April 17, 2008
Paving the path to dialogue
(Page 2 - Previous Page)The Israeli-Palestinian issue is more subtle. Though the Muslim letter tries hard to avert controversial topics, it admits nevertheless: "At the core of the Muslim-Jewish tension lies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and proposes: "A peaceful resolution that will assure mutual respect, prosperity and security to both Palestinians and Israelis, while allowing the Palestinian people their rights to self-determination."
Readers familiar with the history of Israel's plight for a two-state solution would notice immediately the asymmetrical language in which the proposed resolution is cast. Whereas the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination are affirmed explicitly, the rights of Israelis to the same status of self-determination are left undeclared, vulnerable to future assaults by enemies of co-existence.
In my response to the letter, I therefore expressed hope that the next phase of the dialogue "will bring Muslim and Jewish leaders closer toward a position of symmetry and reciprocity, and boldly acknowledge the historical rights of both sides to self-determination in two, equally legitimate, equally indigenous, and equally secured states."
I am thoroughly convinced that such acknowledgment, benign and neutral as it may sound, would do more for world peace than theological accounts of shared prophets and common rituals. And if King Abdullah's conference manages to sprout such acknowledgment we will indeed be facing the dawn of a totally new era in the Middle East.
What I am still unable to determine, though, is whether entering a dialogue in response to an asymmetrical invitation has a better chance of restoring symmetry than insisting on symmetry at the onset. Let us hope that the Jewish delegation to King Abdullah's dialogue will find some of the answer in Riyadh.
Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org), named after his son. He and his wife Ruth are editors of "I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl" (Jewish Light, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
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