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'Turn away from fear and hate'

A local leader in the Jewish community reflects on Isaraeli and Palestinian relations after reading a recent op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz by Khalaf Al Habtoor, chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, an international business conglomerate with interests in real estate, hotels, the automotive industry, education and publishing, based in the United Arab Emirates.

The following commentary (italics) is excerpted from the Khalaf Al Habtoor op-ed, followed by Jerome E. Fischer's commentary.

There is plenty of blame to apportion. But regurgitating past errors of judgment has been done over and over again. It is beyond time for a new page to be opened in this unending book of horrors. How long must we go on rehashing and repeating more than 50 years' worth of mistakes?

Presidents, prime ministers, Middle East envoys and UN Secretary Generals, however well-meaning, have achieved precisely nothing. Relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are on the rocks. Rockets and missiles fly both ways over Gaza.

I am convinced that peace will not come from the top down, but rather requires grassroots movements.

What Palestinians have to gain from a peaceful conclusion to this conflict is well known. The tiny spark of hope that gave them the courage to carry on is all but stifled, replaced by desperation, evidenced by recent mass protests in Gaza resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries.

Their courage is beyond reproach. But other than placing their plight on the international front burner for a brief moment in time, such demonstrations are exercises in futility at a great cost to those who took part.

Think about your children and grandchildren. Don't indoctrinate them with your fears and hatreds. Don't pollute the minds of future generations. Young people deserve to be carefree, not forced to wear uniforms and carry weapons. Allow them to formulate their own views.

Give them a chance to move forward together, free from the weight of your emotional baggage and bad experiences. Changing attitudes is a crucial prerequisite for Israelis and Arabs to live together with mutual respect on the same soil.

Like it or not, the Israeli state is recognized by the United Nations and the world at large. Israel boasts high-caliber university graduates, ground-breaking inventions and cutting-edge research. Better to deal with it than fruitlessly wishing it away. Israel with its nuclear weapons and military might is going nowhere.

We in the West have our standards, and they are generally high moral standards that we agree on. Those standards do not prevail in most of the world. And for periods of time they have not prevailed in our own societies. But we need not abandon our hopes that Western Enlightenment values will help lead the world to a more peaceful and humane life for all of us living on this planet.

Israel and Palestine were created by the United Nations, an organization that strives to bring a measure of peace and prosperity to the world. The Arab world rejected that resolution, and mounted a war against the new state of Israel. It was not a war for the Palestinians. It was a war against the Jews, and, depending on which attacking nation you focus on, for the recapture of “southern Syria” or the recapture of “greater Egypt,” or the expansion of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Arab nations did not give a damn for the Palestinians.

Israel won their War of Independence. The Palestinians lost a war that they did not even wage. It was fought by nations who did not stand to lose any land, but wanted to grab the lands of Mandate Palestine. And today, Iran has taken up the “cause of the Palestinians” and seems willing to fight and sacrifice the lives of children due to their determination to destroy Israel. And the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah are willing dupes in this cynical game.

Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and many other Arab countries have come to terms with Israel, either de jure or de facto. Yet the leaders of Palestine continue to avoid facing reality and teach their population to hate Israel (and the Jews) and to continue a senseless and useless “war” against the “Zionist entity”.

The withdrawal of Israel from Gaza was unilateral, and poorly handled. Yet it was a withdrawal, and Israel did leave infrastructure and businesses intact for the Gazans to utilize as they developed their economy. Those “Jewish” assets were wantonly destroyed. And after Hamas’s brutal takeover of the Gaza strip a war was declared against the “Zionist entity”.

Hamas leaders live in luxury while the average Gazan suffers in poverty and despair. Inducements were offered by the United States, Europe, and the Arab world to encourage the Palestinians, and the Gazans in particular, to turn from resistance to negotiation. They have, with the backing of Iran and a few other Islamic nations, refused.

It is time, as Khalaf al Habtoor writes, to think of the children and turn away from fear and hate and negotiate a better future for the children of Palestine and the children of Israel.

Jerome E. Fischer is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut, based in New London.

 

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