March 19, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2264

Article in Saudi Daily 'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat' Calls for Arab-Jewish Conciliation

March 19, 2009
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 2264

The London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat recently published an article by liberal Syrian philosopher Hashem Saleh, who resides in Paris, titled "Towards an Arab-Jewish Conciliation." In it, Saleh argues that the time is has come for the Arabs to make peace with Israel and to focus on developing their own countries, and that the Palestinian problem will resolve itself via the natural Palestinian demographic superiority over the Israelis.

Following are excerpts: [1]

I Want the Gaza War to Be the Last War

"This surprising heading will cause a big fuss. People will say, 'The blood [spilled] in Gaza has barely dried, yet he is already calling for defeat and conciliation with the enemy!' Nonetheless, after pondering and deliberating the matter for a long time, I am determined to defend this option.

"I confess that I was surprised at my own conclusion. I did not expect to reach this conclusion after many years of exploring every aspect of this dilemma. I spent many an hour in seclusion, reading extensively about this infernal conflict, until I was able to arrive at my [current] position.

"As the matter stands, I firmly believe that it would be absurd and meaningless to continue this conflict, because it stifles our revival and our freedom. It has become a useless burden. It has become a total waste of time, effort, money, and human lives.

"I want the Gaza war to be the last war. Let us start a fresh new era in the region, and use all the [heretofore] wasted energy and missed opportunities towards construction and development instead of destruction and devastation. Let us invest [our energy] in building schools, universities, hospitals, and children's playgrounds.

"In order for the Arab cultural enterprise to truly get underway, we cannot continue postponing it indefinitely under the pretext of liberating Palestine. Let us first of all liberate the Arab thought, and Palestine's liberation will follow of its own accord.

"I admit that, [for me,] the straw was reading the latest book by Palestinian thinker Sari Nusseibeh, recently published in English and French under the title Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life. [2] It is this book that prompted me to adopt my current position, which is bound to create problems and draw me into arguments with Arab demagogues who are filling TV programs and newspapers with their screeches and yelps…"

The Victory Over Israel Will be Achieved by a Different Tactic: Through Demography

"We take a completely wrong course when we keep locking horns with the Jews, cracking our own skulls along with theirs, to no avail whatsoever. [The Jews] have a long history, which is unique and replete with suffering. Let us try a different way of managing this conflict, instead of sticking to the same outdated and wretched stratagem.

"I am positive that we can win this battle without firing a single shot. [We can do this] by employing a different tactic - [namely,] through [our] birthrate and demographics. The Palestinians will overwhelm the Israelis and influence them [through their sheer number].

"Enough of wars and pointless confrontations! We have suffered enough [wars] and are tired of them. The Israelis, who intimidate us with their airplanes, missiles, and state-of-the-art military technology, are actually afraid of us. Their entire existence is founded upon ghettos, persecution, and unending slaughter, which has not ceased throughout [their] entire history. This is the [correct] psychological analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"Victory over Israel will surely come, and I contend that it will come of itself. How will this happen? First of all, though victory over ourselves, through a successful implementation of the Arab cultural enterprise, and through acquiring knowledge and technological [know-how].

"Look at China and what it has achieved. Don't you think that the Chinese would like to take revenge on the West, which has been humiliating China from the time of the Anglo-Chinese opium wars in the 19th century? Though the British once humiliated the Chinese in their own homeland, the contemporary Chinese are not sacrificing their lives to provoke the British. [Instead,] they are waiting until their economic, technological, and cultural enterprise is completed before standing up to America and taking revenge on Japan. They do not act [prematurely], since [they know] it is necessary to prepare the ground.

"This is the logical way to proceed. It is the [kind of] political reasoning that the fundamentalist or mystical mentality... is unfortunately unable to grasp. [It is this mentality that] has brought destruction upon us, twice within a span of two years - once [in the 2006 war between Israel and] Hizbullah, and the second time [in the 2009 war between Israel and] Hamas."

"The Future Belongs… to People of Good Intentions and Enlightened Minds, OnBoth Sides - Palestinians and Israelis"

"What is the use of all these wars, which bring no change? Unfortunately, they cause a lot of damage. They destroy our infrastructures, throw us back dozens of years, and bring pain and suffering upon our families, wives and children, taking us back to square one, or even [to square zero]…

"The future belongs neither to Hamas, nor to [Al-Qaeda leaders] Zawahiri and bin Laden, nor yet to the Israeli extreme right, which has lost its mind. It belongs to people of good intentions and enlightened minds on both sides - Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews. These people are many, though they are frightened and [therefore keep] quiet."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 20, 2009.

[2] Nusseibeh, Sari and Anthony David, Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

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