Dear Yossi,

First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me to read your valuable book “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor “. I found this book eloquently written, rich with emotions and good faith.

I published my review in order to spread the word and broaden the circle of dialogue, hoping it would go viral.

Even though your book is called “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor ” I feel that the message in the book is directed to all your Middle-Eastern neighbors, particularly Muslims, who reject your presence on this land (the same way Palestinians do). So I believe that non-Palestinians should also be involved in this dialogue. As one of those Middle Eastern neighbors I decided to “surprise” you with this insight of mine: I wholeheartedly accept your old and modern narratives.

To be honest with you, I accepted your narrative even before reading your book. There is no doubt that Jews were here on this land in the past. Furthermore, I believe that Is’haak is the son who should have continued Abraham’s path, not Ishma’el.

I am also convinced that there is much more desire to conduct peace among Israelis  than there is among Palestinians and the surrounding Muslim World. I believe that Palestinians and Muslims want it all or nothing. Israelis approached the Palestinians with several peace proposals, for example: the first Partition plan in 1947, then Camp David in 2000. Israelis approached Palestinians with a mentality of mutual compromises rather than “all or nothing”; what you described on your 6th letter as “Partial justice”.

However, the 6th letter was a crucial turning point for me because it caused me to reject the rest of your letters, and this was after I was completely convinced with what you said till that point. Your implicit attacks of the Israeli left throughout the first 5 letters were made explicit from the 6th letter and on, when you described them as “illusion sellers”.  Not to mention the way you attacked the civilized Western secular culture while praising the Israeli right wing that you identify yourself with.

Furthermore, you emphasised that the Israeli and the Palestinian right wingers are the only ones capable of conducting peace between the two peoples by following the teachings of the Torah and the Quran, Ishaak and Ishma’el, instead of following the values of universal human rights and the civilized Western Culture which you described as the “Culture of Holocaust” in your book.

I appreciate your good faith but your belief in the right wing’s ability to reach peace turns your peaceful message upside down and makes it full of illusions: How do you even think that some mysterious, ancient cultures that were passed on from one to another and created our current crisis can solve them?!

The Israeli left tried so hard to conduct peace with the Palestinians, counting on the peaceful nature of people, but they eventually failed due to the absence of a counter left on the Palestinian side – a Palestinian left with the same ethics, level of awareness and power that the Israeli left had.

However, the Israeli right wing was aiming at political peace rather than the people’s peace. The Israeli right wing compromised on the land and evacuated Sinai and Gaza but real peace between people was never reached. The genuine and lasting peace will be conducted between people, not politicians, when the surrounding circumstances allow this.

You described the Western culture as the “Culture of Holocaust” but you forgot that this culture is the source of your democratic values, values that made you more civilized than your cousins.

Furthermore, you praise religion and nationhood even though they are the main reasons for the suffering of humanity. A few good religious or nationalistic people cannot pave the road to peace between the two peoples. If religion and nationhood were the solution – how come so many efforts based on those two aspects have failed miserably?

You are hoping that the way Is’haak and Ishma’el joined forces when they buried their father, Abraham, can serve as a model for the descendants of Abraham’s sons to unite. But I believe that this is just another illusion that doesn’t mean anything! Why? Simply because it is well-known in Middle Eastern cultures that people unify and pause their fights only to bury the dead but continue fighting right after!

It is the God of Abraham, the God who’s supposed to unify the sons according to your belief, who decided that non-Jews were infidels at first and then changed his mind and made Islam the one and only legitimate religion!

You quoted some verses from the Torah and Quran that focus on and emphasize the importance of peace but those scriptures were sent out to peoples who were in conflict in a certain period of time in the past. Those scriptures are no longer relevant to our modern world – a world that is ruled by science and intellect. To make things clearer, the only thing that causes destruction in our world is failing to get rid of the leftovers from those ancient times/cultures.

You deny our right to enjoy an enlightened era in the Middle East. You want us to be enslaved to the holy ancient scriptures forever even though you know very well that modern science has proven how those beliefs had been borrowed from heathen cultures that preceded them.  The monotheistic belief was not really sent from God, as the sons of Abraham believe it was.

The point that I want to emphasize here is that peace between the Palestinian and the Israeli cousins needs to stem from a new culture that doesn’t follow the path of Abraham, Is’haak or Ishma’el. In order for peace to succeed it needs to be founded on a new culture that is based on 30 basic human rights, like the culture of secular Ashkenazi Jews, not the religious Mizrahi Jews. The descendants of Ashkenazi Jews who founded the modern state of Israel are the ones who are capable of conducting peace when the surrounding circumstances allow this.

On the other hand, I can understand that feeling of warmth and safety that one feels when he/she is curled up in the hands of God or the hands of the tribe. I can understand that those two connections, both to God and the Jewish tribe, are the reasons behind the survival of Israel. But you have to know that the hands of humanity are a lot more merciful and warmer.

There is spirituality, there are ethics, values, arts, charities and sciences in the earthly mortal life. We have one mother: the Earth, as the British historian Arnold Toynbee described it. There is no conflict between identities; there is one God, one world and one human being.

I believe that this is the culture that we need in order to pave the road to any dialogue regarding genuine peace, not only between the sons of Abraham but rather between all human beings on this earth. I believe that the way to reach such a dialogue is through the western culture that is currently fighting furiously against religious zeal and nationalism. I see the current state of Israel as an extension of this modern western culture. I don’t see it as an extension of the Torah’s Culture, as you see it.

I also believe that your cousins, the sons of Ishma’el, lack this extension of the western secular culture and this is the why you are way ahead while they are still stuck in their old Ishma’eli Islamic culture.

The ideas of religious reform, religious reconciliation and modern interpretations of religious scriptures are just useless. You mentioned in your book that these ideas may contribute to reconciliation between religious and secular Jews, on one hand, and Israelis and Palestinians on the other. But the reality proves that these ideas are just useless. We have been immersing ourselves in such ideas for years, all over the Middle East, not only in Israel, and nothing good came out of them.

We have to distance ourselves from the eras when religion and nationalism ruled people’s lives. We should move forward to more progressive eras that take into consideration the significant scientific progress that humanity has achieved. We have to move forward and progress along with the human intellect. There must be political entities that are based on unity of lands and the oneness of human identity, just like it is in so many places around the modern world.

These are the thoughts and fundamental ideas that are needed to solve the conflict with your Palestinian neighbour, whether in a one state or two states (the number of states will not be an issue if these fundamental ideas are followed). Religion will be a mere personal issue.

There is no doubt that the path of Abraham, Is’haak and Ishma’el cannot contribute to this solution. For example, how can the sons of Ishma’el reconcile with you while they are already divided into Sunni and Shia and so many other factions? And how can you reconcile with the sons of Ishma’el if you yourselves are still divided into Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, and so many other sects?

Thank you again Yossi and I wholeheartedly appreciate sharing this valuable book with me.

 

Best regards

Abdelgawad Sayed

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Here is a link to Mr. Sayed’s response on AlHewar Almutamadin.