In search of an Abrahamic dialogue (part 3 of 3)

It’s not our intention to reject universal cross-cultural dialogue in our quest to get resolution to the ongoing Middle East conflicts. It would be foolish not to recognize the areas of commonality between peoples throughout the world that transcend their diversity; not least among them, the valuing of human life and the fair treatment of others.

Our search, however, is for a narrower, more specific cross-cultural dialogue, one that can take place within the Abrahamic family where the areas of commonality should be greater in both number and depth. By concentrating in Abrahamic familial problems in that dialogue, one would anticipate progress in strengthening existing bonds between hostile factions.

There seems to be worldwide consensus, at least as portrayed in the international press, that the Israel-Palestine situation is not just an ongoing conflict restricted to the Holy Land, but the source for all conflict in the Middle East… and far beyond; six time zones East to the Philippine Sea, and three West to the Atlantic Ocean. We have escalated a secular Arab-Israeli conflict into a religious fraternal confrontation of Abrahamic peoples, with Jerusalem as center stage.

No matter the clarity in which both Jews and Palestinians view their causes or the enormous underlying differences which exist in those views, dialogue can and will bring reconciliation if we set it as an Abrahamic goal. People with such commonality and similar traits deserve to share peace… especially in a land that welcomed so many prophets sent as “messengers of peace.”

With such a long tradition of coexistence and tolerance in the Holy Land prior to 1948, why couldn’t dialogue help build a path to get back to that tradition? We are convinced that it can. But persuasion and conflict transformation can only take place when the faucet of communication is turned on and the dialogue-flow begins.

Only dialogue will be able to stop the fanning of the flames of protest that invite suicide, self-immolation and martyrdom of those who are in total despair, refuse to use force, or feel thrown against a compassionless, overwhelming force. And only dialogue can ameliorate the strong adversarial culture brought into any negotiation. After all, we need to recognize that dialogue in magna-conflicts is normally sired by necessity but, oftentimes, mothered by despair.

No better time than the present, on the eve of the Palestinian elections, to jumpstart this Abrahamic dialogue. As part of that dialogue, perhaps discuss the possibility of utilizing a skilled, credible third party to intervene in the process… and offer transformative mediation. A credible third party… not the United States ! Why that?

Two months after nine-eleven former President Bill Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University [“A struggle for the soul of the 21st century”] where he not only recounted the failure of terrorism throughout history, but also pointed out that “offense always wins first”… as if preparing the groundwork for the actions that President Bush would take. It doesn’t seem to matter whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. Bottom line: Washington lacks Good Offices due to insurmountable political conflict-of-interest.

In that same speech, Clinton brought forth how MAD (mutual assured destruction) had been the only deterrent to nuclear war, but failed to link such no-option option to other existing conflicts in this new century. Unquestionably, the fear of MAD had a sobering effect on the two military superpowers. Yet, the point of despair was never reached by either since the squabbles had to do with matters of political or military influence, and not a frontal assault on their homelands. Had that point been reached, the world might have been blown to smithereens. This view of the world, and people, where offense is thought as always winning first, does not advocate true dialogue, only coercive diplomacy. It certainly does not present a feasible basis for resolving conflict among two factions where there is great disparity in economic and/or military strength.

Perhaps a different kind of MAD could bring stability and peace to the Middle East . No… not providing Palestinians with a dozen nuclear weapons, thus entitling them to “mutual assured destruction” with Israel . Rather… providing forums for grassroots communication from all quarters of the Abrahamic world to secure a continuing “mutual acknowledged dialogue,” one indissoluble under any circumstance.

As for a possible third party to the dialogue, and later to the negotiation, perhaps the EU Good Offices could bring the credibility to act with fairness, impartiality and commitment to peace. An Islamic society with a secular government, Turkey, has just bet its future on the EU this past week.

Is it so difficult to accept the theorem that the best way to deal with fratricidal conflict is by engaging in fraternal dialogue?