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 it eloquent, rich with emotion and to have been written in 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). I therefore believe that non-Palestinians should also be involved in this dialogue. As one of those Middle Eastern neighbors, I decided to “surprise” you with the following insight: I wholeheartedly accept both your ancient 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 Isaac is the son who should have continued in Abraham’s path, not Ishmael.

I am also convinced that there is much more desire to conduct peace among Israelis than among Palestinians and those in the neighboring Muslim world. I believe that Palestinians and Muslims want all their demands or nothing at all. Israelis approached the Palestinians with several peace proposals; the first Partition plan in 1947, then Camp David in 2000. Israelis approached Palestinians with a mentality of mutual compromise rather than “all or nothing”; what you described in your sixth letter as “Partial justice”.

However, the sixth 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 five letters were made explicit from the sixth letter onward in describing them as “illusion sellers”.  Not to mention the way you attacked civilized secular Western culture whilst praising the Israeli right wing with which you identify.

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

I appreciate your good faith. However, your belief in the right wing’s ability to reach peace turns your peaceful message upside down and riddles it with delusions: How could you  believe that some ancient cultures which were passed down over the generations and fuelled our current crisis could possibly 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 it.

You described Western culture as the “Culture of Holocaust” but you neglected the fact 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 despite the fact that they are the prime causes of human suffering. 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 do you explain the fact that so many attempts based on these outlooks have failed so 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, according to your belief, is supposed to unify the sons – who initially decided that non-Jews were infidels before changing his mind to make 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 particular historical context. Those scriptures are no longer relevant to our modern world; a world that is ruled by science and intellect. To be absolutely clear; the only thing that causes destruction in our world is our failure to eradicate the legacy 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 holy ancient scriptures forever even though you know very well that modern science has proven those beliefs to have been borrowed from preceding heathen cultures. The monotheistic belief was not really granted by God as the sons of Abraham believe it to have been.

The point that I want to emphasize here is that peace between the Palestinian and 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 must be founded on a new culture that is based on the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, like the culture of secular Ashkenazi Jews, and not that of 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 it.

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 in 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 must know that the hands of humanity are a lot more merciful and warmer.

There is spirituality, there are ethics, values, arts, sciences and charity in earthly mortal life. We have one mother – the Earth – as the British historian Arnold Toynbee put it. There is no conflict over identity; there is one God, one world and one human being.

I believe that this is the culture we need in order to pave the road to any dialogue of genuine peace, not only between the sons of Abraham but also between all human beings on this earth.  Western culture is the means by which we can sincerely fight against religious zeal and nationalism. I see the current state of Israel as an extension of this modern Western culture. and not, as you see it, as an extension of the culture of the Torah.

Your cousins, the sons of Ishma’el, lack this extension of secular Western culture and this is the reason you are way ahead while they continue to lag behind, stuck in their old Ishma’eli Islamic ways.

The concepts of religious reform, religious reconciliation and modern interpretations of religious scriptures are simply 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. However, reality proves otherwise. We have been immersing ourselves in such ideas for years all over the Middle East – not just in Israel – and no good has come from them.

We have to distance ourselves from the eras when religion and nationalism ruled people’s lives. We should move forward to a more progressive era that takes into consideration the significant scientific progress that humanity has achieved. We have to move forward and progress along with human intellect. We must promote political entities that are based on the unity of land and the oneness of human identity; entities which are manifested today in many parts of the world.

These are the fundamental ideas that are needed to solve the conflict with your Palestinian neighbor, whether the solution be found in one state or two (the number of states not being an issue if such principles are followed). Religion will be a mere personal decision.

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

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

Best regards

Abdelgawad Sayed


To read Yossi’s response check this link