I read this in The Globe and Mail this morning. It’s a quotation from the interview that Globe reporter Patrick Martin did with Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign minister of Turkey, on his recent visit to Canada; and it was printed (there must be a technical name for this) in bold type in its own box, as the interview’s most important statement. And here it is.
If there’s no peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace in Palestine. If there’s no peace in Palestine, there will be no peace in the Middle East. If there’s no peace in the Middle East, there will be no peace in the world (Sept 21, 2012, A8).
I confess to a surge of gratification when I read this, because this is what we in Building Bridges Vancouver have been saying since we started our work in 2008. We’ve made the same point in different words–“Justice for Palestine, security for Israel, peace in the Middle East”: no justice for Palestine, no security for Israel; no security for Israel, no peace in the Middle East.
This is an all-inclusive point of view. It asserts that in addition to urging an end to the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine, we must place beside this a concern for the wellbeing of Israel. The little bracelet that some of us wear exemplifies this. It is composed of the Israeli flag and the Palestinian flag, the one following the other again and again if we keep turning the bracelet in either direction. Another way of saying this: Israel and Palestine will rise together or fall together, because they are so intertwined with each other that although culturally and politically distinct they cannot be geographically separated. They are stuck with each other! And another way of saying this: the greatest contribution to the well-being of Palestine will be the end of the occupation; and the great contribution to the well-being of Israel will be the end of the occupation.
At a recent workshop for our BBV planning team, we reflected on the meaning of the many-sided word “love” as it applied to our work. We settled on an understanding which was not related, as one of our members said, to the kind of “tickle in the tummy” that people feel when they are romantically in love. Love, we concluded, is primarily about how we treat people, rather than how we feel about them. Many of us working in the Palestinian solidarity movement, so-called, find it easy to feel empathy with the Palestinians, who are being “cabined, cribbed, confined” (as Shakespeare says in “MacBeth”), and difficult to generate similar positive feelings towards the Israelis.
Here I make a detour to say that we committed to not demonizing Israelis nor idealizing Palestinians. We recognize that on both sides there are those who contribute to an eventual resolution of the conflict, and those who are keeping it going. At the same time, we avoid the word “balance,” because there is a massive power differential between Israel, with the fourth-largest military in the world, and Palestine, with its few hundred police officers, who in any joint operation with the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) are always under IDF command. With these provisos, I continue.
There was another very important statement in the Davutoglu interview. I was grieved to learn that the agreement between Israel and Syria, over the Golan Heights, brokered by Turkey, “collapsed when Israel unexpectedly launched a major assault … on Gaza in December, 2008,” with only one or two words left to finalize. It was cancelled because Turkey, understandably, could not condone the assault on Gaza which killed 1300 people, including 400 children, and destroyed a very large portion of the public buildings and infrastructure of the Strip.
One or two steps forward, one or two steps back, and perhaps a couple of steps sideways. But the need for the resolution of the conflict remains; and so we continue as best we can, to work towards that resolution. Something which cheers me enormously is the way in which the reality of the occupation of Palestine is being more and more clearly apprehended by the Canadian public.
Back then to Mr Davutoglu’s very memorable summary of the relationship between the conflict and the peace of the world. In support, I place beside his words a more ancient statement, which continues to press itself upon my consciousness:
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers'” (Psalm 122:6-7).
Yes, the peace of Jerusalem, from which will come peace in Palestine, peace in the Middle East, and in very large measure, peace in the world.