Respect is one of the main ingredients of peace. Even if you don’t display it to your enemy as a person, just by showing respect towards his cause, intelligence, and the manner by which he orchestrates his tactics, you are putting yourself in the position of being a peace-worthy opponent.
Some Israelis may not know this or may have gotten so used to it that they stopped seeing it as something special; the way the Israeli media portrays all opinions openly is a unique thing in a world of vicious propaganda and censored speech liberties.
I don’t believe that I have ever seen an Arab having the liberty of saying anything even close to nice about Israel or any of its politicians. Maybe recently you get to see Arabs, dubbed “thinkers”, making positive public gestures about Israel but all of them belong to anti-Iran Gulf states and it is common knowledge that their governments have mandated them to prepare their populations for an alliance with the Jewish state in an attempt to become stronger in the face of their scary Persian neighbor.
Israel seems to enjoy the new rhetoric of those Gulf states but it is too smart to do anything more than the act of enjoying. Israel is the country that exchanged thousands of prisoners and P.O.Ws in return for a few of its soldiers and bodies. This is proof that every Israeli, even if dead, is precious. Based on that, it is safe to conclude that Israel would not put its military personnel in unnecessary conflicts just because Sheikh Mohamed Bin Salman demands it in return for his friendship.
Israel would possibly be interested if Saudi Arabia can manage to weaken Hezbollah or Hamas in any way. That, though, is far-fetched. As it is, the Saudis can hardly control combat outcomes with the Houthis and speculations point to very possible upcoming domestic tribal confrontations due to Sheikh Mohamed’s crack down on powerful princes and clergy.
Well over a trillion dollars of Saudi money have been wasted so far in the futile military attempt to bring Yemenis to their knees. The Saudis won’t give an official number for their dead. No one there seems to care because it is simply unfathomable that anyone could make the House of Saud government accountable for its decisions.
In Israel, however, there is such a thing as public opinion and a rather healthy one; we all remember what happened to Mr. Ehud Olmert.
Back to the main issue: The maintenance of minimum respect even among arch enemies. It is what matters because should they ever decide on making peace, they will need to trust each other’s commitments.
Undoubtedly, Hezbollah is Israel’s biggest problem. Who would have guessed? Huge armies of regionally influential countries like Iraq, Syria, and Egypt were no match to the Israeli army while Hezbollah, with its proportionally modest numbers and armaments, keeps Israel busy almost perpetually in devising updated defense strategies and military response plans.
Hezbollah’s Secretary General Mr. Nasrallah and Israeli leaders have to always issue warnings and throw threats at each other. The two sides have never hidden the hate they hold for one another. But, if you follow the angry exchange of speeches more closely in the choice of words and compare them to those made by Arabs, you will detect a level of respect. You will be able to notice the difference between hate and contempt.
In his general verbal tackling of the subject of Israel, Mr. Nasrallah gives indications of respecting the Israeli public opinion and the potential of the Jewish state. Israelis almost never attack Mr. Nasrallah’s religious convictions or his personal character; they actually do not censor some of their citizen’s (official and unofficial) opinions that praise Mr. Nasrallah.
In most Arab countries, the public and their politicians discuss Mr. Nasrallah and Hezbollah too. They, however, do not refrain from using profanities and almost always attack the religious pillars of Shiites. This is probably why the Hezbollah public and fans rarely treat them with the same level of verbal restraint that they treat Israeli commentators with.
Of course, there are always exceptions but this is the general perception when watching interviews and reading countless social media comments mainly done in Arabic.
The notion of respect, no matter how faint most of the time, is present between the two major regional foes although it might be more detectable on the Israeli side because of the freedom of speech liberties present there.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of being invited for an incredibly delicious lunch at a home in the south of Lebanon. The huge table was set under the biggest vine tree bearing the most succulent looking white grapes. I made a comment about the food to the lady of the house in that it is very possible to find the same dishes on an Israeli family’s table. I then apologized in case my comment was inappropriate as the old lady, traditionally called “Hajjeh” there, had lost a brother and a son to Israeli shelling during the 80s.
She, the “Hajjeh“, smiled ever so sweetly. She pointed at all her children and grandchildren sitting around the table saying that they were all treated worse by Arabs than “Jews”. She said that during the 1982 occupation, a group of Israeli soldiers came to their house and knocked at the door and that the officer in charge of the group was a young man; when she opened for him, he respectfully called her “Hajjeh” and asked her if they had weapons or saboteurs hiding at home. She added that the young man in green told her to have the women and girls of the house dress up decently because a search was to be conducted.
The “Hajjeh” made sure I understood that the Israeli who spoke broken Arabic was gentler and more respectful than the Lebanese Lahad forces who had at some point tortured one of her sons, the Palestinian militias who levied taxes on the family crops sales, and the Syrian intelligence officers who harassed her family at their infamous checkpoint near Sidon.
These South Lebanon Shiite veiled “Hajjehs“ are the mothers, grandmothers, and elders of the society that feeds Hezbollah with the main source of its combatants. If the elders have no contempt towards Israel then the whole family wouldn’t. This is how the traditional society there is.
With a bit more respect, peace will never be out of reach.
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