|US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell 311 (R).(Photo by: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)|
Why George Mitchell failed
By TAWFIK HAMID
US envoys to the region must realize that the problem Palestinians have is Israel's existence, not its borders.
Special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, the man charged with reconciling the Israelis and Palestinians, resigned this weekend.
Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader in the US, failed to achieve peace between the two sides. There’s no disgrace in that – the line of failed envoys is long and well-known. He successfully brokered peace in Northern Ireland, but couldn’t even get things started in the Middle East.
The question is, why?
Obviously, it’s impossible to solve a problem without addressing and
treating its true cause. Approaching the Arab-Israeli conflict from the
perspective that it is about land, so that giving more land to the
Palestinians will solve the problem, is a failed endeavor.
Israel has already given Egypt the whole of the Sinai, and got nothing
in return except a cold peace and rising anti-Semitism in the country.
Similarly the disengagement from Gaza did not magically lead to a
decline in the wave of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.
Pro-Palestinian Muslim demonstrators across the world repeatedly use the
chant “Khyber Khyber Ya Yahood... Gaish Muhammad Sawfa Yaood,” which
reminds the Jews that the army of Muhammad is coming back for a repeat
of what was done to the Jewish Khyber tribe.
According to authentic Islamic history books, the Islamic army, led by
Muhammad, annihilated the Jewish tribe of Khyber, raping its women and
killing all its men.
Such barbaric statements against the Jews have been used by many in the
Muslim world, and even inside the US and Europe. Sadly the chant was
also used on Friday by thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in
Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The Hamas charter also calls for the destruction of Israel. This violent
principle has its roots in the traditional Islamic teaching, based on
Hadith books, that encourages the killing of all Jews before the end of
Until US envoys to the Middle East realize that the problem in the eyes
of the Palestinians and their supporters is not the borders of Israel
but the very existence of the country, all future missions will
similarly fail. Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict must be done initially at the
theological rather than the political level, as the former is impeding
It is unfair to ask Israel to trust those who shamefully advocate the
killing of Jews, and claim that Islamic annihilation of the Jews by an
Islamic army is a model that must be emulated today.
The problem is not only in the existence of violent teachings in
historical Islamic texts, but also in the dangerous desire of many
Islamists and violent Islamic scholars to revive such violence in modern
times. Violent texts exist in other religions as well, but we do not
generally see such destructive desire to use the texts to justify
killing others, and we rarely hear about modern scholars of other faiths
who advocate using such texts literally.
The problem is that this disastrous anti-Semitic religious dimension is
not limited to verses in books, but is also propagated by a powerful
media machine that utilizes vicious, Nazi-style propaganda across the
Muslim world. Publishing dehumanizing cartoons in the mainstream media,
and blaming Jews for nearly every problem in the world has become much
too common in the leading Arab media over the past few decades.
It is virtually impossible to promote any form of peaceful resolution to
the Arab-Israeli conflict without reducing such levels of anti-Semitism
in the Muslim world.
Until future envoys to the Middle East understand the religious
dimension of the problem, and that the Arab- Israeli conflict is not
about borders but about the existence of the state of Israel, all future
attempts to make peace in the area will fail.
The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and a one-time Islamic
extremist from Egypt. He was a member of the terrorist organization JI
with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later became the second-in-command of
al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of
Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.