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Who does this war serve?

Sunday 23 July 2006, by Abdessalam Najjar

All the versions of this article: [English] [עברית]

translated by Howard Shippin
First appeared July 20, 2006 in Hebrew at the website “On the Left Side”

Human nature relates to situations of conflict as unnatural. We tend to develop various behavioral mechanisms to help us deal with the unnatural situation. There are simple and easy mechanisms, and there are complex and difficult ones.

In the simple and easy mechanisms, we tend to project the responsibility for the conflict on the other side. We define ourselves as the victim, and see the injured on our side as innocent of blame. The other side is the violent and inhuman aggressor, and is responsible for the losses on our side.

Mechanisms that are complex and difficult to adopt are constructed upon taking responsibility for the situation, through self-criticism and commitment to creating conditions for building agreements with the other side, while abandoning the mechanism of blame.

Although the majority in Israel and the Arab world declare their desire for peace – and I believe that this desire is genuine – we tend to deal with the conflict the easy way. The way of “We must respond with force, so they will understand”, results in injury to the other side who, in turn, hastens to respond to the response, and so we enter a situation of vertigo and vortex where the first thing to be injured by the Katyusha missiles is logic. Our thinking mechanism is put out of action, and our behaviour is influenced only by automatic instinct, of which the fuels are fear, anger and the feeling of weakness. We put all our effort into “returning the power of deterrence”. For decades, we have been building up the power of deterrence and still the other side is not deterred! We hurt them in order that they will stop hurting us, and they hurt us in order that we will stop hurting them!

In this vortex, we begin to construct for the other side the image of an inhuman monster. He is a terrorist, a member of a gang of murderers, and we attribute to him the worst intentions. He wants to exterminate, destroy, murder and impose a culture of fundamentalism and darkness. To ourselves we attribute an image of humanity: we are the compassionate and democratic members of an enlightened, progressive culture and if, occasionally this isn’t so, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

The dehumanization of the other side gives us legitimacy to harm him, kill children (“accidentally” or “unavoidably”), shoot people, drop bombs from the air, blow ourselves up in a bus or a discotheque. All this is “legitimate” and tagged as “self-defence”.

In my opinion, we Jews and Arabs have failed in working for our true interests, which are security, freedom, independence and economic and cultural prosperity. Most of our struggles are aimed to achieve positions and not interests. We want to impose a solution that is based on a position and not on a need. Even “peace agreements” have been constructed upon coercion rather than joint negotiations! And nevertheless we continue down the same route of failure.

I ask myself who is benefiting from this war. It is hard to answer. One thing I know: the price of oil has gone up... are the losses worth it?.

Whoever gives legitimacy to this war, while receiving encouragement from the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, cannot claim that that it is being conducted in the interests of democracy and freedom.

The Katyusha and Kassam missiles don’t need to fly, and similarly the use of warplanes and tanks lacks legitimacy. The struggle to free hostages, prisoners and detainees needs to be with tools that are not intended to harm the other side. And what is important is that all of us remain committed to creating conditions in which the majority on both sides will be interested. In this way, if a group on one side should violate these conditions, there will be no need for the other side to act, since the majority on the side of the violating party will work to put an end to the violation. This is also the way it should be in the struggle for freedom from occupation and the building of independence. To harm the other is to harm oneself. The dehumanization of the other is the loss of one’s semblance of humanity.

This is how I consider the activities of the army against my people and against the Lebanese. I feel disappointment, frustration and helplessness. Nevertheless, I will do everything in my power not to lose my semblance of humanity, in order not to lose hope for a better life!

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