Solving the Problems of the Middle East on Sherbrooke Street

By Alfred Warkentin – Montreal

All agree. Only America is important.

There’s a current of opinion in the Middle East that says: "If you want peace, you don’t want justice." Peace, peace, but there is no peace, despite decades of peace prizes. The record is dismal. The Nobel people count on President Obama doing more for peace in the future because of the prize awarded him. That too is a doubtful proposition. 

Sometimes it is easier for decision makers in Washington to get the big picture from the sticks. Take a bus trip on Sherbrooke Street bus in Montreal. (I am, for the sake of clarity, condensing scenes, time periods and characters.)

The Gaza Crisis itself had been over for months. Judge Goldstone had delivered his report. President Obama had been awarded the peace prize. Ms. Clinton had visited the region.  The Middle East was at rest, although Mr. Abbas had indicated he wasn’t in for the long haul.

The bus lurched to a stop. Working his way through the overflow mass in the aisle was Jonathan, a student. He stopped and stood beside me. 

Staggering toward us was Abdulrahman. Abdulrahman was from the Middle East. He was dark and dusky, the opposite of Jonathan. Like Jonathan he was taking international relations.

I introduced them. They shook hands.

“Alf,” Jonathan asked, “what’s your take on Gaza?”

I shrugged.

Said Jonathan: “Of course you use disproportionate force. Only that way can you win the peace. Israel is in the Middle East to stay. Despite the peace prize, Obama is no more likely to push, I mean push” — a fist was raised — “for peace than Bush. We’ve got to devastate the Palestinians until somebody will emerge who will want to negotiate pragmatically. In the end there’ll have to be real democracy in the Middle East.”

Jonathan made his points with one of his hands chopping the air. He looked at Abdulrahman. “I agree completely,” Abdulrahman said.

Jonathan smiled. “Otherwise we’ll be forced to divide them into manageable states. Only the U.S. is important. Israel has to take Iran out.” He smiled again, then looked at Abdulrahman. “Bush wouldn’t give Israel the tools. Still, only an American president is vital. There’ won’t be peace for fifty years. It’s up to the Israelis to rationalize the Middle East. We want a real peace. We need moral clarity.”

A lot of heads nodded around us.

“Well, Abdulrahman,” I said, “what do you say?”

“Oh,” he smiled, “I agree with everything Jonathan said.”

Jonathan looked at Abdulrahman intently.

“I quite agree,” Abdulrahman said. “We need democracy. There won’t be peace for fifty years. We Arabs want realism also. We won’t allow anybody to divide us into small pieces so we can be managed more easily. How can we allow a white-dominated colonialist nation in the Middle East? I agree on something else.”

Abdulrahman smiled generously. Jonathan did not.

“In time we Arabs know we’ll have to use disproportionate to stop the Israeli F-16s.”

“There’d be total peace,” Jonathan said, “if Palestinians weren’t killing Israelis.”

“I heard a rabbi say if the Palestinians didn’t fire their rockets, pea-shooter rockets I call them, an eye for an eyelash you know, there’d be no need for Israeli bombs on Gaza.”

“You were in a synagogue?” Jonathan asked, as if bowled over.

“Heard him on TV. What the rabbi wants is the peace of the grave: Muslims dead physically, spiritually. As long as we’re Arabs Israel may be in the Middle East, but it’s not there to stay with European colonialists in charge.  And, yes,” Abdulrahman said, looking at me, “Jonathan is right on something else also.”

Abdulrahman poked Jonathan in a friendly way.

“We will have to rationalize the situation by decimating Israel so the Europeans understand reason, so that, finally, they realize they won’t win, ever.”

“Netanyahu will know how to deal with that,” Jonathan said, shaking his fist.

“What Netanyahu wants is what he has now: a Palestine that is a large concentration camp.”

“It’s no concentration camp.”

“What he wants is a Palestine that is a municipality where real sovereignty resides with Israel. No one, not even the traitor Mubarak, will agree to that, no matter how much money Washington sends him. Sure, there’ll have to be real democracy in the Middle East. Regimes not friendly to the people will go. In time the people will elect representatives not unlike Hamas. Jonathan is right. The United Nations is useless. Only the U.S. is important, at least until China asserts itself. For now the American president is important. Jonathan is right on something else also.”

Now Abdulrahman’s hand pumped back and forth.

“I know Obama has political sense enough not to undermine Israel as it attempts to achieve its kind of peace.  here’ won’t be peace for fifty years. In the meantime it’d be best if Israel takes over Gaza and assumes responsibility for everything.”

“Take over Gaza?” Jonathan asked, astounded. His eyes fluttered, his mouth narrowed.

“Let Israel rule. Let it bog down. Let the Hamas leadership still alive retreat somewhere. Let Abbas and his thieves depart for Washington. So” – Abdulrahman’s hand punched the small opening in front of his face – “let Israel rule all Palestine with Washington’s money. Then let the young Palestinians assert themselves. In the meantime if any country has an Israeli embassy, they’re supporting  thieves; some prefer the word gangster. The Mujahideen are already in Iraq. We’re closing in.”

“You’ll never get to Israel,” Jonathan said.

“God will rule. Real peace will have to wait until there are more Arabs than whites in Israel, or until there are enough people like me in the West to make a difference. I’m an agreeable guy. I agree with Rush on capitalism. We want democracy, we want real peace. We need moral clarity.”

When Abdulrahman finished no heads nodded around us. Maybe they didn’t like Rush.

What is to be done?

-Alfred Warkentin was raised on the American media, worked in it for a time and is working on a book called IT SEEMED SUCH A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. It’s about Israel and the Middle East. He’s also polishing a novel called THE ARABIAN KNIGHTS. He says he’s about as conservative in his part of the world as one is allowed to be and still retain citizenship. On most issues he’s with George Will, more likely to George’s right. He contributed this article to

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