Positive-sum westerners see “two states” as the obvious solution to the conflict on the land between the river and the sea. But analyzed in terms of honor-shame reasoning and the players involved, not only is that solution not going to work, but it’s actually designed by “two-stage” Palestinian strategists, to pursue the zero-sum dream: “Palestine from the river to the sea.” When we understand that the problem is not “how much” territory is Israel willing to concede to satisfy the Palestinians?” but “how do Arab Muslims overcome the humiliation that is Israel, and find their dignity in the global community without subjecting infidels,” different landscapes and alternatives arise.
First it becomes crystal clear that resolving this contest in a way that convinces Islamist supremacists to stand down becomes imperative not only for Israel, but for the West and all other peoples around the world, who, in the early decades of the third (global) millennium, are also the target of this zero-sum, honor-driven, imperialist version of monotheism: one God, one rule, one religion. The idea that “land for peace” is an option (much less the only true option), has progressives, Jewish and not, convinced that if only they cram this solution down Israel’s throat (for its own good of course, à la J-Street), they’ll solve the problem. They seem oblivious to the possibility that such a solution only pours oil on the Jihadi fire.
The alternative perspective, however, by considering real causes, opens up new thinking and new solutions. This means viewing the specific conflict not, as the Palestinians would insist, between the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David, but as the very term intifada means, the “shaking off” of a bug (Israel) by a great beast.
Who is the great beast? Obviously not the Palestinians. They may be that small part of the great beast’s skin that shudders off the bug. But they are proxies for a much greater and more powerful creature. In other words the conflict in Arab and Muslim eyes is not between mighty Israelis and poor Palestinians: if it were that alone, the humiliation of losing to the Jews might be less painful. It’s between Israel, the only state of the Jews in the world (and a democracy thriving in very difficult conditions), fighting off 22 Arab and 57 Muslim authoritarian states, and beyond them, a wide range of Jihadi and Da’wa non-state actors, all driven by a triumphalist, hard zero-sum vision of Islam, one that cannot tolerate the very existence of an infidel state in the midst of Dar al Islam. In short, it is a battle front in a war between Muslim theocratic, authoritarian political culture and the democratic West. And for the West not only not to understand that, but side with the triumphalist Palestinians (for whom no Jewish state is tolerable), against Israel, is more than foolish, it’s self-destructive.
In that framework, I’d like to suggest a Qur’an-inspired alternative, also an obvious solution, but one that addresses the heart of the dilemma, not only of the “local” Arab-Israeli conflict, but the global “Muslim-infidel” conflict, namely, the difficulty so many Muslims have in living peaceably with their neighbors, whether Muslim or infidel. The greatest challenge of this global generation – whether viewed as the first generation of the 21st century or the second of the 15th century) is to Muslims to effect major changes in the hard zero-sum way they have historically related to kuffar (infidels), and women, and anyone less powerful than they. Everyone’s life, on this increasingly connected planet at the beginning third millennium, depends on Muslims and infidels rising to this challenge.
In this sense, Israel is the Muslim’s Dreyfus Affair, their test of modernity. Can they shift moral paradigms and leave behind triumphalist religiosity? Can they live at peace with the rest of the world without trying to subject them? The test case, is how they get along with the Jews in their region, esp since these sovereign Jews have proven considerably more peaceful towards Arab Muslims (even the most belligerent), than these have even towards each other, mu
To those of Allah’s faithful who would like Islam to stand in a place of honor among the nations of a peaceful and peace-loving world, I make this suggestion that, I think, will set you on a fruitful path. In the Qur’an, Surah 107 explains to people that, at the Last Judgment, Allah will not smile on those who “would be seen (i.e., admired) yet refuse the small kindness.” And yet this is precisely what Arab and Muslims have done to the Jews for the last 66 years.
There are 1.x billion Muslims in the world, or about a fifth of the global population; there are 12 million, Jews, or about a fifth of a percent of the world population. Of the entire area occupied by Arab-speaking majorities in the world, greater Israel constitutes a fifth of a percent of that total. Given all that Islam shares with Judaism (dare one say, adopted from Judaism), do you Muslims really think that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will forgive you if they refuse us the “small kindness” of being allowed to prosper on this tiny sliver of land? For the sake of world peace – literally – do not refuse us this “small kindness.”