expulsion of thousands of Palestinians, whose status as refugees and whose right of return is still a point of contention in the peace talks.
Secondly, Bogdan Bernevig states that the Israeli offer rejected by Arafat was the best ever. Well, it may be fair that Israel
is not giving back any land to the Palestinians from Israel proper (land that originally belonged to the Palestinians anyway), but Israel has been splitting hairs about settlers in the West Bank. It should
only be fair that the Palestinians should be entitled to 100 percent
of the land they are left with, that is all of Gaza and the West Bank.
In light of the peace talks it is apparent that Israel's bargaining principle seems to be "what is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine". Modern Israel has been around for 50 years, and no doubt that Israelis who have been born and raised are entitled to it, but it seems ridiculous to deny and belittle the fact that Palestinians also have a right to live, without Israeli interference and presence, in the
West Bank and Gaza.
Those who legitimise Palestinian violence, comparing it to France's so- called brave resistance against Nazi occupation are misled. There is no comparison, first and foremost, because Israel is offering peace talks. So Arafat has two legitimate options: to fight, and ignore Israel's calls for negotiations, or to negotiate. If he chooses to fight, then Israel should simply destroy him and the PA. Otherwise, he should negotiate appropriate and feasible concessions for the Palestinians. As it is, he's obviously chosen an illegitimate path - pretending to negotiate while allowing other factions as well as his own to commit inhumane acts of violence against Israeli citizens. I think his aims are obvious. So long as he's in Power, and not spending money to develop the economy in his future Palestinian state, he gets to keep it all for himself and live in comfort. It is in his interests to prolong a war with Israel and keep refugees exactly where they are.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE
It's not easy to comment on Middle Eastern peace process, but one would say that if the acts of terrorism are not stopped, than there will be no peace whatsoever. Both sides should reconsider their leadership and step up and arrest those responsible for the violence. The war on terrorism is nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians. I believe that if Mr Arafat is unable to control the dissident groups in his own state then he should consult the United Nations to take action and resign immediately.
You people seem to ignore the fact that the Palestinians were given a chance for peace by the then Prime Minister Ehud Barak during the Camp David meeting. Unfortunately the offer, the most generous ever made by an Israeli Prime Minister, was rejected by Mr Arafat. It is he who has to make the effort this time.
Lubna, Chicago, USA
I don't think that the actions of Palestinians should be classified as the violence. Then the French were also violent when Nazi Germans occupied them? Or where Kuwaities violent when Iraq occupied them?
The Palestinians are fighting to liberate their land from occupation and any nation has the right to do so. Instead of supporting this nation we are calling them as terrorists or violent nation?
To Karol from Spain. To compare Israel to the Nazi's is the most ridiculous and deeply offensive comment I have ever heard. Tell me do you consider the ETA group as freedom fighters resisting Spanish occupation? The jews were tortured and butchered in the most brutal ways known to man by the Nazi's, to make a comparison is dispicable. Lets keep this argument on a suitable level and not exagerate and offend people.
Reading all posted comments leads to one thing everyone should understand. Israel does not understand that Palestinians do have the right to defend themselves by all means. I believe the solutions is for Israel to get out of the West Bank, to stop expanding the settlements and dismantle all of it, to stop invading homes, killing innocents and claiming self defence. All this might help. Palestinians should stop believing that Sharon and his government will ever be looking for peace. People like Sharon are created for the sake of destruction they will not ever negotiate for peace.
There are peaceful alternatives to the current handling of the middle east crisis. If the US and Europe abandon their policy of vaguenes and declare that any territory gained now will have to be returned anyway and will never be included in a final settlement ,there will be less urgency to create facts on the ground.
If both sides realise that whatever they do , the framework of the peace process, based on international law and UN resolutions, will not change, the situation will descalate.
Ghandi defeated the British Empire by passive resistance. I would like to know why, when this method had been shown to work, others do not follow. Perhaps some of the stupid human race prefers resolution of conflict by violent means?
Manju , Bangalore, India
These problems arose, from creating countries/borders artificially. This is prevalent in most war-torn regions. Nigeria, Kuwait, The Balkins, Israel/Palestine. These problems will exist as long as those artificial borders exist.
Paul, London, UK
Despite the fact that this subject has been discussed directly or indirectly many times I will really have to respond to the notion that the Israeli entity is the only democracy in the region. Two points to make here. Democracy is not when you assassinate people without trials, it's not when you bulldoze civilian houses, it's not when you treat ethnic minorities inhumanely, it's not when you trash UN resolutions, and it's not when you elect a war criminal for a prime minister.
The second point is that you really don't want other Arabic and muslim countries to be "as democratic" at this particular time because the "democratically" elected leaders will be patriots that speak on behalf of the masses and will seek revenge for the hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians that were either killed, humiliated, or exiled. As much as I personally deplore violence against innocent civilians, I won't/can't blame them. It's amazing how the misjudgement of electing somebody like Sharon has actually radicalised many of the moderate Arabs and Muslims - and now there is a need for a miracle to make the Arabic and Muslim masses get over what has been happening in Palestine for the past year or so of this uprising that was elicited by Sharon's provocative visit to the Noble Sanctuary.
How can Hesham, New Zealand, on the one hand berate Israelis for democtraically electing Sharon to power, whilst on the other hand complain that the West won't let Arab states be democracies because they'll elect extremists to power. Is Hesham for or against democracy? I also thought it rich for Abdel Nour to say that drawing artificial boundaries creates friction and war - this needn't always be the case, Abdel - after all, you live in Calgary, not far from the perfectly horizontal Canadian border. Are you sure that isn't artificial??
Akram Malik, Gympie Australia
The Bloodshed will stop when the Arab World and the
Palistinians recognize Israels right to exist. Anyone who
thinks 'let them fight it out' obviously has
learnt nothing from history and Sep.11th.
Israel is the only democracy in an other wise undemocratic
hostile breeding ground of hate for the West and
its ideals. Israel is a part of this this but in no way the reason.
Israel is fighting for its survival and we in the West are
starting to fight the same battle. Anyone
who has been to this magnifcent country will see a place that
is peaceful, democratic and open, waiting for the
chance to live in peace.
You can't purposefully breed fanatics and then expect them to stop and revert to outstanding law-abiding citizens just like that. This goes for both sides. Breed tolerance and co-existence for the next generation and the result will be different.
Stephen, Liverpool, UK
If 20 families of Palestine AND
Israel are prepared to live next
door to each other perhaps they
will learn that civilised behaviour
is the only way to peace.
When human ignorance mixes with the culture of selfishness, the saddest tragedy on earth can be created
If lasting peace is to come about, then it has to be based on the rule of law and justice. This applies to both sides. The terrorist suicide bombings and such like must cease, but Israel must also obey international law and let the refugees return. Jewish people have suffered endless historical injustices, some of the darkest marks on the history of mankind. This does not however excuse treating another people badly. The Palestinians have as much right to live in their homes as anybody else, all refugees should be allowed to return to their rightful homes.
Peter, Helsinki, Finland
Peace is possible only when people see the honour in resolving their differences in a non-violent manner and are committed to waging that war. If they believe there is more honour in their hatred for their fellow human beings or in killing each other, then there will be no peace.
There can be no peace until the three million Palestinians who have been exiled are allowed to re-possess the homes and land they rightfully own. The Israeli government or their US sponsors should give compensation to the often unwitting current occupants. The Czech Republic has recently provided a precedent to this with repossession of real estate which was confiscated by the state in the late 1940s. So Israel's argument that this is attempting to dig up ancient history is a sterile one. The settlements in the occupied territories are another matter. These are colonists pure and simple. The Palestinians should be given the right to bulldoze them in the same way that their own homes have been destroyed.
Lev Nakhshunov, USA
To Lev, USA: Israelis as well as Americans and the whole world should understand and face this clear reality - Israel is occupying Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories according to international laws and security council resolutions. So, how can you regard the victimiser as the victim and the victim as the terrorist? Israel will never get other people lands and rights and the peace of Israelis at the same time. Occupation is occupation.
To AG, should I remind you that most of that territory was occupied as a result of Syrian Lebanese and Palestinian attacks?
We have no wish to conquer anyone, but if that someone decides to attack us instead of having peace, he will meet resistance and a retaliation.
To Daniel: Israel came and took Palestinian land and killed indiscriminately. Everyone has the right to resist a ruthless occupation force and this is universally accepted.
To AR - I could say that they started the terrorism first and then came the occupation, but I won't.. since this can go on forever.. and how do you know there were indiscriminate killings? I am an Israeli soldier and I can tell you that if such thing will happen the shooter will go rot in jail. Also, I fail to see how shooting 16 and 14 year-old kids can be considered freedom fighting?
To Daniel, Israel: Israel is the country with the most territorial ambitions in the region. Israel has attacked and bombed at least 5 countries in the past 20 years (Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Palestine...etc.) Moreover, Israel is the only nation in the region that possesses nuclear weapons. Add to that Israel is probably the only country in the world whose parliament shows the map of the country more than twice its size.
The only catalyst for peace is justice.
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