By Madeleine Mezagopian*
As a peace activist and an advocate of multi-track peacemaking through democratizing peacemaking process where all should be included, I could not but heed attention to the passing away of the Israeli peacemaker and negotiator Rabbi Menachem Froman on March 4, 2013. Froman, who added Hai Shalom (Living Peace) to his last name, was the coauthor of the ceasefire Froman-Amayreh agreement endorsed by Hamas and still waiting for Israeli official response.
At a time crimes are committed and wars are declared in the name of religion, Froman underlined the importance of religion and inclusion of religious leaders in the peace process hence investing religions to bring about peace rather than war which motivated Froman to build close ties with Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas religious leaders. Froman believed in coexistence under Palestinian sovereignty and supported both the Palestinian Authority's efforts to attain statehood recognition at the United Nations and making Jerusalem the religious capital of all three monotheistic faiths.
On this occasion and following the tradition of Froman's people to people interaction and equally motivated by promoting peace and coexistence, the author opted to engage and share the readers with a chat the author conducted with a scholar friend John Katz, an Israeli writer with special focus on Middle East Diplomacy who equally believes in just peace and coexistence, which better informs the hard common realities, in the absence of peace, facing both Arab and Jewish peoples than formal statements.
Author: While attending mass in the church, someone smashed the window of my sister's car and took my handbag which was in the car.
Friend: That's terrible. I only hope this is rare and no part of a widespread phenomenon
Author: It is part of spreading phenomenon, the norm not the exception
Friend: I remember Jordan as a state with a strong rule of law. Is it the result of the general deterioration due to recent wave of revolutions?
Author: Public institutions loosing its integrity, hungry people, all sort of foreigners
Friend: In Israel it's the same, my girlfriend and her daughters have to cut down on food due to the economic situation
Author: We are becoming very selective with our expenditures
Friend: Yes, this is a terrible problem for me as well
Author: and how Israel feels about situation in Syria?
Friend: Well, I think most Israelis don't really care. Of course they refer to the ongoing fighting as a sign of what they view as an Arab barbarism. I really don't have much hope in Israeli society. Even in my work I have to listen to racist slogan all day long
Author: but what's going on in Syria re the behavior of Salafists is very much form of barbarism
Friend: Yes, but most of the Jews in Israel consider all Arabs as barbarian
Author: This racism, barbarism can be experienced by any race at a certain historical stage
Friend: Yes, but Israeli society is extremely racist at present
Author: Why? What instigates such racist attitude? The Arabs are the underdog in the West Bank not the Israelis
Friend: I think it's poverty, Israeli society is getting poorer and more nervous and violent
Author: and blaming others for that instead of pushing their government to activate peace which will bring with it prosperity
Friend: How are things in Jordan?
Author: Very bad
Friend: Sorry to hear this
Author: I just visited a newspaper supposedly the best suffering of bankruptcy, the deputy president admitted the intellectuals of Jordan are excluded
Friend: Excluded from what?
Author: having a role
Friend: Yes, this is real problem
Author: also met head of a cultural forum, the only indicator I detect, hopelessness, corruption everywhere
Friend: I see, In Israel it's the same
Author: and Palestinian-Jordanian rift is re-emerging
Friend: Well, I have to work in a place where I am not appreciated
Author: It's everywhere, it hurts, but we have to survive, injustice is increasing instead of decreasing
Friend: by the way, have you heard of Rabbi Menachem Froman
Friend: He just died yesterday. He was a religious settler who had friends among Palestinians
Author: You mean he believed in coexistence?
Friend: Yes, and he also met Arafat many times. Well, I met him only once or twice in my lifetime. But I can introduce you to a
friend of mine From East Jerusalem who knew him for a long time. His name is Ibrahim abu el Hawa
Author: what is sad, such personalities do not exist in the Arab World. Did he leave followers?
Friend: Well, the friend I just referred you to is an Arab
Author: Good news, hope he is not an exception
In response to Yassin and al Zahar's readiness for a cease-fire and negotiations with Israel and Israel's intransigence, Froman stated "The root of the problem is Israeli and American arrogance. If Israeli government had grasped these opportunities, not only would a great deal of bloodshed been spared and there would be a cease-fire between our two peoples, but there would have been no attack on the World Trade Center, and no American invasion of Iraq."
Yes, let's hope Froman and Abu el Hawa are not exceptions and more Jewish and Arab peacemakers do exist and realize they should compensate where officials failed in peacemaking efforts and bring about just peace which will not only contribute in the stability and prosperity of the region but of the world at large.
* Madeleine Mezagopian is an academic Researcher, Adviser and Analyst in Conflict Resolution/Peace and Socioeconomic and Political Development. She contributed this article to Ammon News.