The Common Good
November-December 2000

What Makes for Middle East Peace?

by Tom Getman | November-December 2000

Reaching Across the Barricades

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, declaring, "If only you had known...what would make for peace." When it comes to the Holy Land, odds are he still weeps in spite of the endless "peace" talks.

South African playwright Athol Fugard asserted in the '80s that "the central transaction of the universe is one person caring for and loving another." This is applicable in the Middle East, though with a tragic difference: It's largely absent between Israelis and Palestinians. While surveying the Gaza Palestinian refugee camps recently, Israeli Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin remarked that "the central transaction in Israel is one person not caring for another, not loving another."

The "way of love" Jesus offered is not limited to Christians. For example, the way personified by the courageous Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions is a model for all. These humanitarians illustrate the laying down of lives for friends as they stand in front of the guns and bulldozers and cry out daily for justice as innocent people have their homes (and life savings) destroyed.

The things that make for peace include those Israelis who work for a future that gives Palestinians the right to live without fear, and those Palestinians who work for a reduction of the fear that grips Israelis. This requires a new paradigm of compassion and forgiveness where peace-seekers no longer see themselves as victims and perpetrators.

What will a process that builds genuine peace look like? Some of the necessary steps include:

  • Palestinians will hear the cry of Israelis to live securely within their recognized state and to be healed of their ancient fears and anger;
  • Israelis will heed the Palestinians who have lost their villages and homes, many of whom are living in refugee camps without access to Jerusalem;
  • Refugees will be given "right to return" home and compensation for their losses, and ongoing demolitions, work restrictions, and water inequity will cease; and
  • Pilgrim and government visitors to Israel and Palestine will recognize and alleviate stark human needs while insisting on adherence to UN resolutions and rule of law in protecting people against rights violations in an apartheid system.

"Peace will mean victims become forgivers, and perpetrators of crimes become confessors," said Paul Beran of World Vision Jerusalem. "Responsibility for actions toward others will prevail, and the order of the day will be holding to the sanctity of all human life." The world community must find avenues of support for those who risk reaching across the barricades to build a loving justice.

TOM GETMAN, former legislative director to Sen. Mark Hatfield, is director of World Vision Palestine.

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