Peace Without Religion

Salman Masalha

Peace Without Religion

Nationalism is a disease that has infected mankind ever since it gathered in tribes, color and races. And when mankind invented monotheism, the situation became even worse.

It is not easy to recover from this disease. It is only possible to contain it in the meantime by allowing “national pride” to every nation until it reaches the obvious conclusion: Even though it is a “proud nation,” it is just another social animal in need of the company of other nations.

The continuous wallowing in the “religious-historical” mud in search of justifications for existence is what is driving both peoples in this country out of their minds and launching them beyond the force of historical gravity. There, in the outer space of history they will meet many dead souls.

Nevertheless, there is a way to end the conflict in this all too promised and dangerous land that has known so much blood. In order to arrive at a solution, the first principle guiding the leaders of the tribes, known here as peoples, should be the need to bring both of them back into history. Both the Israeli side and the Palestinian side need courageous and honest leaderships. There is a need for good intentions, not winks and rolling eyes. However, good intentions are not yet evident on either side -- neither among the Jews nor among the Arabs.

To fulfill this vision, it is necessary to clear the landmines of belief in historical right, religious faith and emotional ties from sites and places. To this end, it is necessary to eliminate religion in all its forms and with all its troubles from the equation of the political solution.

The Green Line (pre-Six Day War border) must be established as the border between the two states and declared to be the line demarcating the end of the political demands from the state of Israel on the one hand and the state of Palestine on the other. This end to demands would not be between individual Jews and Palestinians, but rather an agreement between political entities operating in history in the framework of international law. The end of demands would not mean individual Jews do not have a spiritual connection to parts of the land that will be in the state of Palestine, nor would it mean Palestinians as individuals do not have an emotional connection to parts of the land that will be in the state of Israel.

A Jew who prefers to remain beyond the border in the territories of the state of Palestine will be a Palestinian in every respect. A Palestinian in Israel will be an Israeli in every respect. Palestine will be an Arab, not a Muslim, country and Israel will be a Hebrew, not a Jewish country. Both Arabic and Hebrew will be official languages in each of the countries, with all that entails. The two languages will be official not in the context of “know your enemy” and not only as an act of good will, but rather from within the understanding that both these languages are important for knowing, understanding and loving the land.

Those who are amusing themselves with dreams of solutions of reconciliation commissions and a single state as in South Africa have completely misunderstood the difference between the two cases. In South Africa, for the most part both Blacks and Whites are Christians and thus have been able to meet and reconcile under the roof of their shared faith. Here, we have no such church that will accommodate both Jews and Arabs. Therefore in this land reconciliation can happen only outside the places of worship. Religions, and especially the monotheistic religions, do not tend to reconcile; they would lose the basis for their existence if they did.

The handwriting is on the wall, in huge capital letters. The continued occupation and the wallowing in religious-historical mud are drowning both tribes in blood. This will not lead to a South African solution, but rather to a Balkan situation, if not worse.

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Published in Hebrew: Haaretz, March 31, 2010


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