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A state of heart

I see Moammar Gadaffi, the leader of Libya, has weighed in with an op-ed piece on the raging Israeli-Palestinian crisis and you can read it in full here.

In it he argues for a one-state solution — “Isratine” — which he argues, “would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it”.

Going by the current levels of mistrust and tit-for-tat attacks, a one-state solution seems to be light years away. If it were to be realised anytime soon, it would require a phenomenal amount of tolerance and a renewal of hearts and minds to “love thy neighbour” to a point transcending the religious fanaticism which in part, fuels this conflict for a right to a sacred identity alongside other rights. It would demand an almost self effacing sacrifice by either side to a point where the explosive emotions stirred by unresolved historical injustices are rendered totally irrelevant. Yet for as long as ours remains an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect people, with imperfect minds incapable of realising perfect co-existence, that outcome may not be possible for a very long time.

But then again is such pessimism warranted? Perhaps not. Israel and Palestine could achieve this tremendous feat of a perfect peaceful co-existence in a remarkably short span of time. So why don’t they? Stop snickering, o ye of little faith! I can hear some of you ask: “If it hasn’t happened in the last 2000 years what makes you believe it will happen now?”

Well, surely there has to be some sort of continuum in the evolution of the human condition in so far as our ability to get along is concerned. It is a continuum that should typically follow the life-cycle phases of infancy, through adolescence and thereon to maturity. Obama’s election illustrates this continuum. Far from being restricted by its legacy of slavery and segregation, America broke free from the strictures of history to elect an improbable candidate as president. Obama’s own convictions attest to this evolving state of a nation’s heart and psyche from infancy to maturity. This is why time and again he returns with renewed vigour to Abraham Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” remarks, spoken in 1861 when the Union was in peril.

Before boarding the train that took him to his inauguration, Obama made an appeal to the American people not to yield to their “easy instincts” but to give room to the influence of their “better angels”, in the quest to overcome the problems facing them.

Up to this point both sides in the Middle-East conflict have displayed a fatalistic inability to get along. The conflict — more than any other in the history of humanity — is a revealing case study of how little some quarters of the world have travelled where others have covered a million miles on the journey to tolerance and the advancement of the common good.

May I suggest that it is infantile to always resort to tit-for-tat tactics to resolve our differences. Children who begrudgingly share their possessions because they have been forced to do so by adults, resent the imposed duty of sharing. On the other hand, when those children brought up in the ideals of empathy and tolerance mature into adults, they selflessly give of their talent and resources to those less fortunate than themselves.

The point is this: as a civilisation we have a stake in each other’s happiness. This is a duty we can only afford to neglect at our own peril. The heartbreak of Zimbabwe is due in part to the SADC’s procrastination and its reluctance to actively engage in the sharing of that nation’s sufferings through swift and decisive intervention.

Today the world at large is in danger of missing an equal opportunity to save mankind from the spectre of a conflict with far reaching repercussions if it does not share in bringing a lasting solution to the Middle-East crisis.

Mankind is in the process of outgrowing the Earth. We have in recent times successfully launched spacecraft to Mars over a distance exceeding 56-million kilometres. We have placed satellites in space from where pictures of our planet — a mere speck floating in this giant cosmos — are beamed back to us. Our squabbles for resources pale into significance when compared to our own survival in the greater universe. Yet at a time when our planet is in danger from the effects of climate change, we are still hopelessly mired in the shortsighted and divisive conflicts which pit neighbours against each other and threaten our very existence more than, say, the prospect of an alien invasion.

Taking stock of all the bitter struggles that our civilisation has endured because of our worst instincts, the evolution of our collective psyche demands that we put aside our childish ways and embrace our heritage as the only known species capable of sustaining a complex life form in this vast universe. Above all, our growing up process requires that we begin to act on the sort of interventions that will end the conflicts which threaten the survival of us all.

There are viable options which can be taken to achieve a peaceful status quo in the Middle East. One of them is the federated state solution. It might not be a new solution but it is one that has never been tried and tested. As far back as 1947, a minority faction of UNSCOP (the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) made such a proposal for an independent federal state comprising Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem as its capital. Its proposal stated that “full authority would be vested in the federal government with regard to national defence, foreign relations, immigration, currency, taxation for federal purposes, foreign and inter-state waterways, transport and communications, copyrights and patents. The Arab and Jewish States would enjoy full powers of local self-government and would have authority over education, taxation for local purposes, the right of residence, commercial licenses, land permits, grazing rights, inter-state migration, settlement, police, punishment of crime, social institutions and services, public housing, public health, local roads, agriculture and local industries.”

This option and the will to see its fruition requires only one essential ingredient: a change of heart and a shift of consciousness on the part of the main protagonists in this conflict. We, the global citizens of our time, will be loathe not to encourage the fruition of such an option.

Now, I am not privy to the reasons or motives Gadaffi advances in arguing for a one-state solution in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The motives might well be noble. Some suggest the motives are sinister. But since when has peace ever been such an undesirable state of affairs? What is wrong with not having women and children, or people of any description or race die needlessly? Hands up anyone who agrees with me that all should live as they please in freedom and harmony, observing the rule of law, with civility unto one another and in pursuit of a better life!

Suppose we are capable of summoning “the better angels of our nature” to the point where enemies become friends and warring neighbours forge enduring alliances. Would the absence of hate and conflict be sorely missed? Would the lack of violent conflict render our world an unhappy place? I think not.

In the poem Our Deepest Fear, Marianne Williamson makes a startling assertion about the limitations of the human condition when she states: “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us”.

She could be right. It is not in the interests of those filled with darkness, hatred and intolerance, to summon any virtue that would weaken their supposed position of strength or the selfish advancement of their ideologies over others. And this is the most troubling thing about missing the opportunity to end the conflicts that render humanity apart and worsen our condition as a species. The longer we procrastinate in finding solutions that transcend borders, the longer we remain infants caught up in the vicious cycle of tit-for-tat. For extremists, the notion of light — as in the good that we can muster for our collective benefit — can indeed be a threatening thing.

Humanity can no longer afford conflicts of any kind or scale, whether at the Israeli-Palestinian, Zanu PF-MDC, or Hutu-Tutsi level. If our generation is intent on ushering humanity in an age of sustainable peace and progress, egos in any kind of manifestation (political, ideological, religious or otherwise) need to diminish and our ability to empathise with those different from us, must of necessity, evolve for the better. It is a lofty reality but one for which we can strive by improving the state of our hearts as neighbours and nations living side-by-side as citizens on one tiny blue and white globe hurtling through space.


  • Jeremiah Kure is a professional working in the corporate governance arena, based in Johannesburg. He is the founder of the Heights We Must Climb movement and a firm believer in a progressive Africa; an Africa not tied to her stereotyped past but one that is steadily reclaiming her dignity and potential in the global space.