You are wondering how can warring parties with similar ethnic backgrounds diametrically opposed ideologies, stop hating and slaughtering each other? The cynical words of the American expatriate writer who lived in Paris in the early part of the 20th century continue to resonate: “There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.” – Gertrude Stein 1936
In a previous article on saving face I suggested that diplomats try switching lenses with their opposites in order to better understand one another. We in the West often say “put yourself in the other guy’s shoes,” which is really an oversimplification. Negotiators must live inside each other’s heads and hearts-with all the religious dogma and historical baggage such an endeavor entails. There are numerous descriptions of religious faiths. I chose the simplest I could find for three of them.
1. Islam: A monotheistic religion characterized by the acceptance of the principles of Muhammad, the last prophet of God and whose precepts are contained in the Koran. (The prophet Ibrahim, whose son is called Ismail, plays a key role in Islam.)
2. Judaism: The monotheistic religion of the Jews, tracing its origins to Abraham and having its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud. (Abraham, whose son is called Isaac, is the founding patriarch of the Israelites.)
3. Christianity: A monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as savior. According to Abraham, all nations would come to worship God through his offspring. (The life of Abraham is in the Book of Genesis as well as the Koran.)
Both Jews and Arabs are equally descended from Abraham/Ibrahim, but Abraham himself was neither “Jew” nor “Arab.” Nah, I won’t go there.
I never understood how so much bad stuff could evolve out of so much positive teaching. I do understand that it is impossible for adversaries to think rationally when they are blinded by the hatred and ignorance of “you do this to me, and I’ll do that to you.” That the Jews of Israel and their enemies in the Middle East have more in common culturally than most peoples from other places is mind blowing. But instead of squabbling over what was said and done by the wise men of antiquity, what if the present adversaries started from right now? What if they focused on what they have in common, rather than the tiny piece of soil for which they are dying? Notwithstanding the ravings of Iran’s present leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Hezbollah proxy, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, I propose this ludicrous what-if solution.
Suppose representatives of the warring parties were to sit down in a comfortable place where refreshments are served and the media are excluded (what’s said here stays here)? Egos, KalashniKovs and M-16s have been left at the door. Ancestors and old grudges have been left where they belong-to rest in peace. Non-partisan Tibetan monks have been appointed mediators to ensure that discussions don’t lapse into what each did to the other from two thousand years ago to the present.
Akin to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” we now have in place the most intelligent learned people from all sides whose negative memories have virtually been erased, and whose cooperation can be mutually beneficial. If this unrealistic and absurd scenario can start right now, there is the possibility of manifesting peace and prosperity in what used to be a vacationer’s paradise. The only prerequisite: the parties involved have an honest and determined desire to leave a better world for their progeny. A journalist recently quoted Golda Meier. “They have to love their children more than they hate their enemy.” The Dixie Chicks song about needing love brings to mind a passage from the Bhagavad-Gita (Hindu spiritual scriptures).
“Whosoever offers to Me with love a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water, I appear in person before that devotee of sinless mind and delightfully partake of that article offered by him with love.’
This article began with a question. Love, the basis of all spiritual scriptures, is the only answer.