Advocating "Peace" in the Middle East - by Mark D. Tooley

Qaddafi takes the podium to blast the West.


At the United Nations, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, appropriately enrobed like a villain from a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza, ranted for 90 minutes. He defended the Taliban and Somali pirates.  And he wants to fold Israel and the Palestinians into a single nation called "Isratine," for the West to pay reparations of $7.7 trillion dollars to the Third World, to enthrone Libya on the UN Security Council (currently the "terror council") while possilby moving the UN to Libya to forestall jetlag, and to re-investigate the murders of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. He also wondered whether swine flu was actually a biologcal weapon.

Only slightly less looney, but even more sinister, was Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who slyly assailed the "small minority" that supposedly controls global politics, economics and culture, i.e. the Jews.  He proclaimed his own theocratic tyranny as “one of the most democratic and progressive governments in the world.”  And he quoted the Koran a lot, while condemning "unbridled capitalism," whose destruction is impending.

Naturally, Qaddafi and Ahmadinejad were listened to politely, sometimes applauded, and afterwards surrounded by admirers.  Creditably, a number of delegations did quietly depart during the Iranian's anti-Jewish conspiracy diatribe.  But otherwise, the tyrants, responsible for so much repression and bloodshed, were accorded homage, reflecting the surreal nature of the United Nations, and the nastiness of the Middle East as a neighborhood.

All this is background for a newly released statement by ostensibly wise religious figures who are advocating peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  Their manifesto, organized by Churches for Middle East Peace, is oddly titled "Letter in Support of a Comprehensive Middle East Peace:  An American National Interest Imperative."  The oddness is the appeal to "American national interest," as many of the signers would typically be contempuous of such a concern, some berating the very notion as idolatrous and unsuited to high-minded religious and moral leaders.  But probably they thought themselves savvy for supposedly supplicating America's own interests.

The religious declaration of course in no way compares to the meandering paranoia of Kaddafi or Ahmadinejad.  It cooly appeals for an equitable settlement between two supposedly reasonable parties who are like equally well-intentioned neighbors enmeshed in a trival driveway dispute.  Here is their greatest weakness.  They forget that global politics in general, and the Middle East particularly, are often devoid of reason and enlightened self interest.  Instead, the Middle East is often governed by irrational passions and bottomless hatreds, fanned by radical Islam and brutal tyrannies.

"Now there is an opportunity for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and this is a moment that must be seized," enthused Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, a declaration signer.  "Now is the time to finally resolve this conflict through a negotiated resolution so that all God's children may live and thrive."

Why the signers believe that now is more propitious than any other time in 60 years for a final peace between Arabs and Israelis is not clear.  They approvingly cite President Obama's Middle East exertions, and many signers probably ascribe to Obama magical peacemaking powers that his dreaded predecessor lacked.   Other signers are affiliated with the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelicals for Social Action, Christianity Today, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and several Catholic bishops, along with Jewish peace groups and the Muslim Public Afffairs Council.

"We find common cause in supporting strong U.S. leadership to achieve a negotiated, sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - a fundamental American interest that crosses racial, ethnic and religious lines," the declaration opens.  "We support President Obama's determination to provide sustained, hands-on diplomatic leadership to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end through the creation of two viable, secure and independent states living side by side in peace and security."

The declaration asserts that most Israelis and Palestinians are "committed" to a two-state solution, but darkly warns that the supposed "window of opportunity is rapidly closing."  Why peace is still absent when both sides are ostensibly so committed to it goes unexplained.  The signers affirm "U.S. leadership," a notion with which many signers are not typically at ease, but in this case American "leadership" is required to pressure Israel, which makes it palatable.

Of course, the usual banalities are rehashed.  Israel has a "right to exist" while the Palestinians have a right to a "viable" state of their own.  UN resolutions must be upheld regarding refugees, borders, Jerusalem, and settlements, which presumably means that Israel must retreat to pre-1967 borders, abandon Jerusalem, shut down all Jewish homes outside those borders, and offer an unrestricted "right of return" to all Palestinian descendants of original inhabitants inside pre-1967 Israel.  Are the Palestinians to offer anything in return?

All these "difficult decisions" will be impossible without American leadership, the religious officials warn, without explaining how any of these supposed compromises will be very "difficult" for Palestinians.  They want a regional peace that includes Syria and Lebanon, without of course commenting on the stickiness of the Golan or Hezbollah.  They want American pressure to "end Israeli settlement growth and to halt Palestinian violence and incitement," as though building houses and killing innocents were morally equal, and assuming that the U.S. has significant influence with Hamas, Hezbollah and other Palestinians and Arabs who see Israel's extermination as a religious obligation.

"There are many who will attempt to block the path to peace," the religious officials prophesy.  "They may believe that the status quo favors their interests or that time is on their side."  They do not elaborate.  It is certainly true that many Palestinians, including "moderates," are unenthusiastic about negotiated peace and permanent co-existence because they not unreasonably assume that constant international pressure against Israel means time is on their side.

Declarations like this one from Churches for Middle East Peace, to the extent they are heeded at all, of course only embolden recalcitrant Palestinians and others who dream that the U.S. and others in the West will simply tire of Israel's democracy.  Cool-minded, left-leaning U.S. church officials, who see the world as an extended church synod or academic panel, are largely oblivious to the seething emotions that animate and sustain Kaddafi, Adhmadinjad, and other Middle East tyrants who unfortunately speak for mobs of millions.