The Language is Out of Synch®
Notes for a "Middle East Peace"
by Garry Davis
The language is wrong, out of synch with reality: "Palestinian," "Jewish," "Arab," "Israel," "Moslem," "nation-state," and all weaving around the holistic word, "Peace."
Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon, along with their myriad supporters, keep dwelling on "peace negotiations" when the very two words are irreconcilable: an oxymoron.
To negotiate means to "deal with or bargain with another or others, as in the preparation of a treaty or contract."* In other words, it implies two or more sides. But peace cannot be "negotiated" between opposing and factious elements. The very word implies an a priori unity, a given commonality. "Palestinians" and "Jews" as such, cannot, by definition, be united. The very language separates and opposes them. But are they already united by another term? Well, yes. It's banal, being self-evident, but true nonetheless: "human." Hearts beat in rhythm, red blood courses throughout the body, sleep returns nightly, energy flows again daily, organic functions go on despite temporal, cosmically irrelevant politics. And further up the scale, they both respond to human values: justice, fairness, reason, love.
"Peace" then is the consequence of a lawful contract between humans abiding in the same area. The area in question is part of a larger area called "Planet Earth." Both Jews and Arabs share a common humanity and live on planet Earth. Banal but true. As for the word "Israel," three simple questions will reveal its fictional character: 1, Do you have to be a Jew to live in "Israel"? 2. Does the state of "Israel" define a Jew? 3. Can the state of Israel defend judaism?
Then take the words "Allah," and "Jehovah." as a language issue. Two Gods? Of course not. Both Judaism and Islam are monotheistic, i.e. one God. Are not then synagogues and mosques, not to speak of temples and churches, all devoted to the same Deity? God's territory on earth? Are they not all sacred "territory?" How then can they be separated by man-made states? "God" and "world law" are consistent. "God" and "nation-state" are contradictory. Again, the language is out of sync. When Jews and Arabs pray to "Allah/Jehovah" do they seek His/Her help in promoting their particular political positions? Do they really think the Creator of the universe cares about their insignificant problems? Or when they pass from this realm, do they go to a Jewish or Palestinian "heaven?" I understand the seeming irreverence of these questions to the religious-minded. But then such a reaction is part of the language problem.
Then what about "Abraham." The Patriarch? The forefather of both Jews and Arabs. Now there's a common link. But who talks of him, Who wants to be reminded? The same family tree? Cousins all? That thought would surely expose the artificial dividing-lines. What would The Father say about a "Jewish" state or a "Palestinian" state, each with its own "defense" department with incidentally the Israel PM's finger today on 2-300 nuclear bombs almost enough to eliminate humanity itself? ("Nuclear defense," the ultimate oxymoron, is the most entrapping and insidious misuse of language.)
I suggest a "peace" language to respect the common ancestor: "The Abraham Federation" uniting both Palestinians and Jews as part of a "world citizen state!" After all, he would opine that cousins feuding over the same territory is a no-win situation.
Then what about that of-so-familiar "Middle East peace" language? Is there such a thing in a "nuclear instant communication age?" We all accept the term "interdependent world." How can there be "peace" in the "Middle East" while there is potential war in the rest of the world? You'd think in listening to the recent trialogues of Camp David and succeeding statements from both leaders that Arafat and Sharon were living alone on planet X rather than on Planet Earth while host Clinton, with his thumb poised on 7,000 online nuclear warheads only wanted to get his name on the plus side of the history books….if there are any.
If it's peace people really want, the language must be consistent with the word. "Peace" is not a condition in itself; it is a consequence of prior conditions. These are four in number. The first is in terms of a Principle. Referring back historically, the US Founding Fathers had to find a unifying principle before they could propose an ideology, a strategy and tactics for evolving a new meta-government over the separate states. "E pluribus Unum" sufficed "From many, one." The last word defines the principle: Unity. Connotations of morality, social and political as well as biological conditions are intrinsic in the word. Once agreed on Unity, they could then turn to the second condition: ideology.
They came up with "natural law" connoting "natural (human) rights." All 3 million humans on the eastern seaboard whatever their state affiliations (except blacks, Indians and women) possessed natural (human) rights. From there it was an easy step to the third condition for peace: strategy. How to turn "natural rights" into political rights? They already knew all about the simple legal process from having applied it on lower levels of political organization: evolve a common code of conduct or laws, give it a "housekeeping" format to prevent abuse. Ipso facto: the "constitution" of the embryonic-only agreed to at first by the 55 convention members-"United States of America."
From there the fourth condition came naturally and finally into play: "tactics." Enter the public, the grassroots, the sovereign people, the ultimate beneficiaries of the process. It's all there in the history books. The Federalist Papers, constitutional conventions in every state; public debates, articles in the press, statements by elders; reference to precedents like the Iroquois Federation, and finally, popular ratification by peoples' congresses. In short, effective and beneficial utilization of the communication tools of the day. Remember, in 1787, no radio, no television, no satellites, no Internet. Yet they managed to pull it together: PEACE. (Until the Civil War, in which the first principle: Unity was denied).
Do you understand now how confused and totally inadequate is the language politicians use today?
Then what about Jerusalem? Do I, as a World Citizen, have any say as to its status? Do you, the reader? Does the world public? You'd better believe it! Jerusalem, like Mecca, like Benares, Amritsar, indigenous burial grounds, temples, mosques, churches, synagogues, indeed, like the Earth itself, is beyond sects, beyond religion, beyond relativist claims. It is sacred territory, held in trust for humanity, a world city. It cannot be assigned in perpetuity to a particular people no matter how spiritual they consider themselves or what historic claims they make. Like hereditary monarchy, both claims are absurdities. Spirituality is by definition universal, not secular or even religious, certainly not political. Only the living have a right to governorship. And the living are defined holistically, humanly, not partially or relativistically. The Jewish, Muslim and Christian prophets all knew and taught this truth.
Pertinent questions to both Arafat and Sharon would be: Are you more interested in preserving the State of Israel and in declaring the State of Palestine than in a real condition of peace between the humans living in that part of the world called the "Holy Land?" And do you both not have a responsibility as fellow humans to consider "peace" on the level of the world since you both will either suffer or enjoy its lack or benefits? Obviously, if the whole is in danger, all the parts are also in danger. What is Israel's and/or Palestinian's security in a world where war is still a dominant legal option? The bottom line question is: Are you really speaking for your "people" in language consistent with their real problems?
In short, a meta-language (read: global) is required for peace. The technical/environment/biological world already uses one: cyberspace, space age. Genomes, bioregions, synergy, humanity, etc. But the political language is still a carryover from the 18th horse-and-buggy, gas lamps century,: "nation-state," "political parties," "national constitutions," As Einstein wrote parenthetically: "As of August 6, 1945, a mental paradigm shift is required." Translation: a "meta-language" is required to meet the new world complexity and common danger of elimination.
The time is late. We, the sovereign world public, by sheer will to survive, have finally figured things out. Our world is already one; humanity is already one, and we partake of a common history, destiny and Origin, call it what you will. Identified appropriately, Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon, we-together with your people, our fellow world citizens-will have peace.
*Webster's College Dictionary, 1990