No secular conflict – A tale of honor and religion in the Middle East

The Kerry plan for peace is being made public anytime soon. Some hate it already, some adore it. But whatever the announcements might be, it’s safe to bet they won’t fit because they were made with the wrong tools. Secular tools.

They say secular is rational. Well, in this case, this conflict is not rational because it is not secular. It is, on the contrary, deeply cultural, religious and identity-based.

Secular Jews generally explain the foundation of the State of Israel by the need of Jews to protect themselves after a long history of persecution and anti-Semitism in Diaspora. The Jewish State, they say, is first and foremost the Jewish Refuge. This is usually a Zionist argument that the world likes because it does not say where this Refuge is supposed to be and therefore does not oppose giving Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians.

Still, no one can ignore the security problems an Israeli withdrawal would create. “No technology in the world will help us, we need to be on the ground”, recently said Defense minister Moshe Aayalon regarding the American plan for the Jordan Valley. “Look what happened in Gaza”. Yet, the Left – and the whole wide world with it – seems convinced that this time an Israeli retreat can be successful because Fatah is no Hamas. Because, they believe, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority have officially renounced terrorism and are now driven by freedom and economic interests for the Palestinian people.

But if this is really the case, how come PA education is not even remotely preparing its youth for peace? How come the Palestinian education system, books and media are still full with hatred and incitement against Jews?

Faced with this legitimate question, the West generally escapes by comparing it to Jewish racism against Arabs (which is ridiculous) and with the typically western idea that once economic progress is achieved, this “primitive” hatred will magically evaporate. An idea, one should say, that is also believed by many seculars and leftists, here in Israel. But, again, is that so?

While of course the economic interest plays a big part, it has never been the real thing for Palestinians. This was proven again a few weeks ago when Israeli Arabs reacted to Avidgor Liberman’s own version of land swap by declaring they would never leave Israel for a Palestinian state. The reason to those comments is obvious: its economical. And yet, even though this would be the most rational thing to do, we never hear the same Israeli Arabs call for their “Palestinians brothers” to stop attacking Israel and start welcoming a state which brings prosperity to the region with open arms.

Rationally, the Palestinians should have agreed to numerous proposals in the past.  Why haven’t they? Because this conflict has nothing to do with rational arguments. It has, on the contrary,   everything to do with cultural and religious beliefs. First of all, the Arab conflict resolution, the concept of “Sulha”, does not look for a “win-win” settling that satisfies both sides’ interests. Rather, it seeks to restore the honor of the offended in order to prevent revenge and maintain social stability. The Palestinians, who consider themselves offended by the “Naqba” of 1948, look first and foremost to restore their honor back. Following the codes of the traditional Sulha, they have to be begged for that.  Something that we, Israelis, attacked over and over during the past 65 years, are of course not prepared to do.

And even if we were, we would still be Jews, aka “Dhimmis” in the Islamic law. Dhimmis is the status reserved for “people of the book”, Christians and Jews, who under Sharia are not forced to convert but must be completely subjected and dominated by Muslims on Dar-el Islam (the house of Islam, wherever Islam has or is still ruling).  Also called “protected status”, the Dhimma regime means that even if they are sometimes allowed to occupy high positions, Jews and Christians – peoples who first received “the message of Allah” but “falsified” it – will always remain second-zone citizens under Muslim rule.  It also means that Jewish sovereignty on a land that used to be “Dar-el Islam” is intolerable and cannot be.

We need to remember all those things while waiting for the American announcements.  We also need to remember that, while the world seems to believe the most urgent matter on Earth is to sign a peace agreement in the next 2 months, perhaps the real emergency is to eradicate once and for all the idea that this conflict can be solved with secular and western conceptions.

About the Author
Myriam is living in Tel-Aviv. Former Chief Editor of the Jerusalem Post- French Edition, she is now a columnist on I24news TV and a free-lance journalist. She is a fellow at the Jewish Statesmanship Center.