Arabs and Israelis held hostage by a common enemy
Salom Now! And METalks are two experimental initiatives which sought to rewrite the script of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and give ordinary people a starring role in the quest for peace. Those involved experienced profound changes to their outlook and took the first steps towards forging a new, more inclusive narrative for the Middle East. However, such popular, grassroots action is held hostage by some common enemies: despair, hatred, antipathy and distrust.
Part I – War and elusive peace
Part II – Talking under fire
Part III – Dangerous liaisons
Part IV – Constructive ideas
Part V – Let’s talk about you and ME
Part VI – Terrorised by a common enemy
Part VII – Existential angst
Part VIII – Moving forward
War and elusive peace
For almost sixty years, Arabs and Israelis have, to varying degrees, considered one another to be enemies. In the last decade of the last millennium, things began to look up and a resolution seemed closer at hand. But gradually disillusionment and frustration set in at the crawling rate of progress. Eventually, old suspicions and fears regained the upper hand and the ‘peace process’ came to bear a striking resemblance to war, albeit a low-intensity one.
As if on some peculiar millennial spring mechanism, the whole rickety edifice came crashing down at the turn of the new century. In September 2000, Ariel Sharon entered the Al Aqsa mosque complex – the third holiest site in Islam – accompanied by hundreds of soldiers, sparking the second intifada.
Then the cycle of violence fell into a continuous loop: Israeli reoccupations and incursions, closures, ‘targeted assassinations’, the destruction of the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian suicide bombings and katyusha rocket attacks fed off each other incessantly.
The wall erected by Israel was an ugly, physical manifestation of the psychological divide dogging the conflict. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was an almost chance, but Israel’s failure to capitalise on this unilateral move with a bilateral dialogue lost the day.
Then the Palestinians, disillusioned at their dashed dreams of an independent homeland, frustrated by the misery of their daily existence, humiliated by the realities of occupation, angry at the corruption and ineptitude of their government helped the political arm of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, to win last year’s legislative elections in January 2006. And the conflict reached a new low of despondency and despair. Israel and the international community tightened the economic screws to punish the Palestinians’ democratic choice for an emaciated government, and Gaza spiralled towards civil war.
Then, Hizbullah ambushed an Israeli army unit and abducted a soldier and the Israeli military machine, which had been planning an attack against Lebanon for some months, pummelled its neighbour. The five-week war destroyed the country’s gleaming, new infrastructure, and the sceptre of civil war re-erupting still hangs over Lebanon. Ironically, just as Lebanon, with international help, was clearing the last of the landmines left by Israel during previous conflicts, Israel dropped millions of cluster submunitions which now contaminate houses, people’s properties and land.
Read the Salom Now! draft manifesto
Madrid II: towards a civil peace in the Middle East
November 2006 – Prompted by the dire situation in Gaza, Spain, France and Italy have floated an unexpected Middle East peace drive. This initiative will almost certainly join other similar aborted road maps and peace plans slowly decaying in the graveyard of international diplomacy. What the EU needs to do is to abandon the deadlocked political level and organise a high-profile Madrid II conference targeted at civil society to set in motion a ‘people’s peace process’. Read on
How I learned to start worrying and hate the bomb
November 2006 – With North Korea’s recent nuclear test and Iran’s suspected nuclear designs, Khaled Diab explains why he learned to start worrying and hate the bomb and suggests how the proliferation of nuclear weapons can best be arrested – and reversed. Read on
Give ‘salom’ a chance
September 2006 – The best lessons to draw from Lebanon and Gaza are that all sides lost the battle and the only way for everyone to win the war is through peaceful means. Politicians have shown a lack of imagination and willpower and so it is up to ordinary Arabs and Israelis to lead them down the path to salam/shalom (peace). It is high time to demand Salom Now! Read on
Reaching out for a people’s peace in the Middle East
Using a carrot and stick for peace
September 2006 – Given the fragile situation in Lebanon, the pledge by EU member states to provide troops to police the UN-backed ceasefire was well-timed. However, to avoid a fresh crisis from erupting, Europe will have to aid efforts to forge lasting peace in the Middle East. Read on
Mobilising the untapped power of Arab and Israeli peaceniks
Part I – Silent world
Part II – Peace begins at home
From complete failure to comprehensive solutions
July 2006 – Israel’s
massive onslaught against
February 2006 – It may be better for the EU to provide more carrots and fewer sticks for Hamas, writes Khaled Diab. Read on
Time to rethink the EU’s role in the Middle East
January 2005 – If Yasser Arafat’s death is to signify anything more than the symbolic start of a new era, the European Union must radically rethink its role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to persuade the two peoples to work towards a new dawn. Read on
Commission wants closer EU-Israeli ties
January 2005 – The European Commission and the
EU’s former envoy to the Middle East have both come out in favour of enhancing
economic and political ties with