Letter: Middle East peace 'not dead'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Robert Fisk's assertion that "a dream of peace is dead" (9 April) illustrates how Westerners often expect quick answers and solutions to problems that have been in the process of evolution and resolution for generations.

Where in the Middle East is there peace today? Shall we say there is peace in Egypt because she regained Sinai and conveniently washed her hands of Gaza with its Palestinian population? A vicious war continues between Mubarak's government and Muslim aspirants. Apparently Lebanon is at peace now, she too having rid herself of her erstwhile Palestinian guests. But for how long will her people tolerate the colonisation of their country by Syria and Israel?

Libya seems also to have found peace recently in the wake of its expulsion of more than 25,000 Palestinian "fifth columnists". But how long before Gaddafi picks a fight with Chad again, or his own people decide they have had enough of his dictatorship? Kuwait similarly found that expulsion of the Palestinians was useful in the aftermath of the Gulf War, and presumably this too was aimed at achieving a more lasting peace in the area. One wonders though, how long Iraq will remain dormant to preserve that tenuous peace.

King Hussein of Jordan is currently the darling of the Western world because he maintains the peace he made with Israel and behaved so impeccably after the recent massacre of Jewish children. But the King can afford to act as he does since, like Egypt, he conveniently shifted the problem of the West Bank Palestinians off his front lawn and into Israel's back yard. Whatever arrangement we may eventually arrive at with the Israelis, Black September will remain an indelible part of the Palestinian memory.

Notwithstanding the above, the so-called "peace process" is not dead, as Mr Fisk has described it, for that would leave us with no hope whatever for the future. In the Middle East, peace has always been relative, some would say moribund, but the main thing as far as we Palestinians are concerned is that the process of finding a way forward continues realistically, within its proper context of the region as a whole, and above all remains flexible. If we are to have hope for the peoples of the Middle East in general and for the Palestinians and Israelis in particular, we must first appreciate our history and then say with a cynical optimism, "The peace may be dead: long live the process."

Dr FIRAZ AL-AHMAR

London W4

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