Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A Palestinian Mandela?

Israel and occupied Palestine are in many ways like Apartheid South Africa: two peoples intricately entangled, one completely dominating the other, notions of racial superiority, huge differences of income and wealth, largely segregated housing... And there is a Palestinian - Marwan Barghouti - with immense popular support, languishing in prison on five life sentences. An Israeli leader with the courage to release him might find an interlocutor capable of helping to bring about a political solution. Barghouti speaks fluent Hebrew, has many Israeli supporters and has the intelligence to realize that a solution must accommodate both parties. He was born in 1959, so it will be 2031 before he reaches the age at which Mandela was released - which is not a reason for waiting, but it does mean several Israeli prime ministers and American presidents could have the opportunity to achieve peace in this way. We shall soon see a succession of crucial centenaries: of the Sykes-Picot plan to dismember the Ottoman State, 1916; of the Balfour Declaration that Palestine would become the 'Jewish National Home', 1917; of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919; of the abolition of the Caliphate, 1924. This last event has had incalculable repercussions. The Caliphs were the only authority recognized by all Sunni Muslims - more than 90% of all Muslims. Without a Caliph there has been nobody to rule against the distortions of Islam propagated by fanatics.

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