The mission of the intellectual, like that of the journalist, is, in theory, to think rationally, free of all subjectivity, on subjects of general interest. Of course, this is never possible. Everyone is determined by his or her life and encounters, and any attempt to escape this is doomed to failure. And that’s just as well.
Particularly when it comes to the Middle East conflict: everyone judges it from their own story. Mine begins with my father’s decision, right at the start of the Algerian revolution, to leave this country, where his ancestors had lived for centuries, because he thought that independence was desirable and inevitable, but he also thought that we would no longer have a place there. What I’ve learned from this is the importance of thinking a few steps ahead, of assuming the worst and preparing for it. My story continues with a very special day in 1997, when I had lunch with Shimon Peres in Jerusalem and dinner that same evening (an Iftâr evening) with Yassir Arafat in Gaza. My conclusion was that peace is possible between these two brotherly and neighboring peoples, both of whom have legitimate rights to a part of this land, the birthplace of the three monotheisms, each of which calls for brotherhood between all human beings.
Today, as the night of barbarity seems once again to fall upon these peoples, it seems to me that we can shed light on the situation by breaking it down into three conflicts (at least), three wills to death, which pile up one on top of the other:
1. The will of a terrorist movement, Hamas, to destroy the State of Israel, and to murder all those who live there, first and foremost women and children, in the most barbaric way possible, with no concern for the consequences for those it oppresses, the Palestinians. No man of good will can wish victory to these terrorists, these barbarians. And let’s not say that Gaza is an open-air prison because of the Israelis; the jailer is Hamas. Would we have wanted Israel to let in, for years, the monsters who committed this week’s crimes? The leaders of this movement, these monsters, will have to be judged, by history and the courts, for their crimes.
2. The determination of an Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, to prevent the birth of a Palestinian state by any means necessary, even if it means playing the politics of the worst, favoring Hamas over the PLO for the past ten years, and obeying his most extremist religious allies by clearing the border with Gaza to protect settlements scandalously placed on Palestinian territory. This Prime Minister’s cynical and insane attitude, which can only be explained by his fear of going to prison, bears a very heavy responsibility for current events, and he will have to be judged, by history and by the courts, for his crimes.
3. The determination of dictatorships the world over not to tolerate the presence of democracies on their doorstep, especially among brotherly peoples. Russia does not tolerate it with Ukraine, Communist China with Taiwan, Hamas with Israel, and many others. This explains the hostility of many other fraternal couples. These dictators, too, will have to stand trial for their crimes.
If these three circles of hell close on the worst, Israel will be destroyed, Palestine will not exist, Taiwan will be invaded and the world will be engulfed in a global war that will sink what remains of democracy.
History has taught me one last lesson: it’s tragic. It always is. The worst is the most likely. Always. And the best way to avoid it is to prepare for it. For democracies, this means not letting their guard down (as the Israelis did, letting their young people dance unprotected two kilometers away from the barbarians of Hamas), being prepared to compromise (as neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are); and for Europeans, listening to these lessons, urgently adopting a war economy, and preparing for the worst, in order to avoid it.
At the end of the road, democracy will prevail worldwide; Israel and Palestine will coexist peacefully; there will be peace in the Middle East; Iran and Russia will become democracies and Europe will become a sovereign power, champion of freedoms. The only question is how to avoid a cataclysm before we get there.
Image: The Israel-Palestine separation wall, Frédérick Lavoie.