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My Proposal for Middle East Peace

So, we have reached an all-time low in the Middle East.  Everyone says war is on the horizon - I say World War is on the horizon; they are already at a full-blown war in Israel and the Palestinian Territories!

This is a desperate time, and it calls for desperate measures.  And it needs a lasting solution to peace.  No cease fire, no continual talks, but a true peace.  One that will last.

So, although many of my special soapboxes are sarcastic and humorous, this one is serious.  Why?  Because someone needs to come up with a solution.  We have five billion people on the planet - surely someone can come up with a solution.  Unlike the people who are bent on blowing stuff up, I think that if we as a world come together to work on a solution, we as a world will avoid a war.  I think that if something isn't done soon, this war will escalate - and no one, anywhere in the world, will be safe.  Trust me - this one will quickly spread and engulf everyone just like what occurred in World War II.

So, here is my proposal.  I am not saying it will work, and I am not saying it is the best - hell, it has all kinds of problems!  But I am doing something - I am thinking about peace, something it seems just about everyone else is NOT doing.

The Problem

In as much of a nutshell as I can do of this troubled history, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claim the region of Israel/Palestine as "Holy Land."  This is pretty easy, because all these religions stem from a tradition in which they believe they are descendants of Abraham.  God promised Abraham that his descendants would form a great nation, and they would occupy the land known as Canaan.  This land has changed hands many times - the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans occupied this area, just to name a few.  When the Jews occupied the area, they called the land "Israel."  When the area was occupied by the Romans, the Romans called it "Palestine."  In modern times, the names Israel and Palestine are used by different sides to refer to the same piece of land. 

The problems stem from the fact that everyone wants complete control over this area of land.  Although they all claim it stems from religious differences, I think that now it is just that they have been fighting for so long that they don't remember why they are fighting any more.

Jews had been living there for thousands of years, even being allowed to continue their religion under various conquerors.  Even during the Roman occupation and the early days of Christianity, Jews were still allowed to practice their religion.  In the 600s AD, Muslim armies conquered the area, but the rulers allowed Jews and Christians to keep their religions.

In 1099, however, Christian Crusaders from Europe attacked and occupied the area.  The Crusaders slaughtered both Jews and Muslims alike.  Eventually, Muslims retook the area from the Crusaders.  In the Middle Ages, Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and other parts of Europe were invited by the Ottoman Empire to settle in parts of Turkey and Palestine, still free to practice their religion. 

Because of the oppression of Jews in Europe, many Jews wished to relocate to the Holy Land.  In the 1800s, there was a movement called "Zionism" that began to gain support among the Jews in which they voiced support for their own nation, in which they would not be persecuted.  In 1917, Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, which showed their support for a Jewish state.

The Muslim Arabs living in Palestine, though, did not want to live under Jewish law and Jewish rule, so they opposed the idea of a Jewish state.  However, after World War II, a mass emigration of Jews from Europe allowed the Jewish movement to take over the area and establish the modern state of Israel.

So, the Jews want their own nation.  Why?  I would assume so that they would be free from the prosecution that has faced them for the last thousand years.  They want to be able to practice their religion freely.  But, the Palestinians want their own nation as well, where they are not subject to Jewish law, but rather Islamic law.  So, they both want the same land, they both want to be free in their practice of their religion, but they don't want the other there.  Thus, the conflict we see today.

The New Nation

I propose a new nation be created called "Canaan."  Since both sides are unable to refer to a common name, the country will be referred to by its original name - "Canaan."

The Flag

Of course, every country needs a flag.  This flag would be simple - it would have the crescent and Star of David on a white background.  The white background, undivided, would stand for one land united in peace.  The crescent, while not a true symbol of Islam, would signify the Muslim history of the land under the Ottoman Empire, and its green color represents the color used by early Muslims.  The Star of David would symbolize the Jewish history.

Canaan flag
Proposed flag for the country of Canaan.

The participants

Of course, the Israelis and the Palestinians are the major participants.  But, with so much distrust between them, they need another power to help administer the country until such time that their own peaceful government could be established.  However, as shown in the background, whenever Europeans get involved in this conflict, it leads only to more trouble, as was seen during the Crusades.  So, this will require someone without any historical or religious claim to the area, but also with the capability to be able to support a peacekeeping effort.  My solution?  The Chinese.  They have no historical claims to the area and nothing to be gained by one side over the other.  Furthermore, they have the strength to be able to enforce and administer a peace without sacrificing the security of their own nation.  While they don't have an economy that would support them on these peacekeeping efforts, a fund could be established through the UN that would be used to fund the Chinese peacekeepers that wealthy of the world nations (including the industrial Western nations and oil-rich Arab states) could contribute to.

How it would work

The Chinese would move in and occupy all bases of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.  It would require a commitment from all Arab nations to support the Chinese and denounce terror; if the terrorists aren't willing to adhere to peace, there is little anyone can do to make or enforce peace in the region.  While I doubt that either side would allow the Chinese to immediately occupy all of their military bases and equipment, no side could act without Chinese counterparts.  Thus, the Chinese would serve along side both the Israeli and Palestinian forces.  If either side were to move unilaterally, the Chinese would be empowered to stop it.  Thus, the Palestinians would be secure that the Israelis couldn't just roll tanks out against them - the Chinese would have the ultimate authority.  Also, routine Chinese patrols could help ensure that there is no violence against Israelis by extremists.

Then, a new Constitution would be written that would establish rights for all citizens regardless of religion.  I envision a new state that would be similar to Canada, where everything would be bilingual in both Hebrew and Arabic.  There would be new laws set up - and this is where the biggest sacrifices would have to be made - that would be based on neither Jewish nor Islamic law, but rather secular laws that don't violate either religion's laws. 

The Chinese would be the final arbitrators in all decisions.  Both sides would have to agree to be bound by their decisions.

The joint rule would continue for 50 years, at which time, hopefully the government of Canaan would be established to stand on its own.

My message to the participants

As Jews, Christians, and Muslims, you have a historical claim to the land as a descendant of Abraham.  However, I want to point out an episode with Abraham that is probably the most significant event in the history of all your peoples.  Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son to God.  Just as Abraham was about to do this, God stopped him and made a pledge that because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, God would give him as many descendants as stars in the sky.  Just as Abraham was willing to submit himself to God, I urge you to submit yourselves to peace.

To the Chinese, you want to be respected on the stage of world politics.  Just as the Europeans had interfered in your region with disastrous results, so they have done in the Middle East.  You have no history in the Middle East, and so you are the only hope we have for a non-biased independent peacekeeper.  You, China, would be our best hope for peace.  You could achieve something that no other nation has ever done - and if you succeed, you will be respected forever.

How I got such a radical idea

I started thinking about how the only times there was ever real relative peace in the region was when an outside oppressor had occupied the area, as had occurred during the reign of Alexander the Great and again under the Roman Empire.  Whenever an outsider occupies the region, the inhabitants seem to put aside their differences to unite against the outsiders.  But, it would only be an outsider who could be impartial to both sides.

The United States has been accused of supporting Israel, so we would not be good candidates as peacekeepers.  Also, as a predominantly Christian country, it could be perceived that we have a stake in the outcome of this situation.  So, I thought that what we needed was a true outsider - someone with no historical or ideological ties to the area.  The first ones that came to mind were the Chinese.

The Chinese are a powerful country, but they are the "Rodney Dangerfield" of world politics - they get no respect.  Remember the spy plane fiasco?  They wanted respect from the US, so they played hardball.  This is would give them an opportunity to be respected.  Plus, the radical concept of "One Country, Two Systems" in place in Hong Kong and Macau is the same type of government that will be needed to have true peace in the Holy Land.

I thought it was ironic that the Arabs won't refer to Israel by name, choosing to call it Palestine or "the area west of the Jordan."  And Israel doesn't seem to be willing to accept a Palestinian state.  So, the first thing I thought needed to be done was to come up with a new name for the country, one that had no association with either side.  I mean, it's pretty hard to talk peace if you won't even say your adversary's name!  So, I thought Canaan - the original ancient name of the area - would be a good start.

Like I said, it's not even a good idea, but it is an idea.  With 5 billion people, we could potentially have 5 billion different ideas on peace, and surely, one of those would work. 

To put this in perspective, I urge you to check out this great quote from Carl Sagan in his book Pale Blue Dot:  all of the combatants in this war are only fighting to "become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot."  Let's just make sure they don't obliterate the entire dot in their attempts...

Update (5/6/02):

I received an e-mail from Sam Greenlaw with a similar proposal for peace, in which he too looks at the "One Country, Two Systems" type of government.  His proposal is very well researched, and he emphasizes some very good points, such as using education to overcome hatred.  His plan seems doable, and I think that between us, we have something that could be doable - a dual-system single state that can make the current violence a thing of the past.  World leaders take note - we have vision; at least try to give it a chance.