Why Palestinian politicians may not be entitled to make peace – why the negotiating process may need to involve the Islamic Umma, the community of all Muslims
Gottfried Hutter, theologian, psychotherapist, author of this peace initiative, founder and chairman of “the Temple-Project Association.”
Since the founding of the State of Israel, sixty-five years ago, it has lived in a constant state of war. If we, from our enlightened Western perspective, look at the attempts to solve the conflict, we can hardly understand why peace could not be achieved until now. In spite of our rational intellect, we tend to ascribe evil intentions to one or even both sides. Strangely enough, it seems to be that very intellect which prevents us from seeing that Israel was established in a world whose people view life quite differently. A person who has grown up in the West can hardly imagine how our fellow human beings, the Muslims of the Middle East, think and feel.
No one has expressed that more clearly than the present Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, in his formidable, highly philosophical book Alternative Paradigms, in which he describes the fundamental difference between the Western and the Muslim view of the world.
Without entering into the metaphysical background of the Islamic paradigm, but applying it to the establishment of the State of Israel, one could simply say: all Muslims – and thus, most Palestinians – are in the service of the community of all Muslims, the Umma. Since an alien, non-Islamic entity – Israel – was implanted without their consent on Umma territory the Umma as a whole could not accept that. In 1948, it reacted militarily. Muslim States wanted to expel the interloper. They did not succeed. Instead, in 1967 Israel went on to occupy the remainder of the Palestinian territories on the West Bank of the Jordan and in Gaza.
In the eyes of the Umma the subsequent struggle of the Palestinians is not only regarded as a struggle for national liberation, but also as a religious duty. – This perspective can help us to understand why attacks of the Islamic Hamas have often been executed with so little regard to the consequences for the Palestinian population: all must to contribute to the victory of Islam in the fight against this foreign entity named “Israel” which intruded onto sacred Umma territory.
In order to resolve the conflict, the major powers of the world wanted to provide the Palestinians with a State of their own. They designed a wonderful peace proposal, the Two State Solution. The entire world seemed to agree. However, despite their unanimity, even after decades of negotiations, an agreement could not be reached. Why?
The wonderful peace proposal did not take into account the paradigm of Islam. This conflict is not a private matter between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict erupted because, when the State of Israel was implanted, a piece of the Umma territory was occupied by non-Muslims and the integrity of the Umma territory was ruptured. The Umma regarded this as a direct attack, all the more so because it happened near one of the holiest sites of Islam, al Haram ash Sharif, “the Noble Sanctuary” of the Muslims in Jerusalem, and because Israel now claims ownership over precisely that piece of land. For, what Muslims call al Haram ash Sharif is the location of the Jews’ ancient Temple.
Since the entire Muslim Umma is concerned, Palestinian politicians have not the authority to declare the conflict settled after being satisfied with the material outcome of negotiations. That is attested by statements from Iran, the Hezbollah, and Hamas. Even a declaration of the Arab League of 2014 states that Israel’s basic precondition for peace to be recognized as homeland for all Jews must not be fulfilled.
People in the Western hemisphere often cannot understand why it should be so important for Israel to be recognized as the homeland for all Jews. For people who have grown up in the West – and for many secular Israelis as well – it is hard to realize that the present openness of Western democracies can be delusive.
They forget that there was a reason for the assignment by the League of Nations to the United Kingdom to prepare a home for the Jewish people, which led in turn to the UN plan of partition of 1947. Both are based on the assumption that Jews need a State, one place on Earth in which they will be protected from persecution.
In the past, safety was never guaranteed. In times of crisis, Jews were scapegoated especially in European countries. Deadly persecutions broke out again and again. And this could happen even today, as regional recurrences of anti-Semitism show.
In order to be protected even in times of crisis, Jews needed and need a sanctuary, their own State, comprising a Jewish majority. And because of the worldwide risk of persecution, this State needs potentially to provide a homeland for all the world’s Jews.
On the homepage of this peace initiative you will find an article by Professor Sari Nusseibeh, the long-standing President of Al Quds University in Jerusalem – the only contribution by an outside author – Why Israel cannot be a Jewish State (http://www.tempel-projekt.de/Warum%20Israel%20nicht%20ein%20juedischer%20Staat%20sein%20kann%20Nusseibeh%2011_10_02.htm). I translated this article into German and placed it there, because in my view Nusseibeh’s reasoning needs to be taken fully into account in any attempt to define the “Jewish” State, because it is necessary to provide built-in guarantees that non-Jewish minorities will be in no danger of any form of persecution.
Both Israelis and Palestinians need peace. But how can it be attained? A return to the time before the State of Israel existed is not possible. The only alternative: the Muslim Umma must grant peace to their Jewish brothers and sisters. And that will need a formal reconciliation between Jews and Muslims.
It will, therefore, be not enough merely to include the Umma in peace negotiations; the Umma must be seen to be Israel’s main partner in all negotiations. The problem that was created for the Muslim Umma when the State of Israel was founded must be resolved together with the Umma – and together with the reparations needed for all material losses Palestinians suffered. Then the Umma can welcome Israel in its midst.
As a first step, the Muslim Umma must be enabled to recover from the shock they experienced when the State of Israel was founded. Israel must express empathy for that shock – and all of Europe must acknowledge their forefathers’ guilt for being the cause behind that shock. Next, Israel must express appreciation for the privilege of protection extended to Jews for so many centuries within the territory of the Muslim Umma.
But how was it that this long-lasting peace could turn into war?
The prophet Mohammed accepted the Jews as “people of the book.” Nevertheless, wherever Islam became the dominant political power all non-Muslims had to subordinate themselves to Islam. They had to regard themselves as “Dhimmis”, protégés. They had to pay a special tax, could not serve in the army, and had to accept minor restrictions in their freedom of worship. But this practical solution allowed a peaceful cohabitation over thirteen hundred years!
The founding of the State of Israel broke this ancient peace contract, which is documented in the Muslim Sharia law, and – regardless of any claims about land – that led to the intention to eliminate the new and uncooperative entity. But of course, the new Israel could not give itself up. In order to gain security it ended up, after decades of being threatened with annihilation, by occupying the entire territory of Palestine. Therefore, I believe, that occupation can be abolished only once Israel’s existence is no longer threatened.
The Palestinians alone will not be able to guarantee safety. Thus, true peace will be possible only once the entire Muslim Umma expressly welcomes the Jewish State of Israel in its midst – an act that entails connection with the very deepest values of Islam. – The absolute need is for true reconciliation between Muslims and Jews, because then not only armistice will be possible, but true peace. Then the old Sharia Dhimmi-rule can be replaced by the Qur’anic command for a competition in virtue (Sura 5,48). And to that all Muslim States will have to place their signature in confirmation on behalf of the Umma.
At least part of the present turmoil in the Muslim world seems due to the Muslim Umma’s frustration at the persistence of the alien enclave, Israel, within its immediate sphere of interest. This frustration has been greatly aggravated since 1967, because the Israeli victors went well beyond utilizing their undreamed-of gains of territory purely for purposes of military security and ended up creating and perpetuating a state of chronic injustice for the Palestinians and chronic insecurity for all concerned.
While peace treaties have been signed with Egypt and with Jordan, no one seemed able or willing to help the Palestinians in the occupied territories. No one in the Muslim world dared speak and act on behalf of the Muslim Umma. One rather hesitant step in this direction has been taken by the Royal Court in Amman: the open letter “One Common Word”, calling for reconciliation between Muslims and Christians: hesitant, because it did not address the Jews.
Considering the terrifying power of the IS, a new and far more forceful attempt is needed now – and there is only one person with the authority throughout the Muslim world to take this initiative, King Abdullah II of Jordan. He could accomplish what I have been talking about, the precondition for true peace: reconciliation between two “peoples of the book”, Muslims and Jews.
And one person can give him essential support, Pope Francis I – especially since the former Israeli President Peres formally requested him (on Sept. 4, 2014) to initiate and head a new institution, the URO, the United Religions Organization.
(Update September 22, 2014)
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