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The Promise of Moderation

Marwan Muasher

Extended Book Review

This book should be read in conjunction with Uri Savir's great book on the Oslo Accords, The Process. Both are examples of how moderation can replace war. Each comes from highly placed authors from opposite sides of the Palestinian problem. And each illustrates how entrenched the war machines are on both sides of the great divide otherwise known as the Iron Wall separating the Zionists from Palestine, not to mention the rest of the world. Oddly enough, one of the founders of Zionism (Ze'ev Jabotinsky) predicted just this result if his compatriots did not mend their extreme ways. Jabotinsky had a social insight as rare in his time as it is in ours. Muasher and Savir are modern-day examples with Jabotinsky's insights. They each tried to pick up the pieces of broken machines in the Middle East.

The frustrations Savir and Muasher encountered exemplify what happens when sociopaths on both sides can control destiny to their liking--war and more war. The jungle is all they can see even if they proclaim to see the Promised Land. Of course the Promised Land itself is an issue--each side has religious designs on Jerusalem. The war in Palestine is adding data points to the association between Monotheism and Violence.

So when will it all end? Our take is that this war will continue until one of the following things happen:

  • One or both parties become so exhausted they settle it on their own, perhaps with UN help.
  • A related war partly motivated by the Palestinian impasse erupts and forces intervention by outsiders to step in and fix it--to no one's benefit but their own.
  • The United States throws off its devotion to Zionism and forces cooperation of both parties, with the help of the UN and European Union. If the world is lucky, the next US administration will be capable of reaching out to all concerned with the integrity, patience, and forcefulness to bring the participants into serious negotiations to settle all issues.
  • A pan Arab initiative comes into being and accomplishes what Muasher tried to do--with the rest of the world, except the UN perhaps, leaving hands off.
  • Some combination of the above.

Except for a few special-interest groups, it is in no one's interest to delay action.

The Palestinians and the Israelis have both realized from the get go, that the basic issues are land, water and Jerusalem. Until these issues are settled equitably, insurgencies (intifadas) will continue ad infinitum. That's history; it is also our genes. But we must rise above such primitive responses if we are ever to move off dead center.

Muasher directly, and Savir indirectly make this very point repeatedly, by showing first-hand how moderation can bring peace. Many we know scoff at the Oslo Accord for not bringing peace. But the problem was not with the moderates, but the extremists who engineered the assassination of Rabin that ended the accord.

Our take on RoadtoPeace is that until world societies develop means to prevent giving sociopaths unbridled power, humanity will continue the biblical adage: "There will be wars and more wars." There is no simple answer, nor is there a call to arms. What there is is enough information to start. A movement at the grass roots, enlightened by history, could be one beginning. Determining the reasons why violence within and between societies have such wide variations would go a long way toward providing guidance. That guidance must be eclectic, able to adjust to the many different political and economic situations on the various continents. Means that works in Palestine, may not in Africa. As for the Arab side of the conflict in Palestine, Muasher has some things to say about the political angles:

  • Reinforce and widen the base for public participation in the decision-making process.
  • Expand the scope of political freedom, including freedom of the press and freedom of opinion.
  • Upgrade the judiciary.
  • Liberalize the economy to meet the needs of the global free economic system.
  • Upgrade and expand the scope of vocational training and education, and develop local knowledge bases to interact with the world.
  • Allow all segments of society, without discrimination, to participate equally in all walks of life.

This is nothing short of societal reformation. It is long overdue, and not just in the world of Islam. Nevertheless Indonesia and Jordan are examples of movements in just those directions. Islamic nations moving toward liberalization should be encouraged since they are examples of home-grown political progress.

The US comes in for its share of the problem because of the way it allowed the Israeli Zionists to expand settlements in Palestinian land. We condoned it, so we share the blame, the thinking goes. Colin Powell gets some positive press, Condoleeza Rice gets much less, while George Bush gets hardly any at all.

Muasher does not rant about the shortcomings of either side. He is foremost a historian and diplomat. One could expect no less. He also frankly and honestly points out the deficiencies inherent in the Neocon foreign policy as well as the US tendency to try fixing the problems of other nations without their consent, without involving them or even trying to understand their unique cultural issues.

Muasher's book is already a classic in histories of the Middle East. Again, it is an excellent companion read with Uri Savir's account of how the Oslo Accords came into being. Each demonstrates that powerful centers of moderation exist on each side of the Iron Wall as Jabotinsky, a consummate Zionist, might phrase it.


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