Clash of Civilizations—Is Conflict Inevitable?

Posted on Thu, Jun 21, 2007 @ 03:03 PM
Samuel Huntington’s notion that we are living through an era marked by the inevitable clash of civilizations called into question

In his 1996 book, “Clash of Civilizations,” Samuel Huntington focused on militant Islam as a prime example of civilizational conflict with the West. Of course, not all Muslims seek confrontation nor accept that Islamic and Western civilizations are destined to clash. 

In Rome today, Mohammed Arkoun, professor of the History of Islamic Thought at the University of Paris, told delegates that tragedies such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iraq war result from “carefully planned political alliances and monopolistic control of societies” and further that Huntington’s concept was being used to manipulate rather than elucidate. 

He appealed against “the diplomacy of secrecy,” saying that truth has become a victim. He also advised that all sides should engage in serious self-examination as a prelude to making progress.  

It’s not the first time that the clash of civilizations has been questioned by an Islamic authority. 

In July 2003 at an international conference of Islamic scholars, the Grand Shaykh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, which is viewed as the highest authority in Sunni Islam, declared, “I do not subscribe to the idea of a clash among civilizations. People of different beliefs should co-operate and not get into senseless conflicts and animosity.”  

David Hulme


Tags: conflict

Israel’s Two New Leaders

Posted on Tue, Jun 19, 2007 @ 03:05 PM
The Middle East Conflict Takes another Turn

Today, Shimon Peres was elected Israel’s president in a second round of voting. His two challengers had withdrawn after winning many fewer votes in the first round.

Yesterday Peres’ former party, Labor, elected Ehud Barak as its new leader. These two former prime ministers find themselves in new roles at a crucial time in the ongoing Middle East crisis. What it may mean for the Palestinian situation is hard to predict with the current fierce battles between Hamas and Fatah fighters in Gaza and the West BankThough Peres’ role will be largely ceremonial, he will have a unique opportunity to meet world leaders and influence policy. In an interview with Vision a few years ago he made clear his overall feelings about the need for reconciliation with the Palestinian people.



Tags: gaza, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Fatah, Hamas, Middle East Crisis, israel, west bank, Palestine

Critical Junctures in the Middle East Conflict

Posted on Thu, Jun 07, 2007 @ 03:45 PM
New books detail historic outcomes in the Israeli-Palestinian impasse


1967 Arab-Israeli War: preparing to capture Old City

1967 Arab-Israeli War: preparing to capture Old City

From both Arab and Israeli perspectives, 1967 became the defining date in the more than century old Middle East conflict. More so even than the 1947-49 Palestinian exodus, categorized recently by Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, as “ethnic cleansing” and known by the Palestinians more opaquely as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”). In that period, between 750,000 and 800,000 Palestinians either fearfully fled their homes (temporarily they thought) or were driven out by Israeli forces. Since then precious few have been able to return. 

But what happened during the June 1967 Six Day War created a problematic new reality for Israel and the remaining Palestinians that only extended the seething and suffering.

While the Israelis’ unforeseen capture of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights gave them 30% more territory, it created infinitely more potential for conflict with its additional one million Arab residents.

At the time, according to Israel’s future state president, Chaim Herzog, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Sinai and the Golan to Egypt and Syria (see Heroes of Israel, 1989). The offer was to be conveyed by the United States, but apparently never reached the two Arab states. 

Subsequent debate within Israeli circles about what to do with the captured West Bank found Israel’s veteran former prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, recommending its return. He saw no possibility of maintaining a demographic edge by incorporating so many Palestinians into Israel.

The problem of absorbing the West Bank in the event of a crisis with Jordan had occupied Israeli strategists months before the war. Their evaluation that it would be unwise and lead to many difficulties for Israel, domestically and internationally, is confirmed by Israeli journalist and historian, Tom Segev, in his just published book, 1967.

Sadly, the rest is painful history.

David Hulme

Tags: 1967 Six Day War, west bank, Middle East Conflict, Palestinian Exodus

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War

Posted on Wed, Jun 06, 2007 @ 03:47 PM
Capturing East Jerusalem—How Identity Played Its Role

Journalist and historian Tom Segev (1967, Israel, The War And The Year That Transformed the Middle East) played “what if?” this week in the New York Times, when he speculated about a different outcome to the Six Day War. What if Israel had turned back from taking East Jerusalem and the West Bank? After all, recently released documents show that Israeli strategic thinking six months before the war, precluded such capture. If that course had been followed on June 6th, four decades of Israeli oppression and Palestinian terrorism might never have happened.

As a journalist, Segev claims the right to speculate. But as a historian, he knows he cannot.

The fact is that once Jordan had attacked West Jerusalem, the stage was set for retaliation. Once retaliation brought Israeli forces within reach of East Jerusalem and the Old City, deep-seated identity played its role. Segev notes, “Acting under the influence of the age-old dream of return to Zion as well as Israel’s spectacular victory over Egypt’s forces a few hours previously, the ministers decided with their hearts, not their heads, to take East Jerusalem.”  And the rest is history.

The above quote is evidence once again of the role that identity plays at such critical moments. Along with ideology, this is the core of my 2006 book about Jerusalem’s future.

David Hulme

Tags: Six-Day War, israel, Palestine