Monday, May 21st | 7 Sivan 5778

Close

Be in the know!

Get our exclusive daily news briefing.

Subscribe
April 25, 2014 9:15 am

Are ‘Peace’ Conferences a Waste of Time?

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

Email a copy of "Are ‘Peace’ Conferences a Waste of Time?" to a friend

Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yassir Arafat at the Oslo Signing Ceremony, September 13, 1993. Photo: Wikipedia.

I recently had occasion to attend a conference of politicians and theologians in Vienna. It was sponsored by the InterAction Council, an organization of former presidents, prime ministers, and assorted theologians from all round the world. The council is dedicated to achieving world peace, which it believes it will achieve if it agrees to and promulgates a basic program of ethical, nonviolent, universal tolerance. There were famous names from my youth, now very largely in their dotage. The theologians included a Catholic, a Hindu, a Jew, a Protestant, an Eastern Orthodox, several Buddhists, a Taoist, and a Confucian atheist. There were eight Muslims, ranging from Sunni to Shia; literal jihadis, moral jihadis, a friendly if vocal Wahhabi, and on the reformist side, the ijtihadis. And a leavening of academics.

Interestingly, there was only one woman around the table. There were plenty of others on the administrative side making sure everything ran smoothly.

The proceedings were carried out in an amiable atmosphere, and everyone agreed that peace was “a good thing” and that we should all aim to live together in mutual respect. However, it became abundantly clear that everyone adhered to his own narrative and was simply unwilling to entertain an alternative. As you might expect, I found this most obvious in relation to Israel, where almost everyone thought that all the ills in the Middle East today should be laid entirely at the door of Israel as the “original sin.””Ž

The politicians seemed to believe that the Holocaust was the only reason that the United Nations agreed to the 1947 Partition, which offered the Jews a state and led to the Arab declaration of war and invasion. Even if the Holocaust might have been in the minds of many of the signatories, you can hardly say that that was the motive for, say, the Balfour Declaration. And if one argues that the Arabs were occupants of Palestine before the imperial powers intervened, so too were Jews. It is true that nationalism, both Arab and Jewish, brought the two sides into open conflict, but to imply the Jews had no foothold in the Land of Israel historically, and long before the Holocaust, is as dishonest as to suggest there were no Arabs living there either. The unfortunate fact is of two occupants of different culture and religion (or none) fighting over one space. Each has a historical right. Each has a different narrative. This ought by now to be obvious but clearly it is not.

One former prime minister assured me that killing women and children was an ancient Biblical tradition that Judaism perpetuated, unlike Christianity, which he was faithful to and which always stood for love. But when I asked about the Christian religious wars and the Inquisition burning women and children, he blinked, smiled, and returned to his coffee.

Both politicians and divines seemed woefully ignorant of what ultra-Orthodox or Charedi meant. They all seemed to identify them with “the settlers.” No less than a former French president, just back from a visit to Israel, told me how he believed the ultra-Orthodox were to blame for Israel’s intransigence. I tried to explain the phenomenon that “Orthodox” is almost as broad a term as “Christian.” The most extreme Orthodox don’t even want to fight, and the majority are in favor of trading land for peace, provided there were a reliable partner and genuine peace. In Judaism, ironically, the more Orthodox you are, the less militant you are likely to be. It’s the seemingly more modern National Orthodox, the settlers, and the American Orthodox who are gung-ho for a fight and set against concessions. And many on the political right in Israel come from Russia and are not Orthodox altogether. It was all very civilized. Being a gentleman, he thanked me for my mini-lecture.

But then I get back to New York to find that The New York Times (Sunday April 13th) had a laughable article in which a Persian and an Israeli (who ought to know better) argue that Iran is heading away from theocracy, whereas Israel is moving towards it. Clearly neither bothered to check on the results of the last election. If they think the Ayatollahs are in the process of relinquishing their control, they must be dreaming. And if they assume that political trends and religious trends go hand-in-hand, they are living in La La Land. The Times article says that “the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are. . .against any agreement with the Palestinians.” That’s ignorant, not just wrong.

As for theocracy, the truth is that Orthodox Jews are so divided on almost any issue you care to mention, the chances of their coming to agree on a shared platform for running the Temple, let alone the State of Israel, is as remote today as it was two thousand years ago.

To assume it is the Orthodox who are preventing a settlement is as ludicrous as suggesting Israel is the sole cause of the present impasse. Sadly, most people prefer to think simplistically, in blacks and whites. Presidents, prime ministers, and theologians are as incapable of objectivity as the primitive “street.” Most violence in the world is meted out by mobs spurred on by politicians and religious fanatics. Which is why I have always been skeptical of grandstanding. In the end, personal contact and human interaction are the only ways to try to bridge gaps.

Happy Summer everyone.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • “The unfortunate fact is of two occupants of different culture and religion (or none) fighting over one space. Each has a historical right. Each has a different narrative”.

    Here we go again….moral equivalence based on ignorance of the history of the region’s last hundred years, and designed to demonstrate the “fairness” of the author.

    The Arabs have NO historical rights to Palestine, neither historical, nor religious nor even by conquest.

    I suggest you read “Middle East Diary 1917-1956” by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, who was variously Allenby’s chief intelligence officer, the British government’s Chief Political Officer in Palestine in 1919, and military advisor to Churchill in the ME department of the Colonial Office in 1921.
    In it, he demonstrates Jewish legal rights to ALL of biblical Palestine in the binding agreements following WW1, and how successive British governments and their administrations in Palestine during the Mandate did their best to sabotage their solemn undertakings in both British and international law. Inter alia this involved encouraging the local Arabs to riot against and murder Jews, and also illegally encouraged large numbers of Arabs from surrounding states like Syria and Egypt to immigrate to Palestine, so as to ensure that no majority Jewish state would materialise.
    Churchill himself remarked how the Arabs were pouring into Palestine, in a famous quote.
    In the 19th.century Palestine was a deserted inhospitable backwater, a fact attested to by explorers and travellers to the region, populated by some nomadic Bedouin in their seasonal migrations and some Jews.
    The influx of Arabs at the beginning of the 20th.century was in response to Jewish immigration from Russia etc. which generated economic opportunities for them to better themselves.
    In 1919 no less a figure than Feisal, leader of the Arab world at the time, in a famous letter to Felix Frankfurter, described the Zionist claims to all of Palestine ie including what is now Jordan, as “moderate and proper”.
    He said he wanted to see the Arab state built alongside (Jewish)Palestine.
    The binding legal agreements flowing from the Paris Peace Conference, ie the San Remo Resolution of April 24 1920, The Mandate for Palestine 1922, The Franco British Boundary Convention of 1920 and the Anglo American Agreement of 1924, respecting the Mandate, are all binding in international law to the present day, upheld by Article 80 of the UN Charter, respecting previous agreements.
    When the Ottoman territories were disposed of following WW1, the Arabs got the lion’s share, some 93% of the territories, even though they contributed nothing during the war.
    The 22 countries of the Arab League cover an area of 6,787,3118 sq. miles, almost twice the area of the USA. (3,787,318 sq. miles.)
    Israel covers an area of just 8,463 sq. miles.

    I also recommend you read Howard Grief’s book “The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law.”
    He was the world’s leading expert on the subject and his book, a work of great scholarship, is set in an historical context.

    Rabbi Rosen, may I respectfully suggest that when those like yourself make facile comments about Israel’s legal rights, based on popular misconceptions without a real knowledge of the subject, all you are doing is weakening Israel’s cast iron case.
    Perhaps you should spend the summer months doing some serious study of the subject.

    • Ron Blower

      Yay, TT.VVWS!! As well a written presentation as I’ve ever read and I’ve read/written a TON…

      TYVM.

      I’m a little behind in my emails but, if you don’t mind, I’m going to store this, so don’t be surprised to read:

      “Here we go again….moral equivalence based on ignorance…”

      With attribution, of course.

      • Thank you and feel free.
        We need to deploy all the ammunition on our side of the argument so that the truth WILL triumph!

  • zeynep

    My answer to your title question is a loud and clear YES, Rabbi Rosen.

    The deplorable situation of world peace today is in its essence a reflection of an unsolved INTERNAL Jewish problem. Unless this is fully understood, acknowledged and acted upon by today’s Jewry, there will be no relief for Israel and thus neither for the world. The attempts of current Jewish/Israeli leadership to achieve deeper engagement of extraneous “allied” (?!) elements in bringing about peace are not only utterly futile, but also dangerously distracting. These attempts serve a twofold function: they aggravate the existing problem and they cause a rapid proliferation of more complex sub-problems.

    These are obviously very weighty issues and can not be elaborated here. But I can’t help asking the following questions:

    What will it take for the Jewish people and its leadership to understand, that only to the extent they embrace their spiritual identity, will they be able to attain the national security they understandably yearn for?

    What will it take to understand, that unless a Jew protects, defends and cultivates his/her spiritual Homeland, s/he won’t ever be able to manifest peace in his/her physical Homeland?

    What will it take to understand that Israel is Spirit manifested?

    • ZEYNEP YOU ASK:
      What will it take for the Jewish people and its leadership to understand, that only to the extent they embrace their spiritual identity.

      THE ANSWER IS WAR TO UNITE JEWS !!!
      liberalism and tolerance pays the attorneys fees.
      WAR IS NEEDED AND WAR WILL SOON BE.

      THE WORLD RULE:
      There can only be ONE VICTOR.
      ONE WINS, ONE LOSES, NO PEACE… ONLY MIGHT…
      until Mashiach

      (by the way,thanks for your kindness to me in my blog and personal email)

      • zeynep

        Dacon9, you say “the answer is war to unite Jews…..war is needed and war will soon be”.

        Assuming that it was clear to you that my questions were mainly rhetorical, then what you are suggesting is diametrically opposed to what I’m trying to promote. I do agree that the concrete existence of a potential threat to Jewish existence somehow can facilitate achieving the desired Jewish unity based on spiritual identity. But to promote war…? Some even suggest that Jews should preempt the attack of the perceived enemy, and initiate war by nuking Iran for example. Are you one of them, Dacon9?

        Well, I don’t go along that way. Apart from the fact that I do think war to be an atrocity (does that make me liberal and tolerant Dacon9 or just human?), there are other reasons why I think war would backfire on us real bad.

        The most dramatically critical of these reasons is that today’s Jewry is miserably failing to identify their real enemy. Their perceived enemy is NOT their true enemy. And to make things even worse: their perceived friend is NOT their true friend either. (oops this might not pass through)

        And where will you be when there is war, Dacon9? Brooklyn, New York? Commmenting on the allgemeiner cheering the Jewish team?

        No Dacon9, you can’t really want war… you can’t really mean it. Not that kind of war. You can’t want blood of innocent people.

        But there is another war going on, a war on a subliminal level, it has been going on for 5774 years now. It is about to escalate. I thought you knew of it. I thought we were comrades. Perhaps we have lost touch of each other. We should communicate more.

        Just easy, dear Dacon9. Just easy…

        • THERE WILL BE WAR
          AND THROUGH WAR WILLBRING PEACE
          as it did throuout history

          THE HEBRREW PROPHETS SAY IT WILL BE.
          AND I SAY IT FROM MY WONDERFUL SPOT INBROOKLYN SITTING INFRONT OF MY ‘HD’ TELEVISION WITH MY SUPERSONIC HYPERVENTILATED CLAUDENFRIAN SPEAKERS SITTING IN MY LOUNGE CHAIR ON MY DECK SIPPING PINEA COLADA FROM MEXICO HAVING A FEW NAGELS FANNING ME WITH PALM FROM THE BEACHES OF SAN TROPEZ.

          AND IF YOU STILL DONT ACCEPT IT, I ORDERED ‘FONT EXTREME SIZE 72’ FROM BILL GATES DIRECTLY AND I CAN POST THIS AGAIN.

          RESEARCH ‘GOG AND MAGOG’
          ALSO Mr MAGOO, WHICH EVER YOU PREFER.
          ZEYNEP,,,THE TRUTH…HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA….DO YOU WORK FOR ‘ACORN’ THE CHICAGO OUTFIT WHO REGISTERED THEIR PETS TO VOTE? AND REGISTERED PEOPLE UP TO 100 TIMES AS ACCUSED AND ATTORNEY GENERAL DIDN’T PROSECUTE? WERE YOU THE COMPANYS RECRUITING CHIEF?

          WAR IS COMING,ZEYNEP..I BOUGHT THIS 55 INCH HIGH DEF TELE, THATS HOW I WILL WATCH IT…

          COMRADES..DOES COMRADES MEAN I SHOULD LIE?
          OR DOES COMRADES MEAN I SHOULD NOT SEE THE PAST?
          OR DOES COMRADES MEAN I SHOULD SAY ALL THE HEBREW PROPHETS WHO SPOKE ABOUT THE LAST WAR OF GOG AND MAGON AND Mr MAGOO SHOULD BE DISMISSED?
          WHAT DOES COMRADE MEAN? COMPADRE, AMIGO? I LIKE TO THINK OF HONESTY AND TRUTH AND NOT TO IMPRESSING YOU.
          MAYBE YOU AS A COMRADE WOULD
          TAKE DOWN THE COMPANY EMPLOYING 1000 WORKERS BECAUSE YOU DONT LIKE THE BRAND TOILET PAPER THEY USE? COMRADES?

          GEEEE AND I ALMOST SENT YOU AN INVITATION TO MY PARTY. I DONT SPEAK RUSSIAN, I SPEAK ARABIC OR HEBREW..AND I AM A REGISTERED REPUBLICAN NOT A DEMOCRATE LIBERAL TOLERANT BLINDED LYING COMRADE.
          “DO NOT BE AFRAID, HASHEM TELLS ISRAEL”
          FOLLOW MY LAWS FOR ‘I AM’ WITH YOU.

          • zeynep

            Dacon9, I am not a citizen of your host country (or should I say home country?). You shouldn’t assume that everybody who operates in english is american, nor a sympathizer of america as the self-proclaimed superpower. I am neither. I did my time there. By the end of 7 years it became clear that we are inherently incompatible, so we parted.

            The word ‘comrade’ might have been a politically incorrect choice, as its historical/political connotations are sure to make the ‘proud’ american nationalist cringe. It appearently made you cringe too, the sequitur being: you are a proud american nationalist yourself. But as you like to say: oh well… I had used the word to transmit a sense of solidarity on a common path. Your reply makes it clear there is none.

            Your response is symptomatic of an ailment the american Jewry in general is suffering from, in its numerous variations and severity. In its essence it is an identity crisis. But the crisis has not fully reached their consciousness yet (but soon it will), it still is brewing in the subconscious and creating terrible upheaval. In your case, it makes you restless and impatient which always is the greatest obstacle in meriting Truth.

            You can not explain the world with the one-dimensional republican/democratic narrative of american politics. That’s ridicilous and utterly irresponsible for a Jew. (If you want to despise me more than you already do, just read my comments to the article about kerry in the latest allgemeiner. It never hurts to know each other better)

            I’ve never really been the partying type anyhow Dacon9. You’re just saving me from the unpleasant job of rejecting your invitation.

            Yet I’m still in the dark as to where you will be when the war is on?

  • I ATTENDED A PEACE CONFERENCE ONCE.

    My ex wife, her attorney.
    me, and my attorney.

    I learned in the name of peace that ONE SIDE
    must always give up everything in the name of peace.

    In the interest of health “WE” negotiated
    that I may keep my toothbrush.

    I DONT CONSIDER THAT A WASTE OF TIME
    I GOT A 88 CENT TOOTHBRUSH OUT OF THE DEAL….
    THEN I WROTE THE HIT SONG,MAYBE YOU HEARD OF IT…
    …..”FREEDOM RING”….!!!!

  • Julian Clovelly

    I don’t think talking about peace is a waste of time, but I do think religion per se might be.

    So when you have a peace conference between religious leaders it is quite likely to be a waste of time. But so would a cooking class, a literary conference, a town planning conference, a population control conference – almost anything you might name with the same line-up. As we say Downunder the whole lot of them couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery

    Religion has singularly failed to do anything but repress people, progress, reason, and science. It has devised intricate means of torture and execution and caused the development of secular forms of religion that we refer to as ideologies. It talks bosh. It has started far more wars than it has ended, created more discord than reconciliation. Mentally it seems to fluctuate between open warfare and resentful seething

    How about a peace conference without religious leaders for a change? The religious almost by definition are irrationals with a self constructed inability to think in a straight line, how do you ever think you are going to get a result?

    It is not just that they confuse history with wishful thinking and myth. Worse still they confuse ethics and morality with their own chosen belief sytem, and cannot see them in anybody else’s

    One set of these idiots believes G-d gave the land they want to live in to their lot, and another believes it gave the land to theirs. Simple logic tells the secular both cannot be true – either that or neither or both are the descendants of those who G-d either did, or didn’t, donate it to. Logical science and neutral academia confirms that either conclusion might well indeed be the case – but that’s another reality quite beyond the scope of the religious mind.

    Is there really any point in discussing complex matters with idiots who think whether you wear a hat or not is important, or that women should dress up to look like a bottle of Guinness, or are getting over the silly notion that wine turns into blood and should be drunk as such? How on earth does a beard or pigtails become a religious matter or the length of a skirt or shorts. What’s irreligious about knees? – Eve had knees. Why are shoes banned from some ceremonies of religious observance?

    The religious view is so dysfunctional that every religion quickly breaks up into warring sects. My belief, for what little it is worth, is that the organised religions all came out of one hopeless morass linked in their development by trade routes. Their differences come from the tyranny of distance combined with human stupidity. As for G-d I suspect he became secular aeons ago in search of at least a bit peace.

    We could do well to learn from such a Divinity.

    • Jeremy Rosen

      Right on OZ
      But do really believe that politicians or secular leaders like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or “Dear Leaders” have done any better?
      Religions have failed but dont think the alternatives any better.

    • zeynep

      Your thinking is painfully archaic, your mental horizon depressingly narrow sir. You are indeed going down and under.

  • Ilbert Phillips

    I have discovered on the years that the more one is intellectual, the less is that person’s ability to think with flexibility. I discovered this once when I attempted to have a rational discussion with a liberal Christian minister about Israel. Jews are annoying. As a people they are literate, tough thinkers and can have the annoying habit of living in the moment. When you have a person who refuses to believe reality, you are with a knucklehead and there is nothing you can do to change his or her mind.

  • We are always being asked why this noxious poison of antisemitism refuses to wither? I think the answer lies in the ignorance of people as “high and mighty” as former prime ministers and presidents as mentioned in the article and the easy bigotry of those too complacent or worse, too cynical to be bothered to fight bigotry. We come across it all the time. A recent article in the British press referred to an editor of one of the national daily newspapers (the Daily Mail) who personally believed that the conflict was the result of Israel’s intransigence over Jerusalem. When he was presented with facts including the absence of Jewish access to the Old City between 1948 and 1967 he was wholly ignorant of these facts – the Muslim world does a good job of creating facts from thin air and the fear of offending prevents most people from questioning a peace loving Islamic narrative. BDS conforms to this recipe. http://thebilateralist.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/bds-and-israel-study-in-hypocrisy.html

  • Peni Elika

    ABSOLUTELY ABSOLUTELY a WASTE of time.

  • Victoria D Matlock

    I think Peace is always a good try but u all haft to come to the Table with an open mind and open heart

  • To all those people living in the Land of Oz.

    ҬӬThere will be no real peace until Islam culture changes!

    Islamic Culture is a War, Hate, Violent and Slave Culture.

    ҬӬArabs and Palestinians are controlled by it and do not know it! ҬӬ

    ҬӬIt is not about land, rights or settlements, water or being politically left or right. If it were it would have been solved long ago. It has not.

    ҬIt is Cultural War that means Islamic Culture must destroy Western Culture or Western Culture must destroy Islamic Culture.

    ҬӬMuslims have been fighting each other and others for 1400 years or more. There is no reason that it will stop now. If we want peace we must change Islamic Culture.

    The book “Culture and Conflict”, explains it clearly. It shows that current cultural conditions in the Arab Middle East will not support internal development, advancement or peace until there is a major “¨cultural change. “It is critical that we understand our enemy. That is step one in every conflict”. The book “Culture and Conflict” Philip Carl Salzman, INSB # 978-1-59102-587-0.

  • ElakIM

    It is a waste of time.

    • First I like to say how much I enjoy reading the Algemeiner and the response to articles such as the one above.

      I always learn something new from reading this and it’s not just a whole lot of new words.

      If more people took the time to look into the foundation and reason for this conflict it would force a deeper and more open dialogue about the issue.
      (open meaning publicly accessible)

      Imagine if the popular media whenever reporting on the middle east conflict ended their report with references to publications such as the Algemeiner, amongst others.

      Millions of people would very likely take a deeper look at the conflict and possibly spot the true path to a peaceful solutions.

      In the end of the day knowledge is power. The path to a peaceful solution lies in educating the next generation.

      Education does not mean that we just have to produce academics who can take leading positions in organisations who’s influence is crucial to daily lives.
      The key aim is to enlighten the pupils to as many different perspectives of life as possible leaving a door open for exploration of areas that the school institution did not manage to cover.

      I’m sure the congregation that Jeremy Rosen witnessed would agree that obligatory school in all of the nations represented would be the way forward to create a peaceful world based on the values of ethical, nonviolent and universal tolerance.

      So why is it not happening? Well, I suppose it needs finance.

      Where should this finance come from? Well, to my knowledge the mountains of Switzerland piles pressure on a pile of gold unaccounted for by long deceased owners and is slowly eaten up by the volt keepers interest.
      Would it make sense to dedicate the owner ship of all of this wealth to an international congregation as the one mentioned above?

      What ever they agree upon (free education for everyone in neutral but mutual agreed upon institutions) could be materialised an actually happen with the financial backing of the congregations own wealth.

      (a percentage of each nations TAX would be handed back to the congregation as a payback for its investment)

      JOB DONE.

      I know this sounds simple, and it is. The hard bit about it is to actually make it happen.

      I don’t know if I need to express on this site what my personal religion is.

      For now I will say that I believe in Solutions.

      Solutions that any body of any background, religion or other personal beliefs will benefit from.

      Imagine a society where the jewish orthodox lady is being attacked in the street not because she is jewish but because she looks like a giant bottle of Guinness (God bless the ingenious irish) and anybody of any looks, faiths, beliefs or whatever who witnessed the incident would jump to her aid because that is what you do as a human.

      This society would be the safest for anyone to live in.

      If enough people supported it, this place could be a reality for our kids or perhaps grandchildren.

      Does any one agree…?

      There are loads of points raised in the above comments that I would like to reply to specifically, but I’m going to limit it to Robin Rosenblatt’s comments. I agree that the Islamic image is seriously deranged but that doesn’t mean it can’t change. It might have ruled for 1400 years but it stops when the defenceless people have a platform to stand up and express different views and aspects of the beautiful side of Islamic culture. (1400 years is nothing in the scientific knowledge of the worlds existence) It might also help if what is considered to be angry deranged lunatics where not armed to the teeth with heavy artillery.

      This issue could also be directed and dealt with in an international peace minded congregation.

      I’m going to love you and leave you there.

Algemeiner.com