ROME, APRIL 16, 2002 (ZENIT.org–Avvenire).- Jewish writer Marek Halter recently contacted John Paul II about the Middle East. Halter has had interviews in recent weeks with Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.
The Polish-born writer came to Rome in response to a telephone call from Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, “the Pope´s secretary and a great friend of mine,” the writer said.
“I firmly believe in peace. It is the only way possible because a military offensive is certainly not a solution,” Halter said.
Q: Why did you come to Rome to meet with the Pope?
Halter: When they learned about my interviews with Hosni Mubarak, Arafat and Sharon, Bishop Stanislaw called me on the telephone to tell me that the Pope wished to speak with me about these interviews. It is one thing to read them in the newspapers and quite another to have direct evidence.
Q: What was the result of these meetings?
Halter: There are three elements to be taken into account. In the first place, politics. Given the pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrations, we are still far from the idea of a single peace demonstration. We are able to be “against” but not “for” someone, because in reality it is easier.
The second element is the claim of each side. Palestine´s is just; it needs to form a state. Then there is Israel´s legitimate ambition for security. People are afraid in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv. Both are just claims.
In the third place, is the personal relation between these two men, which is already dramatic.
Q: Why is it dramatic?
Halter: The relation between Arafat and Sharon would be very interesting for Shakespeare, but for history this relation is terrible because people are dying. When I spoke with each of them, half of the discussion was centered on hatred for the other.
Q: Do you mean to say that without these personages, peace would be attained sooner?
Halter: This leadership aggravates the situation. With another, peace could be signed in one or at most two weeks. However, it is not possible to change it. They have both been elected democratically. Two weeks ago Arafat was no longer popular. Today he is a “maximum leader” thanks to Sharon. Each one is the best propagandist for the other.
Q: The Israeli communities feel betrayed by the West, which seems to be in greater solidarity with the Arab Palestinians. Do you also have this feeling?
Halter: Following the Second [World] War, solidarity with the Jewish people stemmed more from personal concerns than a real interest in the other. After the war, the bad conscience due to the Holocaust made the whole of Europe be in solidarity with the Jewish people to create the state of Israel.
Sixty years have passed. Today the new generation has a bad conscience about the Third World. It is against globalization and thinks that the Palestinian drama is due to U.S. imperialist policy. Therefore …
Q: What can Europe do in favor of peace in the Middle East?
Halter: Very little, I´m afraid. Europe does not have a common diplomacy. It has a common currency but not a common defense [system]. If it wanted to send 30,000 soldiers, it would be unable to do so. Instead, the United States can. Europe can only use moral force, but this could even be a nuisance because the Middle East feels it is adult and wishes to act on its own.