Editorial: THERE'S NO MORAL SIDE IN MID-EAST CONFLICT
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
We have watched events unfold at a quickening pace in the Middle East with a mixture of dread, anticipation and sorrow. Dread because we know that the ultimate resolution of this spiraling conflict could involve a regional war, an energy embargo or even the use of nuclear weapons; anticipation because we constantly await intervention on the side of peace -- divine, American, or multinational, or, God forbid, Iraqi, Iran= ian, Syrian, Libyan on the side of war, even as we also await the next bomb= ing, bulldozing, rocket attack or assassination in the region; and sorrow b= ecause we know it is so unnecessary. God must hate these people, I sometim= es think, because they do so many terrible things to one another in His nam= e.
As an editor, I've had State Dept. visitors from most nations inthe Midd= le East, including Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, the Palestinia= n Authority, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Tunisia. Meanwhile,over the yea= rs my newspaper has had several Israeli correspondents, including one who n= arrowly escaped death at the hands of a Palestinian mob. We've interviewed= Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and were credentialed by the Palestinian A= uthority.
Through it all, even with an excellent window on the Middle East throu= gh the eyes of my visitors and correspondents, I've remained bewildered by = the origin of the hatred that burns at the core of this confluence of energ= y, religion and power. Why do people of the same race reject their commona= lity in favor of their profoundly related faiths, and then find in those fa= iths grounds for killing without end?
My lifelong affinity and friendship for Jews and my American education h= as biased me in this dispute; I could no more take the side of Palestinian = bombers and the beasts of the Munich Olympics than I could editorialize on = behalf of Russian or Chinese spies. Yet I know that my duty to be objective= demands of me some expression of outrage at the terrible destruction Arabs= and Jews perpetrate on one another, all the while claiming a sort of relig= ious exemption from guilt in cold-blooded murder and justifying themselves = in the supposed word and will of God.
They make me sick, to be quite frank. I know that I am not much differ= ent in feeling so than most Americans, and perhaps most non-Semitic people = on Earth. The Israelis and the Palestinians also endanger, all by themselve= s, virtually all of human civilization.
When the Camp David process was last convened by President Clinton and q= uickly broke down, the failure of the diplomatic approach was felt only wee= ks and months later. But Palestinian rioting and Israeli retaliation began= in earnest when now-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a campaign stop at th= e disputed Temple Mount, and has gathered momentum ever since.
On Thursday of the week I write this, 15 Israelis were killed when a P= alestinian suicide bomber walked into a crowded pizzeria and exploded himse= lf; killing 15 and wounding 100; this Sunday morning three days later, anot= her Palestinian "martyr" has done something similar in Haifa, wounding 20.
These incidents used to come weeks, if not months apart; now, just a few= hours can separate the atrocities and the reprisals that follow.
Except = for the silence of the rest of the Middle East -- or at least its silence i= n the American press -- we would certainly be worried to distraction that a= nother war is imminent. We know that Israel would probably win, yet we kno= w, too, that the whole world will pay the price of victory in new terrorist= attacks, energy disruptions, military deployments and the loss of diplomat= ic contacts -- communication, that is -- with nations that become party to = such a war.
Whether merely hundreds or tens of thousands died in such a conflict, it= s tragedy would be all the greater because of the efforts of good men like = Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, of the sacrifices of Yitzhak Rabin and men = like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose government is deeply challenge= d by resurgent Islamic fundamentalism that could turn a progressive Egypt i= nto the next Iran.
Brave men have struggled and died with courage in the battle for peace i= n the Middle East, but the upward journey of their souls to the Heaven they= 'll have to share is profoundly betrayed by the violence, blood-lust and ob= stinacy of their successors.
Any posture of moral right and wrong is lost on this supposed religiou= s conflict. Now it is an Old Testament tale of an eye for an eye, a disput= e in which no good person -- and no journalist -- can take a side.