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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Expert on Palestinian-Israeli relations expresses hope

The Palestine Solidarity Group and Chalutzim teamed up to bring speakers to campus this week to discuss the topic “Transcending Conflict: Palestine and Israel.” Representing the group Israel on Campus, Maurice Roumani spoke in the 11 a.m. convocation spot on the topic “Israel and Palestine: Intractable Conflict or Unresolved Issues?” Dr. Roumani is co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and is the founder and Director of the J.R. Elyachar Center for Sephardi Studies at Ben Gurion, University of the Negev in Israel. He was born in Libya and spent a good deal of his young life in the Arab world before emigrating to Israel.

How does your upbringing in the Arab world uniquely shape your perspective on the conflict?

That peace can [and] will exist between Jews and Arabs because we have so much in common … From the Qur’an and the Old Testament we have so much in common. As I said before, the five pillars of Islam can easily be reflected in Judaism. You know, like sawm [fasting], like giving alms to the poor. Like prayer—you know Muslims pray five times a day, we pray that only on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, but we pray three times. The pilgrimage—we’re supposed to go at least once a year to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, the same thing as in Mecca.
So there is a lot in common, and as I coexisted—I’m not saying that I lived free like I’m living in America. From time to time, I have to be careful, but I know I was tolerated as long as I lived under Islam. I think this ability to coexist [can come], providing that the Arab world can accept an independent Jewish entity in the Middle East.

What is the national mood with regard to Iran in Israel?

Good question. There is a lot of fear, a lot of apprehension. Israel cannot undertake by itself any attack on Iran. [Iran President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, his WMD program would have been fine if its not combined with the ideology of annihilating [and] destroying the state of Israel. That combination, the Israelis feel, is very dangerous.
Would they undertake an attack? I don’t think they can do it by themselves. But, they are very frightened by the proliferation of nuclear weapons especially when they have a theocracy like it is in Iran. That theocracy can govern an individual to do certain things in the name of God and cover up everything else … can be dangerous.

What do you think the prospect of peace is with the new right wing government in Israel, especially Foreign Minister Avigdor

Lieberman is an issue. But, he is only one minister. It’s Netanyahu. And Netanyahu already admitted that he will not do the mistakes that he did when he was prime minister. So, I think the prospects are much better because he is also older, and he is also, let’s put it this way, he is also more mature and I think with the Obama administration, he cannot do something that would upset the Americans.

Why is a post-ethnic and post-racial society in the form of a one-state solution no longer possible?

Because Israel will no longer be a Jewish state. The Jews have escaped Europe, have left the middle east and north Africa to have like Egypt, it’s primary Muslim, you have Muslim holidays, Iran, you have Muslim holidays. They don’t call themselves Muslim states, but you know, look at the constitution in Egypt. Number one, the religion is Islam after the name of the state. And every state, including Morocco, including Libya, all these places have at the basis of their state the religion of Islam.
If the Jews in Israel would allow for a one state solution, the demography will obliterate the nature and character of the Jewish state. Because the Arabs have 3.2 births per family while the Jews have 1.6. In 30, 40 years there will be a majority Arab and a minority Jews. If that happens and its not solved, you will have an apartheid state.

Do you feel that settlements, checkpoints, the wall, and the occupation in general are obstacles to peace?

Yes, they are obstacles to peace, but on the other hand the Israeli leadership is caught in the middle. As in any state whose citizens pay taxes, the state is obligated to defend its citizens. When you have suicide bombing and rampant attacks like we heard just yesterday in the West Bank, if such a thing is finished and over with, I think the Israelis must take off the checkpoints. But if that is not the case, then you need it to protect the citizens because in the middle of the day in Jerusalem or in Netanya, ‘boom boom’ and children and people in buses and all that. That’s why there are checkpoints.

Israelis are not interested, you have to understand, in continuing the conflict. They want to have peace. They pray for peace daily, it’s part of their culture. It’s part of the name of God—peace, shalom, salaam. But they are afraid that when you say salaam it is only a truce and not really a final truce, that you cannot really have peace with the infidels. This is the crux of the problem, and therefore you need reform and education to accept the Jews—the human beings entitled also to exist in the world.

What role do you think that the U.S. should take in the conflict?

I think it should emphasize the commonality that exists between them. What unites them, and what projects, mutual projects that they can do together to promote the well being of the Palestinians, and not the leadership of the Palestinians because those are corrupt. But the people, the common man of the street, his children, education, health, like Israel is doing in Israel.

We need a Marshall Plan for the Palestinians. And the Europeans have understood that. They say that 4.5 billion dollars have already been allocated. Where do they go to? In the leaders pockets or go to the people? We in Israel criticize very much our leaderships—not one leadership, but leaderships at every level, okay. There, they are afraid to criticize we know that. We know what happens. The media doesn’t talk about it. But Hamas people have shot Fatah people among themselves, so we know these things but the media covers up such things.

But this is unfortunate because they are divided among themselves and the people cannot rise up because the leadership and say they don’t want this- they say I want to have my home, I want to have good home. That Hamas indirectly, intelligently is buying these people.

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