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From the Editor: Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui

September 23, 2005

The President’s Address

President General Pervaiz Musharraf spoke with characteristic candor at the Council of World Jewry and American Jewish Congress (AJC) dinner in New York on Saturday. Rightly described as “the quintessential Muslim leader of moderation, decency, reason, and acceptance of pluralism” by 77-year-old US legislator Tom Lantos, the President demonstrated both vision and individual courage when he made the solemn urging to Tel Aviv: “I have always believed that courage required to compromise and reconcile is far greater than that required to confront and I appeal to Israel to show that courage.
“Israel must come to terms with geopolitical realities and allow justice to prevail for the Palestinians. The Palestinians’ desire for freedom and nationhood is as intense as that of any other people. They want their own independent state and they must get it.” True.
“The leaders of today must change the course of events instead of merely reacting to a series of catastrophic events such as 9/11 and 7/7”. Israel has the right to stay as a country but the Palestinian question must be addressed amicably in a peaceful manner.
The dinner was indeed a very rare occasion, indisputably a watershed event. Jack Rosen, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress and Council for World Jewry, observed that the “President recognized the right of Israel to exist, he called for reconciliation between Muslims and Jews, and he talked about the pains of past years of anti-Semitism. You couldn’t have asked for anything better than that.” This perhaps is a propitious occasion to reiterate and recall what we have earlier stated in these columns:
“With scarcely a peep from the American professorate or intelligentsia, we have all succumbed entirely to the promiscuous misuse of language and sense, by which everything we don’t like has become terror and what we do is pure and simple good, to fight terror, no matter how much wealth, and lives, and destruction is involved. Swept away are all the enlightenment precepts by which we attempt to educate our students and our fellow citizens, replaced by a disproportionate orgy of vindictiveness and self-righteous wrath of the kind that only the wealthy and the powerful, it would seem, have the right to use and act upon…”
The multi-dimensional nature of the human tragedy enacted in the Middle East could have hardly been more truthfully spelled out than in this graphic observation of Edward W. Said. As the death toll mounts and casualties multiply, there is little to suggest that words like remorse, compunction, or empathy have any meaning in contemporary lexicon. The resultant suicide-bomber acts staged by hapless Palestinians, including hijab-sporting teen-age youthful girls, is a cause of concern. So are the innocent Israeli civilians gasping for precious life and helplessly scrambling for help. It is a haunting spectacle – on both sides of the religious divide.
“Both the Palestinians and the Israelis are experiencing a bloodbath, though of a varying degree. In this swiftly spiraling human catastrophe the question of paramount importance is: Does Islam or Judaism preach violence and should the losses experienced by the adherents of the two Abrahamic faiths be incurred in such a wanton fashion given the fact that both Muslims and Jews have stakes in the region and neither one can succeed in surviving at the expense or exclusion of the other? A spirit of mutual accommodation must prevail in any strategy or scheme of initiatives chalked out to bring about peace in the region. Israel, with its marked military superiority, is better poised to take the initiative. It must, as well-known peace negotiator George Mitchell observed, realize that “a military victory is an illusion” and the two parties should “get back to the negotiating table.” His message for the Palestinians is equally important: the pool of suicide bombers has multiplied lately but it is not going to achieve the Palestinian objective of an independent state.
“As for the other main actors on the world stage, there is little to suggest that the West would act with promptitude to reign in the two combatants. What is particularly disconcerting, while the UN Security Council has asked Israel to check its adventurism against the Palestinians the US has held Arafat responsible for the latest round of violence! With the situation presently obtaining the catastrophe is likely to compound as time passes. The death count of helpless Palestinians and innocent Israeli victims of suicide bombers will multiply.
“A glimmer of hope comes from the majestic portals of the Vatican where the Pope in his Easter address emphasized the paramount importance of coexistence. The Beirut Declaration, offering peace to Tel Aviv in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories, is a manifestation of the same spirit. The US could play a pivotal role in mustering support for such peace initiatives. It has acted nobly in Bosnia and Kosovo and rescued Europe in the two world wars. It alone has the power to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table to ensure that the two arrive at an arrangement which ensures the well being of both.
“If memory serves right, it was Charles Dickens, the well-known English novelist, who had observed: “Let’s conserve a livable world. Let’s contemplate existence.” A sane advise. One that both the Palestinians and the Israelis need to heed today. Conflicts are created and ended by human beings.”

This piece was written a few years back. Recent happenings, including Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the mood at the Saturday dinner hosted by the Council of World Jewry and American Jewish Congress in New York, are hopeful signs that the world is beginning to realize the pressing need to contemplate existence. Let’s resolve to conserve a livable world.
- afaruqui@pakistanlink.com

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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