Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Logic of Peace; Illogic of Peace

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Logic of Peace; Illogic of Peace

Article excerpt

THE Middle East peace talks have been interrupted as a consequence of Baruch Goldstein's automatic-weapon assault on worshipers inside a Hebron mosque last week. That the Palestinian negotiators should call a break, even if their eventual interest is to carry forward with the talks, should come as no surprise. An emotional adjustment, a grieving, at the least is called for, as is an assessment of the relative gains and losses for both sides. The Israeli government has called for "tough measures" against militant Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including detainment and weapons seizures. But Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, quickly dismissed the official Israeli steps as "hollow."

Let's say at the outset that the talks should proceed as soon as possible. The logic of peace - based on justice, economics, and regional cooperation - demands it. But an "illogic of peace" competes for dominance in the Middle East as well. Frequently out of some quasi-religious, tribal, or nationalistic fervor, individuals or groups commit atrocities at holy sites - as if in the flowing of blood some transformation will occur that will deliver their people. Amos Elon writes about the psychology of such acts in his remarkable book, "Jerusalem: City of Mirrors." Such acts cannot be ascribed simply to terrorism, which implies a politically motivated doctrine of systematic violence; otherwise regular citizens at times have perpetrated acts of vigilante terror on holy sites, talking openly about what they have done and even expecting legal acquittal and public thanks.

The region, focus of three major religions and ethnic homeland to two competing peoples, has suffered from a historical schizophrenia. Many peoples beyond those occupying its land project onto it their own sense of origin and destiny. Add to this the recent history alone - holocaust for the Jews in Europe, resistance to the British mandate, various wars including Israel's ignominious attack on Lebanon: It is a lot for the sanity of so small a territory to bear.

Israel's military rule in the West Bank and Gaza lands was established nearly three decades ago after a war against its Arab neighbors, a war it says it did not want. …

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