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Punjabi Manch    10th Issue 

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Editorial :

Options for Peace in The Middle East

In the last issue, we discussed the Kashmir Problem and emphasized that the Kashmir problem is a political problem and does need a political solution to achieve a lasting and durable peace in the region.

In this issue, we have decided to discuss the Palestinian Problem as it is on everybody's mind these days.   Here are some of the options:

Option 1. Complete destruction of the state of Israel as some radical Islamic groups want.  This is only a wishful thinking and is not going to happen.  Moreover, it will not provide peace because then the Jews will launch their own armed struggle.

Option 2.  Complete suppression of the Palestinian struggle as some hardliners on the Israeli side suggest.  This may happen to a large degree but does not provide a permanent framework for peace as the problem is not a law and order problem.

Option 3. The majority of the Palestinian population decides through a referendum to stay within Israel.  Such a scenario is possible but highly unlikely.  Moreover, this is no guarantee to stop the violence.

Option 4. The creation of a Palestinian state so that both Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace plus the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab countries as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has proposed. This is by far the best option even though this may not deliver permanent peace to the region either.

Status Quo is only in the best interests of Saddam Husseins and Bin Ladins of the world.  It is also good for some other terrorist groups but not in the best interests of the peace loving people of the world.  We support the idea that the Palestinian People should have a state of their own if they do not want to live in a single country with the Israelis.

Having stated our own preference, now let us discuss various options.  Most of us have this wishful thinking that creating a Palestinian state may bring permanent peace to the region.  There is no question that it will satisfy and pacify large segments of the Palestinian and the Arab population but it is no guarantee for a complete peace in the region.  We do have the example of India and Pakistan in front of us.  When the sovereign state of Pakistan was carved out of India, most people at the time thought that it would bring peace to that region but it did not happen.  India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the creation of Pakistan and the looming fourth war may turn out to be a nuclear catastrophe for the whole world.  One may argue that India and Pakistan have some unresolved disputes including the Kashmir problem.  Let us say the Kashmir problem is solved today, will that solve all other problems and old animosities between the Hindus and the Muslims in the region.  The clear answer is 'it is highly unlikely" as we have observed during the recent communal riots in India.  If this is the case with India and Pakistan then what is the guarantee that the case of Israel and Palestine will be any different.  However, I am not looking for an excuse by using the India Pakistan example to deny the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  I am just being realistic.  In my view the complete and permanent peace in separate regions of the world can not be achieved until we achieve a complete but elusive World Peace in a far distant future on this planet but that is a separate topic and we will discuss it in another issue.

I want to caution the over optimistic ones that even the creation of Palestine may not bring permanent peace to the Middle East and especially to that particular region.  We should keep the India-Pakistan example in mind especially because there are forces in the Middle East which do not want to stop short of the total destruction of the state of Israel.  It was not too long ago when this was the official goal of even the PLO.  It was part of the PLO charter.  Even though the PLO lead by Mr. Arafat removed that clause from its charter but who knows if it was just a tactical move within a larger strategy.  Moreover, there are still forces in the region who are openly committed to the total destruction of the state of Israel.  It means, even after the creation of Palestine, those forces will continue to work toward that goal.  Nobody can say with certainty that what we see today in the case of India-Pakistan, we won't see in the case of Israel-Palestine.  It is quite possible that some day the nuclear forces of Israel and Palestine will be facing each other bringing the entire world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.  This is one of the reasons, the hardliners within Israel do not favor the creation of Palestine the other reason being that they too view the occupied territories as their own ancestral lands like the Palestinians do.  So the options for a complete and lasting peace in that region not to mention the other regions of the Middle East are not that rosy.  Moreover, the despots like Saddam will always be happy to use the Palestinian people as pawns to deflect attention from their own misdeeds and domestic problems as they are doing right now.  

To sum it all up, I must state that we do recognize that the Palestinian problem can not be solved by military force alone as it is a political problem.  We do recognize the legitimacy of the struggle of the Palestinian people but there is no justification for homicidal bombings in any freedom struggle to kill innocent civilians.  There is no dictionary in the world that recognizes such murders as legitimate Guerilla actions in a freedom struggle.  No true religion can honor such mass murderers of innocent civilians as martyrs.  Such actions if not stopped may actually backfire and push back the achievement of the legitimate Palestinian goals by decades if not centuries.  Therefore, the true, bold and honest Palestinian intellectuals should condemn such actions not only for the sake of humanity but for the sake of the Palestinian people as well.  Remember, such actions destroyed the Sikh Struggle in the state of Punjab when some gangs masquerading as Sikh Freedom Fighters started to attack the innocent Hindu civilians.  Keep in mind, such terrorist activities did not help the Kashmiri people and will not help the Palestinian people either.  Pakistani President Musharraf, a Muslim says that he is very much worried about the image of the Muslims in the world because of such activities and he is right.

Let us remember that there are forces under Bin Ladin's command not only in the region but in the entire world who are looking for excuses to continue to fuel their war of civilizations so that radical Islam can rule the World.  Such radical ideology can be defeated with a combination of factors including building a coalition with peace and justice loving, rational and honest Muslim leaders.  The tenth Guru of the Sikhs namely Guru Gobind Singh did it very successfully in India by putting such a strategy into place.  He was able to bring some prominent and honest Muslims to his side some of whom sacrificed their sons fighting on the side of this warrior Guru while others helped him out through his most difficult days of the struggle against the tyrant Muslim rulers of India at the time. 

Remember, the rise of the Sikhs and the fall of Radical Islam moved side by side in India by employing such a strategy.  Our President George W. Bush has adopted a similar course of action and is on the right track.  His vision to achieve peace in the Middle East coupled with his fight against Terrorism worldwide is a very difficult balancing act and will bring its dividends one day.


Yours Truly,

Amrik S. Kang, Editor                    Puyallup, Washington,  USA     April 25, 2002