From the explosion of Osama Bin Laden into our consciousness on that terrible day in 2001, all the way to his death, feels like a frame of existence, a distinct period of our history and fate as an American community. There have been many deadly wars since then that America has participated in or supported. As an American Jew and a veteran peacebuilder in the Middle East, I also feel like this decade has been a whirlwind of violence, from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza, and now to Arab countries in which I had worked, especially Syria where I put my heart and soul.
Every war, every massive act of violence, always makes me reflect anew on the origins and nature of human violence, and on its opposites, empathy, compassion, and love. We humans have made so many efforts through the millennia to create one political arrangement after another in …
(This article was written in collaboration with Aziz Abu Sarah, Co-Executive Director of The Center for World Religions Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution.)
Ever since the disastrous split in Palestinian leadership of several years ago into Fatah and Hamas it has become clear that disunity has been a critical factor standing in the way of Palestinian statehood. Many reconciliation efforts, with several third parties, were attempted and aborted. This time it seems that things are different, despite the enormous ideological divisions and outstanding grievances between Fatah and Hamas.
Why is this happening now? Clearly, the historic impact of the “Arab Spring” on Egypt and Syria, and across the region, is an enormous game changer. The increasing instability of Syria suggests that there is a strong possibility that A) Hamas may no longer have a stable home in Syria, but, on the other hand, Palestinians now have a much more sympathetic …
By Hind Aboud Kabawat (Senior Research Analyst and Expert in Conflict Resolution, CRDC, George Mason University).
May 20, 2011
Can our beloved Syria be saved from the brink of destruction? This is clearly the question on the minds of millions of our fellow countrymen (and countrywomen). And it is truly astonishing how quickly events have transformed the so-called “facts on the ground” in this country. One of the most locked-down societies in the Middle East quite suddenly erupted in rage, anger and frustration after forty years of political repression and economic stagnation. Just think of it: the first demonstration was on March 15, just a mere two months ago. But so much has changed in the minds, hearts and aspirations of the Syrian people that it is impossible to think that we can ever return to the status quo ante—the Syria of March 14th.
Here are two interviews that I did with Fox News and Russia TV on Tuesday, regarding thousands of Palestinian refugees who attempted to nonviolently cross Israeli borders from the Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian border last weekend, resulting in several deaths and dozens injured.
Notice the pattern of conflict escalation, the role of religion, the focus on sexuality, women and the boundaries of group power, all focused on women, and all rather removed from any real spiritual matters. This is a classic example of religious rioting.
Like many recent episodes of Muslim-Christian violence here, the strife began over rumors of an interfaith marriage. Muslims in the neighborhood said a former Christian had left the church and married a Muslim. They said they had heard that she had been abducted and detained inside the church of St. Minas against her will, reflecting a pattern of accusations that has recurred in several recent episodes of sectarian conflict.
Christians in the neighborhood said that the story was a fiction, that there was no such woman in the church.
Both Muslims and Christians involved in the fighting said that early Saturday evening a relatively small group of Muslims
Men in Middle Eastern palaces making decisions about their lives, their families, their fortunes, their necks. I think a lot these days about such men because history and the fate of millions of people often comes down to what is going on inside their heads. They are certainly not unique to the Middle East. Think Robespierre, Mussolini, Marcos, Milosevic, think Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Noriega, Fujimori. The list is endless, the impact of their choices monumental.
There is an ancient law in the Jewish Torah that forbids combatants from surrounding an enemy on all four sides, requiring instead that there is always an escape route. In the Middle Ages Maimonides, one of the greatest legal decision makers in Jewish history, concluded that this prohibition applies even to a mortal enemy in a defensive war. This sounds bizarre …