It is impossible for the human mind to fully comprehend the tragedy resulting from the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. It is doubtful whether there are any words in the collective human lexicon to describe horror of this magnitude. Our thoughts and prayers join those of millions of people around the world, which are directed to the victims and their families. Yet there are those that are more than willing to make cynical use of this catastrophe in order to advance political and military agendas.
Politicians in Israel, most notably Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as other leaders within the Likud party have sought to use these circumstances to suggest that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are somehow connected to these incidents. They are consciously abusing the tragic circumstances of the bombing as the backdrop for a call to act even more vigorously against the Palestinian people, all of course under the flag of “the war against terrorism”.
But out of this cataclysm there is still a chance to move forward. It was Nelson Mandela who stated that “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Rather than use deaths of thousands of people in the US to justify further aggression against the Palestinian people, we believe that this is an opportunity for both sides to return to the negotiating table, to perhaps make real progress in ending the 34-year old illegal Israeli occupation. Such progress is the proper condolence message the Middle East could provide in memory of those whose lives were lost. To take a bold step forward to end the suffering of both the Palestinians and the Israelis. To take this opportunity to do the right and just thing.
This is indeed a historic opportunity – to move back from the abyss, to sit down and clean the slate, to move forward. Having looked into the face of Hell on earth, reasonable people can only seek to end further suffering. Ending that suffering in our part of the world means ending the occupation completely and totally, dismantling the settlements, and moving forward towards final status negotiations. Only in this way can we really fight terrorism – by removing the root causes of political violence. Only in this way can we end this conflict. Any other option will bring a plague, at the very minimum, on both our houses, Palestinian and Israeli alike.
Mr. Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman, born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, who relocated to his family’s home in Al-Bireh, West Bank immediately following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). Mr. Michael Dahan is an Israeli political scientist currently conducting postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Bahour and Mr. Dahan are co-founders of MEViC, the Middle East Virtual Community.