Saturday, May 21, 2011

To find a solution, correctly identify the problem

Yesterday's speech by President Obama about peace in the Middle East generated a lot of commentary. A lot of thinking.

(See video of "The Sticker Song" by Hadag Nahash- a popular song from Israel poking fun at the prevalence of "bumper sticker" simplistic ideology.)

Anyway, after yesterday, I was definitely thinking, a lot. Actually my brain hurts from trying to "solve" this problem in my mind. It's like the Rubik's Cube of dilemmas...get one part of the puzzle right and the rest looks like a big mess.

There are notes all over the table here. Let me tackle one of them in this post: on the importance of understanding the problem.

If you correctly understand what is wrong, you can fix it.

If you don't understand, or if you lie to yourself or to others, you obviously can't.

I am a Jewish-American, and a U.S. government employee, but despite the inevitable biases that come from these perspectives I do think I understand the problem of the Middle East conflict clearly: The extremists are holding the moderates hostage. Preventing them from taking the necessary steps to achieve a win-win solution. (Note: Of course - as always - all opinions expressed here are my own.)

In simple terms: The Palestinians literally have guns to their heads. The terrorists, which include Hamas, are forcing them into a hateful way of life because they have an agenda of obliterating Israel and all the Jews within it.

Radical Islamic terrorists hate America too, because it represents a threat to their desire for dominance - which is why they'd like to blow us off the face of the earth as well.

This is not a unique view. The Administration shares it. Israel shares it. The problem is one of an ideology of hatred passing itself off as a religion. In a masquerade.

The problem, in the context of Israel, is that the terrorists are trying to partner with the moderates to attack Israel together. Which would obviously prevent peace from happening, no matter how much land Israel would give up. As Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren put it on CNN's "In The Arena":

"The ball is very much in the Palestinian's court. They have to make a decision. Whether they stick with this pact with the terrorist organization (Hamas) that just - only a few weeks ago fired a missile at a - school bus along the Israeli border, killed 16-year-old child, an organization that condemned America's action against Bin Laden and - hailed him as an Islamic holy warrior....The Palestinian Authority has to make a choice between a pact with that terrorist organization or negotiating peace with us."

Why can't everyone see the presence of radical terrorist ideology as the problem - and nothing else?

I was surprised and heartened to read this remarkable article by Muslim-American Harris Zafar, "A Muslim's Take On Obama's Middle East Speech" - a response to the President's May 20 remarks. See excerpt:

"This is not a war that can be won with guns. This is a war of ideas, which requires tactfully addressing religious factors....Corrupt religious leaders in the Middle East have brainwashed susceptible individuals through a perversion of Islam to further their political agenda. To reverse this trend, America must support voices within the Muslim community who are willing to fight this political ideology with the true teachings of Islam.

"We, as Muslims, must step-up to win this war of ideology, or our nation will continue to face a serious threat of extremists....We must not only vigorously condemn terrorism in all forms but also advocate for universal human rights, separation of mosque and state, protection for religious and other minorities, and the empowerment and education of women."

Zafar is right.

We must correctly identify the problem in order to reach a solution.

The problem is hatred. Is extremism. Is the worship of death and the aspiration to dominance.

Another problem is the competition for power that prevents us from supporting people who are searching for a real solution.

I don't have the solution to Middle East peace, but I do understand the problem.

It's time to start communicating about the real issues, and confront as idiotic propaganda everything else.


Photo source here.