Israel and Palestine: Can there be Peace?
- Kamran Mofid
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Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat watch as Shimon Peres signs the Oslo peace accords at the White House in September 1993. Photograph: J David Ake/AFP/Getty Images
This article is based on a revised invited plenary speech I delivered at an international conference at the University of Haifa, Israel, 28-31 January 1997. The Conference was to honour the Oslo Accords and to commemorate the life and work of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was so tragically assassinated on 4 November 1995.
I remember the Conference and my time at Haifa very fondly, especially when I was invited to meet with Mrs. Leah Rabin and Prime Minister Shimon Peres. These moments I will remember affectionately.
There can be no Peace without Economic Justice in Palestine
by Kamran Mofid, Ph.D. (ECON)
(N.B. It is with horror and absolute sadness that we are all witnessing the children of Abraham tearing each other apart. This is an untold tragedy with immeasurable tragic consequences for all. Many sages and saints have reminded us that war is not the answer. There will be no winners, only losers. Bombs, missiles, rockets, and drones; destruction of bridges, buildings, roads, houses, schools and hospitals, killing of the innocents on all sides, will not bring peace. If these actions were instruments of peacebuilding and peacemaking, then, by now we should have created the paradise on earth, given the number of wars and the consequent destruction that we have had in the past. Indeed, the twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history, with holocausts, genocides, ethnic cleansings, two world wars, and hundreds of inter and intra-national wars.
Now, if war is not the answer, then what is? As it has been noted by many the practical instruments of negotiation, aid, and development assistance, economics with justice, the psychological instrument of respect for human dignity and equality, and the political instruments of human, judicial, and civil rights provide a more effective, just, and moral answer. As long as there is no compassion and no justice in international relations and in human relationships, there will be more horrific wars, and no amount of force and the usage of weapons of mass destruction can bring about a peaceful world. Peace starts with us, its true force is in our hearts, and its real instrument is called love, justice and compassion; our journey for the common good, if you will. Lucky are those who discover and understand this and pity those who fool themselves thinking otherwise.
Israel and Palestine: Can there be Peace?
(An earlier version of this paper was first published on 9 December 2006)*
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Lest we forget: We must always be guided by values and wisdom
The Children of Adam
Are limbs of one another,
In terms of Creation,
They're of the self-same Essence.
(Sa'adi, the Persian poet. His words are inscribed at the entrance to the United Nations Secretariat in New York)
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
To see the world with global eyes;
To love the world with a global heart;
To understand the world with a global mind;
To merge with the world with a global spirit.
(Robert Muller, former UN Under-Secretary General)
As recent as last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and urged them to step up their efforts to find a lasting peace.
“Everybody recognizes that the creation of a viable, independent democratic Palestinian state that can live side by side in peace with Israel would be not just a remarkable achievement but a just achievement,” Rice said in a news conference with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank town of Jericho.
Rice also held talks with the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem, in which she expressed her appreciation for remarks Olmert had made earlier in the week as an “important step that was likely to both contribute towards calm and advance the peace processes in the region”. Moreover, in the last few days the Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq has recommended attempts at a revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
As everybody knows, we have been here many times before: so many peace processes and so many failures with tragic consequences for all. This is so, because those promoting such proposals, it seems, have failed to acknowledge that, the key which will open the door to peace is called justice. Furthermore, there will be no peace between Israel and Palestine, and no true security for Israel, so long as there exists such a level of poverty, inhumanity and economic injustice in Palestine. The words and sentiments of the UN Report on Palestine which was released yesterday (7/12/06) rings true, a gist of it can be noted below.
UN aid agencies launched their biggest appeal for funding to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, asking for $453m for next year and warning of a weakening in the Palestinians’ ability to govern.
Senior UN aid officials in Jerusalem said there were clear signs of a worsening economic crisis. Around two thirds of the 4 million Palestinian population were living below the poverty line and half the population were “food-insecure”, meaning they could not afford the basic foods to meet dietary needs. Unemployment was running as high as 40% in the Gaza strip and at around 25% in the West Bank. Kevin Kennedy, the UN humanitarian coordinator, said the crisis was not only an economic collapse but was also tied to an increase in closures and access restrictions imposed on the occupied territories by the Israeli government and to continued conflict, internal political fighting and a breakdown of law and order.
The UN has warned there has been a gradual weakening of the Palestinian Authority. The crisis results from an international boycott imposed in March after the Hamas militant movement won elections and formed a government. Israel has since withheld $60m a month of tax revenues that should go to the Palestinians.
Although some of that money has been spent paying the Palestinian bills of Israeli electricity and water companies, the Israelis have now withheld nearly $600m. The international community, under the Quartet of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, has also halted direct funding to the Palestinian government, saying it must recognise Israel, halt violence and accept past peace agreements. The freeze means salaries for 160,000 government workers have largely gone unpaid. “Obviously the longer the current situation continues, with further deterioration, a lack of salaries, people on strike, continued military conflict on both sides, [the] further [the] weakening of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions”, the Report notes.
In the past year, the UN observes, there had been a 40% increase in the number of barriers and checkpoints across the West Bank. In addition, there have been continued closures of the crossing points for people and goods out of Gaza. Under an agreement negotiated last November, Israel was to open up the main crossing points to relieve the economic crisis. But the crossings have in effect been closed, with Israel citing security concerns.
How Can a Lasting Peace Process Move Forward?
Sound economic policies, effectively implemented, are essential elements of the peace process in the Middle East. “Economics of Hope”, leading to envisioning, enabling and empowering the disposed and marginalised people of Palestine is the most effective path to a non-violent resolution of conflict in the Middle East and a long-term security for Israel. Without economic empowerment, leading to tangible economic wellbeing and prosperity, all forms of peace proposals and dialogue, although valuable, will remain ineffective in realising their overall objective: peace, security and harmonious living, side-by-side.
Hopelessness Leads to Violence
Experience in the Holy Land has shown that hopelessness leads to violence, but the prospect for empowerment leads to peaceful coexistence. Calm and relative cooperation prevailed after the successful negotiations at Camp David over 25 years ago, after the Oslo agreement of 1993, and during and after the Palestinian elections of 1996. These were times when moderate leadership and sound judgment prevailed, and there was hope that further progress would be made. Tragically, radical and violent actions subsequently intruded, exemplified by the assassinations of peacemakers President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the unconscionable suicide bombings, missile and bomb attacks, destruction of homes, and other acts of violence that continue today.
What is Needed Now: Peace through Economic Development
The Palestinians are today the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world. According to the 2004 World Bank report, they are suffering “the worst economic depression in modern history”: 75% are impoverished, and unemployment rates are 60-70% in Gaza and 30-40% in the West Bank. Without external support, the Palestinian infrastructure and basic services would not survive. Agriculture, trade and tourism all in ruin, creating hopelessness, helplessness, anger and frustration- a perfect environment for enemies of peace, reconciliation, dialogue, security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
The Path to Peace, Reconstruction, Security and Prosperity: Challenges and Opportunities
It is increasingly apparent that the problem of economics is not just a technical problem for experts but is above all a moral and spiritual issue. The world is longing for a system that would be both participatory and socially just; a system with a functioning economy that would be at the same time sensitive to theological consequences. We must deal with the issue of economic empowerment that has a religious tract. Through our indifference and complicity, the integrity of our faith is in jeopardy.
People everywhere, given a chance prefer to be compassionate, spiritual and caring. They want to be able to practice their religions freely. More and more, they also want to see that their religious values have a bearing on their economic systems and structures. This philosophy is nowhere stronger than in the Middle-East, whose people by and large are very spiritual, religious, hospitable, informed and cultural. They largely do not reject the pivotal values behind the market economy. Indeed, the Middle-East region throughout the history has been the major area of, and for, business, trade and commerce. They do know that, under the right conditions, a market economy can drive development, decrease poverty, encourage productivity, and reward entrepreneurial energy.
The children of Abraham in the Middle East know well that religion is a major factor in the formation of social networks and trust. In addition, the impetus for focusing specifically on spiritual/theological economics draws on the growing recognition in economics and other social sciences that religion is not epiphenomenal, nor is it fading from public significance in the 21st century and the importance to social/economic dynamics of human economic intangibles. Recent developments in the social sciences suggest a growing openness to nonmaterial factors, such as the radius of trust, behavioural norms, and religion as having profound economic, political, and social consequences.
Spiritual Economics, Reconstruction and Development in West Bank and Gaza
Palestinian Economy: An Overview
The Palestinian economy is made up from the following industries:
Construction – this is one of the biggest sectors of the Palestinian economy. Demand for his sector is from the rapidly growing population, displaced persons still living in squalid camp conditions and reconstruction of war damaged property.
Agriculture is one of the biggest exporting sectors of the Palestinian economy and is also a major source of employment. Demand for this sector is expected to rise due to cost advantage enjoyed by this sector and growing demand from the local population.
Tourism is one of the major sources of foreign currency income for the Palestinian economy. With such world famous sites as Bethlehem and Jericho under its jurisdiction this sector is expected to contribute significantly to the economy of the Palestinian economy for the foreseeable future– as long as there is an absence of armed conflict.
Light manufacturing is one of the growing areas of the Palestinian economy. Sources of demand for this sector are from the local Palestinian population and also Israel where Palestinian products enjoy a strong cost advantage against their Israeli competitors.
The Palestinian Authority’s economy is largely dependent on the Israeli economy as most points of import and export are controlled by Israel’s security forces. Furthermore, Israel’s close proximity to the Palestinian market makes Israel one of its biggest trade partners. Subsequently the economic fortunes of the Palestinian economy are closely tied to the peace process. In times of calm between the two sides the Palestinian economy has witnessed marked improvements, especially in areas such as construction and tourism. Periods of peace have also been marked by higher rates of investment in its economy and lower rates of unemployment. In times of conflict such as the recent Intifada the reverse has proven true where as a result the Palestinian economy entered a period of major recession and even almost collapse.
Economic Forum for the Common Good: Areas of Concentration
As part of its vision to empower people to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Middle East, The Economic Forum of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative- proposes the following sectors as the initial areas of concentration:
Faith and Economic life: The Economics of Reconciliation and PeaceBuilding.
Beyond Corruption and Informal Economy: Good Governance and Economic Development for Peace.
Tourism for Peace: Unlike many other regions in the world today, the Middle East has become synonymous with conflict. Images of wanton destruction and meaningless violence are commonplace. But there are other facets to the Middle East that are rarely seen, and the region’s history provides great examples of beauty, tranquillity, sacredness and peace. As children of Abraham, we should be concerned about ways of bringing our communities together for the good of all.
Agriculture for Peace: To support peace through policies leading to agricultural development increased employment and economic growth.
Business for Peace: It is our understanding that business is the dominant institution in society today and the one most capable of responding to rapid change. As such, business must adopt a new tradition of responsibility for the whole. It must do this by defining business interests within the wider perspective of society in order to create a positive and sustainable future.
Youth Leadership programme for Peace: Today’s youth in Palestine will one day lead their communities in various capacities, build their economies, and make decisions that will have an impact in the lives of future generations. A series of programmes on conflict resolution, good governance, peace making and economic development will be initiated.
Economic and trade relation between the West Bank and Gaza.
Economic and trade relation between Israel and Palestine.
Economic and trade relation between Palestine and Egypt.
It is expected that the economics of hope for the common good, will lead to the creation of an environment which will foster a better understanding between the Israeli and Palestinian people, where many other equally important issues dividing them- such as the unity government in Palestine, the recognition of Israel and the acceptance of the past peace agreements by Hamas, etc- can be addressed and resolved. A hopeful Palestinian population, who enjoys the fruits of a just economy and trade relation with its neighbour, surely is better equipped to talk with Israel on the issues of security than other wise.
Prof. Kamran Mofid is Founder of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI- founded at an international conference in Oxford in 2002), Co-founder/Editor, GCGI Journal, which is hosted at Wilmington College, Ohio, USA, a Patron of the Human Values Foundation, a Founding member of World Dignity University, and a TFF Associate. Mofid received his BA and MA in economics from the University of Windsor, Canada in 1980 and 1982 respectively. In 1986 he was awarded his doctorate in economics from the University of Birmingham, UK. In 2001 he received a Certificate in Education in Pastoral Studies at Plater College, Oxford. Mofid's work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on Economics, Business, Politics, International Relations, Theology, Culture, Ecology, Ethics and Spirituality. Mofid's writings have appeared in leading scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers. His books include Development Planning in Iran: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic , The Economic Consequences of the Gulf war, Globalisation for the Common Good, Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Globalisation for the Common Good , Promoting the Common Good (with Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, 2005), and A non-Violent Path to Conflict Resolution and Peace Building (Co-authored, 2008). Prof. Mofid was the instigator, Co-founder and the Associate Director (1996-1999) of the Centre for the Study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Coventry University.
*See the original article:
What the Middle East Today Can Learn from the Story of Coventry?
Photo: Anne Mofid