Similar stories of cutting off human from human in the Middle East have been circulating lately. TIME had that article about the intrusive walls going up around Bethlehem right in time for the Christmas season. Or there's the barbed wire fence that cuts off families from families in the Golan Heights. Certainly there has to be a more enlightened way to assure security in the region. But for now, tearing down the wall into Egypt was a welcome reprieve for Gazans, who contend daily with the psychological consequences of an un-winnable war.
President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas all met earlier in the month to discuss a peace treaty and the formation of a Palestinian State before January 2009. Bush is quoted as saying, " I believe it's possible -- not only possible -- I believe it's going to happen, that there'll be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office." These discussions came on the heels of December's Middle East Peace conference convened in Annapolis, Maryland. Little headway had been made since that time because of demands by the Palestinians that continued building of West Bank settlements by Israelis cease. Israeli insisted that daily bombing of border towns must stop. Bush's trip was meant to keep the previously built momentum going--even in the face of continued grievances.
Many such peace-making attempts have been attempted over the years. One such endeavor, the Geneva Accord, outlined the core issues that had to be settled in order for a real peace to descend on the volatile area. It has gotten little traction for the most part, but still remains one of the most comprehensive documents on the matter and provides in depth knowledge about the multifaceted nature of the issues facing the hostile parties. Lack of political will has hampered the efforts to resolve the sticky issues, including the fate of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the status of Jerusalem, even water rights which is actually a bigger problem than has been previously communicated. After the cameras and reporters left whatever Middle east peace conference was in vogue, little happened. Why? Because these problems would have taken the united will of both sides to secure peace and each was unwilling to compromise. That may be changing in light of President Bush's efforts in collaboration with several Arab states, who for the first time may agree to Israel's right to exist.
Yes, there is now a small ray of hope in the Middle East. But expectations for peace cannot stop at the borders of that region alone. There is one person acutely aware of that fact, 26-year old Omar Bin Laden, who has offered his services to mediate peace worldwide. Yes, this is a Bin Laden of Usama fame, one of 19 children. Paul Schemm, an AP writer reported on January 17, 2008 that Omar envisions tranquil relations between the Muslims and the West and has offered his services as ambassador for peace. No one has yet to take him up on the offer. Global leaders might consider it, however, because this young man, who has renounced violence as a solution, spent time with his father training as a terrorist before returning to the work-a-day world in 2000. Such a Muslim insider might have the street cred necessary to pull a worldwide peace initiative together based on brotherhood, freedom and equality.
And finally, change is coming to the Middle East from other sectors with a speed that may surprise some. Why is that? A few enlightened Muslim leaders are emerging who are speaking out for positive change. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who completed two years as ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, said recently in the WSJ:
"Perhaps the fundamental question that I learned to always ask was : How can we serve as agents of positive change? That's why I prefer to call Dubai 'Catalyst Inc'. . .We are engaged in a different type of war that's really worth fighting--fighting to alleviate poverty, generating better education, creating economic opportunity for people, and teaching people everywhere how to be entrepreneurs, to believe in themselves. . .I always ask: How can I help? What can I do for people's lives? That's part of my value system" (1-12/13-08.)If that short excerpt surprised you, it did me for its enlightened and liberating tone. At same time, it gave me hope that such exemplars might possibly be able to lead the Middle East and, yes, maybe even the rest of the world, out of darkness into light. Could it be that in the hands of Muslim leaders lies the peace we all seek?
The wisdom of the past provides it's own outline for peace, in the Middle East and elsewhere. It lies in recognizing a nation's inherent responsibilities as a corporate citizen of Earth Inc, no matter what type of government or state religion is promulgated. In The Problems of Humanity A.A. Bailey clearly states:
"The task of every nation is twofold: 1.) To solve its own psychological problems. This it does by recognition of their existence; by the quelling of national pride; and by taking those steps which establish unity and beauty of rhythm in the life of its peoples; and 2.) To foster the spirit of right human relations. This is accomplished in recognition of the one world of which we are a part. This later involves also the taking of those steps which would enable it to enrich the whole world with its own individual contribution" (p. 29.)
Note: Information on the Gaza wall demolition came from The New York Post with Post Wire Service and the Times of London as well as Agence France-Presse, January 24, 2008; information on the Middle East Peace talks came from United Press International, January 9 - 10, 2008; information about Omar Bin Laden was sent by a watchful contributor. I welcome all such enlightening mail.