for a Canaanite republic
Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh
French version in: http://www.lpj.org/Nonviolence/Sami/articles/frn-articles/Justice.htm
“The worst of miseries is one which causes laughter”, says an Arab proverb. I will add that the worst of miseries is not to know how to laughter in misery. Allow me therefore some overflow of language to relieve my deep sadness while thinking about my homeland of origin. To arrive at wisdom, a man often needs to reach the limits of lunacy. I start with place. Where am I from? What is my homeland called? Today, my adopted homeland is called Switzerland. As for my homeland of origin, it is located somewhere between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. I hesitate to pronounce its name and I want so much to rename it:
- “Israel”? Recognized by the United Nations, it is not recognized by (all) countries that surround it. The name itself causes hate and contempt among Arabs and Muslims. I will not go in to the motivations.
- “Palestine”? It is the only country recognized by the countries that surround Israel, but not by the United Nations or Israel, and it provokes hatred and contempt among fundamentalist Jews and Christians. Every time I write a letter to the editor (signed Christian of Palestinian origin) in the Swiss newspapers, I receive one or several letters from these fundamentalists telling me that Palestine is a myth that has no existence in history and that Palestinians came from an island somewhere in the Mediterranean. Here too I will not go in to the motivations.
And yet we have to name this plot of land the size of a handkerchief. I’ve decided therefore, to avoid annoying anyone, to use the name Canaan. It is the name that God, according to the Bible, used to designate this land when he spoke to Abraham (mythic or real, carnal or spiritual father of Jews, Christians and Muslims):
I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding (Genesis 17:8).
By using the name Canaan, I wish also to do justice to the ancient inhabitants of this land, whose descendants still existed at the time of Jesus. The Gospel according to Matthew reports that a Canaanite woman came to Jesus asking him humbly to heal her daughter who was “tormented by a demon”. Jesus granted her prayer and praised her faith, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish!” Matthew adds, “And her daughter was healed instantly” (Matthew 15:21-28). Sometimes, I start dreaming with those Jews who believe in the arrival of the Messiah, just to ask him for a miracle, one alone: to heal all inhabitants of the land of Canaan who are tormented by the demon of violence these days.
Someday, inhabitants of this plot of ground should meet again to speak, to eat, to drink and to rebuild this ravaged country. They should then settle on a name that does not remind them anymore of their past silliness and does not wake up the demon of the past. I propose here and now to call their country “Canaan”, a neutral name, without spite and without bad memories. They will be called then among nations “the Canaanites”.
But how will we arrive at this utopian day while the Jews, Christians and Muslims who populate Canaan are tearing one another to pieces, threatening each other with atomic and chemical bombs, delighting in the death of the others and glorifying their martyrs who sacrifice their life to kill and wound the greatest number of the other clan?
In the days of the apartheid regime of South African, not a long time ago, some twisted minds proposed a solution of the problems between Blacks and Whites: to paint the Blacks white, or the Whites black. Some cans of paint and that would be it! One could propose today a similar solution for Jews, Christians and Muslims in Canaan: two of these groups should convert to the religion of the third. No matter which. All the same.
The paint can solution has not been adopted in South Africa. They preferred the ballot box solution, the way of democracy. Instead of creating courts to judge criminals of war as Whites did after the Second World War, ex-Yugoslavia war and Rwanda war, the South Africans preferred commissions of conciliation. Blacks, the majority, chose recourse to their ancestral wisdom, i.e. the discussion of their problems under the palaver tree. Mali knows a similar wise system to solve problems: people meet in a hut with a very low roof. They must remain sitting to discuss. If one of them sets up to use his hands against another, he hits his head against the roof. Blacks and Whites discuss in South Africa. All is not rosy, but good will is there. The Whites are still white, and Blacks are still black, but they decided to work shoulder to shoulder, to construct their future together. Instead of changing the color of their skin with paint, they decided to change their hearts. In spite of years of jail and persecution, President Mandela knew how to inspire fellow citizens with a sense of justice. And today a great many White South-Africans pay homage to him.
Justice. Changing the heart. Working together shoulder to shoulder instead of destroying each other. These may be the passwords to solve problems between the inhabitants of Canaan: Jews, Muslims and Christians. We are in this respect against the idea of partitioning the country of Canaan. Just as we are against the apartheid that reigns over the inhabitants of this country today. Unity brings strength. Division provokes hatred and frustration.
About fifteen years ago, I took a tourist bus in Rome to get a general view of it. At one stop, I saw this sentence in Latin engraved in the stone on the portal of a Church: Fructus justitiae pax (Peace will be the fruit of justice). Coming from a country torn by war, this sentence unsettled me. I wanted to know the origin. After some research, I discovered that it is a word from the Prophet-poet Isaiah (32:17) who lived in the country of Canaan 2700 years ago. I wish to quote here the entire passage that is exceptionally beautiful:
Justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
Peace will be the fruit of justice,
and the result of justice, quietness and trust forever (Isaiah 32:16-17).
Think about it for a moment: a sentence from Isaiah who states, “Peace is the fruit of justice” engraved on the portal of a Church in Rome, capital of the Romans whose strategists said: Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war). What a contrast! I was filled with emotion, and today again when I think about it I have the same thrill. Immediately after that, together with friends I founded in Switzerland an association called Association for the reconstruction of Emmaus, and the association’s letterhead includes the phrase: “Peace will be the fruit of justice” (Isaiah 32:17). My friends and I wanted to make of this village a symbol of justice and peace in the country of Canaan.
Emmaus is that famous village on the road to which the resurrected Christ met two of his disciples. They invited him to spend the night with them, and they only recognized him after having shared bread with him (Luke 24:13-35). The breaking of bread, gesture of solidarity between humans! And not the breaking up of a country, a gesture of hate and silliness. Jews occupied this village in 1967, destroyed it completely with bulldozers and expelled its inhabitants. On the site of this village they established a picnic area called Park Canada. Trees replaced humans. My friends and I wanted to help inhabitants of this village to return, as a gesture of justice and solidarity. But Jews still turn a deaf ear to the request of its inhabitants. As with this village, Jews destroyed 384 other villages since the creation of Israel, according to Jewish maps. Inhabitants of these destroyed villages became refugees of which a good part live in 61 concentration camps: 13 in Lebanon, 10 in Syria, 10 in Jordan, 20 in West-Bank and 8 in Gaza Strip, therefore a few kilometers from their lands and their destroyed houses. Jews refuse their return whereas they welcome their coreligionists from the United States, Russia, West Europe, Ethiopia, India and other countries and install them on the lands and houses of these refugees whose only crime is not being Jews!
Let us return to the paint cans. Over the centuries, thousands of people converted to Judaism. You cannot tell me that these blue-eyed blonds are the sons and daughters of the Semitic Abraham unless he assiduously frequented whorehouses of Eastern Europe. Today again, one finds conversion to Judaism. One must also add non-Jewish partners in mixed marriages and children of these marriages. All of these people may claim, according to Israeli law, the “right to return” in the country of Canaan. Once there, they benefit from all social, economic and political advantages of Israeli laws. These advantages are only partially provided for non-Jews who are born in the land of Canaan and have an Israeli passport. Their only crime is that they are not Jewish, precisely as South African Blacks’ crime was not being White. The non-Jews who live in the territories occupied by the Jews in 1967 and the Palestinian refugees living in concentration camps under Jewish occupation or in adjacent countries do not have the right to advantages recognized to the “Jewish” Russian, American, Swiss, Polish, Italian, English, Dutch, Ethiopian, French, German, Austrian, Australian, Canadian, etc. The only crime of these Palestinians is that they are not Jews, precisely as South African Blacks’ crime was not being White. We are therefore confronted with a real racist regime of apartheid, whatever one says. Those who do not consider this regime as racist are either blind or dishonest.
What to do with this racist regime of apartheid based not on skin color, but on religious faith? There is still the paint cans solution, mentioned above. It would only take a well-intentioned reformed rabbi to deliver a certificate of Judaism to Christian and Muslim Palestinians. Immediately thereafter, they will join the “Chosen People” and have the right to consume the “milk and honey” of the country of Canaan with other Jews. Another solution would be to convert all inhabitants of the country to just one faith – Judaism, Christianity or Islam – and to make a law that gives them all the same rights.
The conversion solution, the paint cans, does not seem feasible on a large scale, at present at least, even though some hope may be there. On the Internet one finds a site of Jews converted to Islam called “Jews for Allah”. One also finds “Jews for Jesus”; as well as former Christian Russians converted to Judaism, in order to escape Russia. One may recognize them by their uncircumcised penis. Some even get circumcised, exchanging their foreskin for an Israeli passport. Should we pity them?
In the meantime, we need another solution. Non-Jewish Palestinians of Canaan, with their Arab brothers or pseudo-brothers turned to the United Nations, to Western and other countries to convince the Jews to recognize their rights. They also tried traditional war. Currently, they resort to primitive weapons: stones. Without counting invectives. Nothing makes Jews move even one millimeter… whose projects are unknown and staggering. Ben Gourion said the borders of Israel spread over all lands where an Israeli soldier puts his foot. Some fundamentalist Jews (as well as fundamentalist Christians in the United States and Europe) think that the borders of the Promised Land should spread from the Euphrates to the Nile. This would explain the fact that the Israeli embassy in Egypt is located on the other side of the Nile: one cannot put an embassy to a foreign country on ones’ own territory! Jews in the country of Canaan can count on their indefectible American and European allies as well as on their atomic weapons to dissuade Arab and Muslim countries and prevent them from winning the war. Continual American and British bombing against Iraq is probably intended as a signal to any Arab country that would consider a war against Jews. In a panic, Arab countries content themselves with sending some money to Palestinians. In the meantime, they provide Jews and their allies the necessary Arab oil to make and run their tanks and planes that destroy and sow desolation among non-Jewish inhabitants of Canaan.
But one does not know how long Palestinians will accept to be abused by Jews. The Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi (d. 965) said, “It is necessary to never underestimate a weak one in a quarrel: a mosquito is capable of covering the lion’s eye with blood”. The Internet edition of the Jerusalem Post of August 14th, 2001 presents information that sounds an alarm in the deteriorating Middle East situation. The information is based on an article written by the director of a Palestinian Center in Gaza published by the Palestinian weekly Al-Manar issued in Lebanon. According to this information, Palestinians think seriously about the biologic weapons to counter Jewish military strength. About a hundred experts would be capable of handling and using them. A few bombs lobbed at water resources, beaches, markets and residential centers would do the job, and they would be difficult to detect according to the information in the Jerusalem Post. We are faced with an apocalyptic script with unpredictable consequences. It will be then Hitler’s posthumous victory: the extermination of Jews and non-Jews in the Middle East.
Jörg Shimon Schuldhess, an anti-Zionist Jewish Swiss artist, writes that one found hair, bones and shoes of the Jews who died in concentration camps. But their passports, where are they now? He speculates that some Nazi soldiers used these passports to go to Israel under the identity of their Jewish victims, in order to continue Hitler’s policy in that region. This would explain, according to him, the presence of an important German community in Israel. Whatever be the fate of the Jewish passports, human foolishness does not limit itself in time or space: one can be a Hitler without being an Aryan, and a Nazi while being Semitic or Pseudo-Semitic. Do you want proofs?
The Bible tells the story of Samson. His enemies, the Philistines, seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza, today’s famous city manhandled by the Jews, and bound him with bronze shackles; he ground at the mill in the prison. One day, his enemies made a feast in honor of their divinity. They called Samson out of the prison to entertain them. Samson said to the attendant who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, so that I may lean against them”. The house was full of men and women who looked on while Samson performed. Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them. He strained with all his might; and the house fell on all the people who were in it (Judges 16:21-30).
Does this remind you of something? History repeats itself! Is this the prelude to what awaits all the region of the Middle East, if Jews and their allies persist with the present politics? No one in the Middle East is strong enough to insure victory and crush his enemies completely, nor weak enough to be reduced to perpetual slavery. We advance inexorably toward ultimate war and destruction of the entire Middle East. No one will be left unscathed in this next war, all programmed as a delay-action bomb. After the first madman pushes a button, it will be too late to stop him. The country of Canaan, or even the neighboring countries, will become an uninhabitable desert for many centuries. Even lizards will not be able to reside there. Hate on all sides is so strong that dry and green, innocent and guilty, young and old man alike, will end up in smoke and ashes.
The solution of the despair toward which Jews and their allies are pushing Palestinians will bring peace for no one. We need to come quickly out of the gears of war and abandon the Roman strategist principle, “If you want peace, prepare for war”, to come back to the principle of the Prophet Isaiah, “Peace will be the fruit of justice” (32:17). Peace requires that one returns most quickly to the table of negotiations and open all cases, notably the most delicate, the ones concerning refugees and the 385 Palestinian villages destroyed by the Jews. Without a solution to these cases, the region will never, never, know peace. It is necessary that Jews stop claiming for themselves the title “Chosen People” and accept others as equal human beings, just as Whites of South Africa finally accepted Blacks as human beings. It is necessary to end the present politics of religious apartheid, politics unfortunately sustained by the West, for the same reason as racial apartheid had to end in South Africa. Jews must accept the creation of a new State, regrouping Jews, Christians and Muslims; a State we could call “The Canaan Republic”. They must, like Switzerland, suppress religious borders between the three communities. In the same time, the three communities must change the legal system concerning family law and create only one law and only one court for all: for Jews, Christians and Muslims, with laws permitting mixed marriages (to mix the bloods) and suppress discrimination against women. Thus one may have a free society. No society can live on two or three levels of law. Again two measures are needed:
- To create mixed schools where Jews, Christians and Muslims study together, the same matters and the two languages: Arabic and Hebrew.
- To suppress religious cemeteries and bury people together, whatever their faith, so that they remember that they are united before life as before death.
In a speech pronounced May 5th, 1991 before the Knesset, the violinist and humanist Yehudi Menuhin said:
Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword and terror and fear provoke terror and fear. Hatred and contempt are fatally infectious … One fact is surely abundantly clear, namely this wasteful governing by fear, by contempt for the basic dignities of life, this steady asphyxiation of a dependent people should be the very last means to be adopted by those who themselves know too well the awful significance, the unforgettable suffering of such an existence ... It is unworthy of my great people, the Jews.
In an interview, Father Elias Chacour, originally of Biram, a village destroyed by the Jews, said:
We are citizens of second zone, yes, if there are zones. I believe in fact there is now only one zone in Israel, the Jewish citizenship zone. There are non-zones, the margin, where non-Jews are tolerated, but not accepted, because Jews do not have a solution to rid themselves of it. Fortunately, there are very few Jews - but they exist - that protest against this segregation. I fear that in a very short time, if Israel does not fundamentally change politics, does not convert to a new political direction, I believe that we will only have the military option to survive here. It cannot make any roots here, because Palestine, since before Abraham, since Melchizedeck, did not accept a conqueror who does not try to make roots. They are not making roots. They are planting hate in the heart of Palestinians. It is necessary to change, if they want to survive with any quality of life in the Middle East.
The authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirm in the preamble:
It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
This affirmation rejoins the word of the Prophet Isaiah, “Peace will be the fruit of justice” (32:17).
To conclude, if Jews are truly looking for peace in the Middle East, they must conform themselves to the principles of justice instead of persisting in their current policy contrary to human rights. In this regard, they should allow Palestinian refugees to return home and treat non-Jewish Palestinians on an equal footing, irrespective of their religion. Why the fact of being Christian or Muslim makes a Palestinian a candidate for refugee camps, jails, torture, deportation or death? Why?
The day when Christians, Muslims and Jews will be considered by Jews as equal human beings and agree to treat them on equal footing, that day will be the first day of peace in the Middle East. The Middle East has today to choose between justice for all and the extermination of all.
 Christian Arab of Palestinian origin and Swiss citizenship, holding a doctorate in law from the University of Fribourg. Graduate in political sciences from the Graduate Institute of International Studies of Geneva. Head of Arab and Islamic laws in the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in Lausanne. He has written many books and articles on Arab and Islamic law and the Middle East ().
 See Uehlinger: Localités palestiniennes détruites après 1948.
 Jörg Shimon Schuldhess, Flugblatt, October 16, 1986.
 Washington Report on Middle East affairs, July 1991: Address given by violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin to the Knesset upon receiving Israel's highest honor for his accomplishments as a musician, May 5, 1991, in:
 Interview given to the Agence de presse internationale catholique, May 1988.