Monday, May 07, 2012

Comment: On The Tragedy of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The late Nahum Goldmann, a lifelong Zionist who was one of Israel's most ardent and accomplished, yet distinctly dovish, advocates, and who, along with Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, was considered one of its architects, often enraged his hawkish critics by insisting that the Jewish State's conflict with its Arab neighbors was "normal"--in contrast with the war against Nazism. Goldmann's point (this reporter was privileged to have interviewed him) was that peace was ultimately possible in spite of the decades of bloodshed and one-sided, existential nature of the conflict--the fact that tiny Israel could not afford to lose a war because defeat meant the physical destruction of the state, effectively, a second Holocaust.

Goldmann was right. Israel's peace pacts with Egypt and Jordan--and the Oslo Accords, also, arguably--proved his conception was essentially correct.

One wonders what Goldmann, who was born in 1895 and lived long enough (he died in 1982) to see the conflict shift from a nationalistic struggle between the Arabs and Jews of Palestine to a protracted fight between nation states--the "Arab-Israeli Conflict"--and back again to its Palestinian Arab-Zionist origins, would make of today's situation. Would he still regard the conflict as normal?

That the answer to this question is clearly debatable--64 years after Israel's founding--is truly tragic. At some stage, the Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict was somehow Islamized to include nuclear-arming, non-Arab Iran, a friend-turned-implacable foe, and NATO-belonging, non-Arab Turkey, a former ally that could also become an enemy. Instead of a conflict between nationalisms and nation states, it has to a frightening degree been transformed into a conflict between the Jewish national home, a country that was created to solve the specific problem of Jewish political homelessness, and a Nazi-like, clerical fascist menace--rightwing political Islam, or Islamism--that transcends national, ethnic and even theological (e.g. Sunni and Shiite) boundaries.

How this happened is a subject for serious study. How to put a stop to it--how to prevent the conflict from being transformed further into a horrific conflagration capable of engulfing an entire region and world powers--is a topic that cries out for discussion and analysis at the highest levels of policymaking and diplomacy.

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