by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
August 13, 2001
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, Iranian, Syrian, Libyan on the side of war, even as we also await the next bombing, bulldozing, rocket attack or assassination in the region; and sorrow because we know it is so unnecessary. God must hate these people, I sometimes think, because they do so many terrible things to one another in His name.
As an editor, I've had State Dept. visitors from most nations inthe Middle East, including Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Tunisia. Meanwhile,over the years my newspaper has had several Israeli correspondents, including one who narrowly escaped death at the hands of a Palestinian mob. We've interviewed Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and were credentialed by the Palestinian Authority.
Through it all, even with an excellent window on the Middle East through 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 energy, religion and power. Why do people of the same race reject their commonality in favor of their profoundly related faiths, and then find in those faiths grounds for killing without end?
My lifelong affinity and friendship for Jews and my American education has 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 religious 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 different in feeling so than most Americans, and perhaps most non-Semitic people on Earth. The Israelis and the Palestinians also endanger, all by themselves, virtually all of human civilization.
When the Camp David process was last convened by President Clinton and quickly broke down, the failure of the diplomatic approach was felt only weeks and months later. But Palestinian rioting and Israeli retaliation began in earnest when now-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a campaign stop at the disputed Temple Mount, and has gathered momentum ever since.
On Thursday of the week I write this, 15 Israelis were killed when a Palestinian suicide bomber walked into a crowded pizzeria and exploded himself; killing 15 and wounding 100; this Sunday morning three days later, another 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 in the American press -- we would certainly be worried to distraction that another war is imminent. We know that Israel would probably win, yet we know, too, that the whole world will pay the price of victory in new terrorist attacks, energy disruptions, military deployments and the loss of diplomatic 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, its 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 challenged by resurgent Islamic fundamentalism that could turn a progressive Egypt into the next Iran.
Brave men have struggled and died with courage in the battle for peace in 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 obstinacy of their successors.
Any posture of moral right and wrong is lost on this supposed religious conflict. Now it is an Old Testament tale of an eye for an eye, a dispute in which no good person -- and no journalist -- can take a side.