Bush and Harper delay peace in Middle East

Epilobium latifolium — dwarf fireweed — and I am encircled by it. Also known as river beauty this evening primrose steadfastly clings to…

Epilobium latifolium — dwarf fireweed — and I am encircled by it.

Also known as river beauty this evening primrose steadfastly clings to the gravel banks along Quill Creek painting the coarse waterway bright purple.

This plant is a remarkable survivor.

A yearly rush of spring runoff lays it flat, exposing its fleshy roots, which look to me like tired yet determined fingers. Epilobium latifolium endures.

Sitting here in this place it should be easy to forget about the violent conflicts raging throughout the world.

It is not.

The Middle East is once again a serious battleground.

George Bush’s abysmal foreign policy — now fully endorsed by Stephen Harper — has unleashed such a level of violence it is going to be very difficult to keep it contained.

It should be clear to all of us that Harper and Bush haven’t a clue on how peace and prosperity can be achieved in that part (or any part) of the world.

The foundation to freedom, security, and a world without war builds upon the knowledge that civilization and violence are direct opposites.

Violence, whether it be in the name of self-defence or the protection of religious freedom or human rights or economic prosperity, is wrong, counterproductive in the long run, and uncivilized.

Both Harper and Bush wrongly assume the path to peace in the Middle East is a political process, a road map that may necessarily be violent in the beginning, but will result in some sort of democratic peacefulness in the end.

But they are wrong.

Peace is nothing more, nor anything less, than a way of life, one that does not recognize violence as a solution to conflict.

To believe real peace will somehow blossom like some riverside flower after a campaign of military retaliation and orchestrated air strikes, is foolish, a non-starter.

Peace begins at the moment endless war ends.

Supporting a policy (as both Harper and Bush have done) that maintains Israel has the right to defend itself through sanctioned violence is wrongheaded and barbaric.

It will not end the conflict nor will it redress the grievances all sides have now held on to for nearly a half-century.

Both leaders have signed on to a foreign policy that is militaristic and therefore pointless over the long haul.

It is based on the notion that one side — ours — has a monopoly on human dignity. It is a policy whose centrepiece is the woefully unacceptable notion that economic democracy is necessary and possible anywhere in the world.

Seeking the endorsement of Canadians for such a hackneyed foreign policy is as misguided as the policy itself.

To ask us to rally in support of the notion that one’s selfless and unquestioning service to militaristic solutions is somehow honourable, justified and patriotic is the absolute guarantee that future generations will be asked to make the same foolish mistake.

Any foreign policy that intends to inflict revenge through retaliation on another individual, party or nation state, is quickly moving away from the ultimate goal of peace and security.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is one of unyielding devotion to land, the unrelenting desire to stay rooted.

Palestinian novelist Raj’a Shehade in his book The Third Way describes his feelings about the long struggle for homeland:

“I have overcome my despair, as other people have overcome their despair, and I emerged from it wiser, perhaps, but certainly more adamant in my decision to maintain my sumud, just as the Israeli government seems more determined than ever to empty the West Bank of us….”

Sumud, a term coined at the Baghdad summit of Arab states in 1978, means to endure. Sumud embodies a natural commitment to one’s land, to one’s place, no matter what.

The willingness, the absolute necessity in fact, to stay planted on the land where you have grown is as natural to Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese as it is to this dwarf fireweed.

Given such rigidity on all sides, peace in the Middle East will require enormous effort. But that should come as no surprise.

Trappist Monk Thomas Merton reminds us: “Peace demands the most heroic labour and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war.

“It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

Finding a compassionate solution to conflict is possible. Only through a foreign policy of nonviolence will the Middle East become an expression representing the hopes and dreams of all sides.

This compassionate approach should not be seen as impractical and unrealistic. Sooner or later all humanity must find a way to live without war.

The Middle East may just be the perfect place to begin.

Gregory Heming is a writer living in Haines Junction.

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