Only a Two-State Solution can end Islamic Extremism & Terrorism
The link between resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict through a two-state solution and winding down sectarian polarization and rampant violence across the Middle East is undisputable
London , United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - 24 Apr 2017 - Ghassan Matar
It was more than fascinating coincidence that both the French government and the UN secretary general called for serious and urgent international action to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through a negotiated agreement that leads to the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace adjacent to Israel. Both gestures were dramatic, and deserve our full attention, because they affirm the pivotal link between the unresolved status of Palestine and the continued deterioration of conditions across the Middle East.
it was also no coincidence that in 2014, Sweden became the first Western country to officially recognised the state of Palestine, only a month after the new Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström announced her intention to make the controversial move.
The same rhetoric was repeated today by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel as he makes his way to the region. In a statement before his departure, Gabriel said
"With respect to the Middle East conflict, our solidarity with Israel also means working to ensure that Israel and Palestine can live side by side in dignity and peace," Gabriel said in a statement released as he departed for the region. "Only a two-state solution will be sustainable,"
These four very serious women, men and their institutions, the Swedish Foreign Minister, the United Nations, France and now Germany, capture the elusive global commitment to the two factors that, above all others, must be activated to achieve a just and lasting peace: the primacy of the rule of law, and the need to be even-handed in supporting the legitimate rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.
The absence of this crucial legality and equity in the lives of hundreds of millions of Arabs finally led our Middle East region to its present violent and fracturing condition, which plagues other countries in the form of illegal migrants, terrorism, and waking up the once buried ghosts of xenophobic, fascistic, and Islamophobic hatreds in some Western societies.
The link between resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict through a two-state solution and winding down sectarian polarization and rampant violence across the Middle East is both symbolic and practical. It starts by acknowledging that the Middle East’s modern legacy of sectarian and national polarization due to political violence, ethnic cleansing, population transfers and expulsions, and the sustained use of political violence started with the conflict between Zionism and Arabism in Palestine in the early decades of the twentieth century—and it has continued and become worse ever since.
We can restore hope and order to the region if we recognize that the current deadly political and sectarian dynamics very often can be traced back to the early days of the Zionism-Arabism conflict, and must be reversed in order to end this nightmare of human suffering across our region.
These include most notably: political violence carried out by individuals and organized groups, including governments; ignoring and trampling on the rights of ordinary men and women in this region, by sacrificing their national integrity and well-being to the greater political priorities or narrow sectarian demands; the rise of ethno-religious nationalism; the large-scale flow of refugees and the reality of multi-generational refugeehood; the active involvement of foreign powers in reconfiguring our national arrangements, with an almost total and criminal disregard for the wishes and rights of the indigenous Arab inhabitants; the incompetence and other failures of Arab governments in addressing Palestinian rights and resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict peacefully and justly for all sides (this contributed to the growing illegitimacy of Arab leaderships that culminated in the mass citizen uprisings of the past five years); the marginalization or misuse of existing international organizations like the UN to promote justice, peace, and security; and, the comprehensive sidelining of the international rule of law in dealing with local conflicts such as Israel-Palestine.
This frightening catalogue of negative political dynamics and ethnical shortcomings still defines the Zionism-Arabism war that has lasted over a century now, and is reflected in so many other Mideast conflicts today. So a concerted international effort with active Arab and Israeli participation to reach an equitable two-state solution would be both a symbolic and a practical reversal of all these destructive trends. A negotiated agreement that ends Palestinian refugeehood, secures Israel’s acceptance in the region, ends Zionist colonialism and expansion, and offers millions of Palestinians a normal life would be a tremendous boost for precisely the forces we need to counter the region’s current deteriorations.
A two-state solution does not immediately end the conflicts across our region; but if it were achieved through negotiations among Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, and world powers, working through the UN Security Council, it would send a powerful message that we have regained our composure, rationality, and humanity by recognizing the primacy of law, tolerance, and justice as the foundations of the secure statehood that is the long-denied right of Israelis and Palestinians.
The American approach has been used for nearly the past quarter century in various forms with only limited success, because terror organizations and actions continue to expand widely. The UN approach is much more complex and challenging. It understands why violent extremism has spread so rapidly around the world, and attempts to craft an effective response to it that cuts out its core drivers at the roots, rather than just snipping off the buds that sprout at its extremities—and keep sprouting over and over again if the basic life-giving forces are not removed.
The “mindless” or “counter-productive policy” to the current prevalent but failed policies of the American, French, British, and all Arab governments that use hard police and military means and slightly delusional social media “counter-narrative” strategies to prevent the radicalization of young people and the spread of terrorism.
The much more demanding route to success acknowledges the use of legitimate military and police counter-terrorism means, but requires Western and Arab governments alike to revise many of their existing policies and practices, in order to cut off the flow of extremists at the roots. Simply stated, this is because the impact of current domestic and foreign policies by so many governments across our region and abroad create the conditions that denigrate, humiliate and ultimately dehumanize millions of individuals, some of whom respond by turning to violent extremism, radical politics, and terrorism.
I hope that governments across the world swallow some humility pills, take the time to study this plan, and consider how the most important policy they could adopt to reduce terrorism would be to put in practice many of the key recommendations in the UN plan of action. The five categories of action are:
- Prevention, which requires improving underlying conditions at the domestic level so that individuals do not reach a state of humiliation and desperation that drives them to terror. The secretary-general made the important point that, “We know that extremism flourishes when human rights are violated, political space is shrunk, aspirations for inclusion are ignored, and too many people—especially young people—lack prospects and meaning in their lives.”
- Principled leadership and effective institutions. “Poisonous ideologies do not emerge from thin air,” Ban Ki-moon noted, adding that, “oppression, corruption and injustice are greenhouses for resentment.” The antidote is for leaders “to build inclusive institutions that are truly accountable to people.”
- Preventing extremism by promoting human rights. “All too often,” he noted, capturing succinctly the norms of most Arab states and some foreign ones also, “Sweeping definitions of terrorism or violent extremism are often used to criminalize the legitimate actions of opposition groups, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders. Governments should not use these types of sweeping definitions as a pretext to attack or silence one’s critics.”
- An “all of government” approach that breaks down “the silos between the peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian actors at the national, regional, and global levels—including at the United Nations.”
- UN engagement, which includes actions by the UN itself while also promoting coordination with and support for national plans of action that address the many inter-linked dimensions of the violent extremism and terrorism threats.
The war on terror which in large part has been a policy driven by the unrelenting support of Israel has bankrupted the United States which is also the only power actually preventing the two-state solution from materialising. Almost a decade and a half after invading Afghanistan and continuing the costly game of protection for Israel in the Middle East, America has lost sight on its own interests and continues to pursue destructive strategies that are breeding new extremists at an exponential rate.