Friday, October 21, 2011

The Problem of Nationalism

Don't miss reading this powerful analysis of the biased conflict between President Abbas versus Prime Minister Netanyahu at the United Nations.

Again, nationalism and ideology trump truth and peace. If only we humans could be delivered from our human nation-self-centeredness.

from the website
Musalaha (which means reconciliation in Arabic) is a ministry of reconciliation in the Middle East, established by Salim J. Munayer.

"In conflict situations, these two merge more closely, and each side has a historical narrative made up of truth and myth in which “our side” is portrayed in a positive light, and 'we' are always the protagonist hero and victim in 'our historical narrative.'

We saw elements of the Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives in the recent UN speeches. Abbas opened his speech emphasizing the Palestinians’ openness to previous negotiations, their tireless attempts at presenting their position, and their sincerity during the process.

But these endeavors proved futile, primarily as a result of Israel’s refusal to “commit to terms of reference” and its continued engagement in settlement activities.

From the beginning, Abbas, in effect, presented the Palestinians as the protagonists who are committed to a two-state solution, arguing that the Palestinians are the reasonable party as the Palestinians came to the negotiating table sincerely and were willing to compromise; the Israelis then are the antagonists, unreasonable and unwilling to compromise.

Throughout his speech he discussed the effects of the occupation on Palestinians, and recounts the Nakba of 1948 in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were exiled from their homes. In effect, he established the Palestinians as the victims of the conflict.

While renouncing terrorism and violence and affirming peaceful resistance to Israel, he never recognized the detrimental and traumatizing effects of violent Palestinian actions against Israel.

He talked about the Holy Land being a land holy to Muslims and Christians, pointedly excluding the Jewish people from their historical and religious connection to the Holy Land. In spite of the Palestinian people he detailed throughout his speech, he emphasized that the Palestinian people extend their hand to Israel for peace.

When Netanyahu gave his speech responding to Abbas, he constantly emphasized that Israel also extends its hand to the Palestinian people in peace. He stressed Israel’s constant hope for peace and its willingness to make sacrifices for peace, not only with the Palestinians, but with the rest of the Middle Eastern world.

In effect, he presented Israel as the peace-seeking protagonist, summoning the Palestinian people back to negotiations. He rhetorically reasoned with his audience, asking if they would wish for danger so close to their cities and families, reminding his audience of the resultant barrage of rockets that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

He discussed the suffering of the Israeli people as a result of the rockets fired by Hezbollah in the north and Hamas from Gaza, presenting Israel as the victims of the conflict, never recognizing the detrimental and traumatizing effects of Israeli actions on Palestinians.

Consequently, he presented Israel as reasonable in its demand for military presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as he argued this is necessary for Israel’s security.

In effect, he showed that the Palestinians do not understand and are not reasonable in their requests. He argued that the primary issue is that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Toward the end of his speech, he discussed the ancient and undying Jewish connection to the land of Israel, but he pointedly failed to mention (thereby excluding) any comparable connection the Palestinian people have to the land, giving only a brief nod to them in closing as they “dwell” on the land.

Is it not interesting to note that reading between the lines, they are mirrors of each other?

One side is reasonable, the other unreasonable. One side is the aggressor, the other the victim.

Both sides claim to extend their hands in peace, yet they make no room for one another in their narratives. Neither side is willing to publicly acknowledge its contribution to and perpetuation of the conflict.

Both sides reference their religious heritage to justify their historical is internally focused, often contains half-truths, and when the other side is addressed, it is morally excluded and devalued.

In order for us, both Israelis and Palestinians, to make progress toward reconciliation, we need to learn to truly listen to each other’s needs and be willing to recognize our own shortcomings.

The basic needs for mutual legitimization can be found in the speeches of both Netanyahu and Abbas.

Words of peace can be found in both speeches, but words of good will quickly dissipate when they are not coupled with acts of good will.

Instead of recognizing each other and respecting each other, they belittled and excluded each other. Instead of employing self-criticism, they criticized each other.

...we are all called to repent of our sins and shortcomings and seek peace, but this does not preclude us from reading the Bible in light of our own historical narratives...We can also read the Bible as an ethnic group, taking certain passages and using them for various purposes.

We should apply Biblical passages to our own lives, but we have to be careful that we do not do this in isolation. We have to be careful not to read the Bible selectively, overlooking passages that may be uncomfortable to us.

Above all, we are called to peace, love, and fellowship. We work for this every day and we hope you will continue to walk alongside us as we pursue peace, encourage love of our neighbors, and journey toward reconciliation. Musalaha is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians as demonstrated in the life and teaching of Jesus."

By Salim J. Munayer
Edited by A. Ben-Shmuel

[1] See “Stages of Reconciliation: Encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs” for more information

Let us live in peace, for peace, with peace
in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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