Thursday, April 9, 2009

The meaning of peace in the Middle East: Israel and Syria

If there's one word which gets tossed around without much concrete meaning with respect to the Middle East, it's "peace".

At face value, peace implies, at minimum, a lack of violence. If this is all there is to peace, I'm consistently baffled why people feel compelled to discuss peace between Israel and Syria. While these two countries are not officially at peace, they are not directly at war. This situation is similar in this respect to North and South Korea - not at peace, but not at war.

Perhaps peace between Israel and Syria would imply something broader than direct conflict. It's no secret that Syria has been involved in arming Hamas and Hezbollah, and perhaps one might claim that this is an act of un-peace, if not indirect war. While weapons dealers should, to a degree, be held responsible for the consequences of their clients, it is a strange thing to say that Syria and Israel are not at peace because of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.

Is peace not only the lack of violence AND the commitment towards reducing all violence? Is it something broader than the lack of war, but the active struggle towards living without violence, hatred, or oppression?

Perhaps. I wonder if this is a consequence of peace or the conditions under which it can take hold without being enforced through the barrel of a gun. Either way, the upcoming "peace talks" destined to be (yet again) held between Israel and Syria will be of interest, not only in terms of the outcome and how far each side is willing to go towards "peace", but what, exactly, is desired in the end.

More on Israel and Syria later.

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