What The End Of The World's Oldest Conflict Could Mean For The 2016 Presidential Election
|Israeli security forces stand guard as Samaritan worshipers|
gather to pray on top of Mount Gerizim, near the
northern West Bank city of Nablus, to celebrate the
Shavuot festival, at dawn on June 12, 2016.
(Photo credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images)
I have argued, many times, that an imperfect but impressive world peace has dawned. As Harvard's Steven Pinker, author of Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, and Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University wrote, in 2012, The World Is Not Falling Apart published at Slate.com:
The end of the longest political estrangement in the world was celebrated this April. The celebration went almost unnoticed but could be consequential. The world’s oldest persisting conflict began almost 3,000 years ago as a tax revolt. The consequences of this conflict have mistily haunted world lore, echoing through millennia.
When King Solomon died, around 930 BC, his son Rehoboam ceremoniously ascended to the throne in the city of Shechem. As meticulously recorded in the Book of Kings, the people of the northern tribes of Israel petitioned him for a tax cut. This was, in some ways, the first recorded Tea Party rally.
Solomon’s advisors, good Supply Siders, advised him to cut the people’s taxes. Yet “The young men who had grown up with him and were serving him” – early Big Government types — prescribed a big tax increase.
King Rehoboam went with the tax hike. Big mistake.
The northern tribes promptly seceded and founded their own nation, Israel, becoming known as the Israelites. This left Rehoboam to reign, in Jerusalem, over the tribes of Judah (from which the name Jews much later derived) and Benjamin.
Thereafter hostility prevailed between the Judaeans and the Israelites. The Israelite kingdom was destroyed by the Neo-Assyrians about 200 years later. The Israelites eventually became known as the Samaritans, based on their residence in Samaria.
The subtext of the iconic parable of "the Good Samaritan” was that the compassionate man who Jesus (a Jew) exalted over the Jewish elite was from a community greatly despised by the Jews. In the first century A.D., when this parable was told, there were over a million Israelite-Samaritans. Their numbers then dwindled. Hence the legend of “The Lost Tribes of Israel.”
Yet here the Israelite-Samaritans still are. Their population has risen from fewer than 200 people a century ago to about 800 today and continues to rise. They live by most ancient Biblical traditions and are a cultural treasure of Biblical proportions.
The Israelite-Samaritans have achieved something that has proved elusive to others: they live and thrive in peace with the Israelis and the Palestinians both. And they offer themselves as a “Bridge of Peace” in the Middle East.
The Israelite-Samaritans reside in a village outside Nablus – the modern name of the very Shechem in which Rehoboam was crowned – and in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv. I have the privilege of serving as the honorary envoy of the Israelite-Samaritans to Washington and of having co-founded, together with Samaritan elder and civic leader Benyamim Tsedaka, the Samaritan Medal Foundation. Under Chairman Tsedaka’s leadership, the Foundation awarded its Peace Medal to Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdalla last August.
This past April the Foundation awarded its Peace Medal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thereby an ancient rift was ceremoniously resolved. As Foundation co-founder and honorary consul, I was abruptly summoned by the Israelite-Samaritan leaders to Jerusalem and Nablus. I met, at the Knesset, with the Honorable Zeev Alin, the Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage. In Nablus I met with another distinguished Peace Medal recipient, former Nablus mayor the Honorable Ghassan El Shakha’a, now executive committee member and Head of the Department of International Relations of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. I also there met with public activist ‘Abd El Aillah El Attireh, and with the good Samaritans Ovadia Cohen and Yitzhaq Altif, the latter the secretary of the Mount Gerizim Samaritan Committee.
And I spent a night on Mount Gerizim, the Mountain of Blessings, outside Nablus, there receiving the blessing of Abedel b. Asher, the High Priest of Israel, himself a recipient of the Samaritan Peace Medal in 2015. This eminent dignitary is the many-generations-descendant of the first High Priest, Aaron, by blood a grand-nephew of Moses.
An impromptu visit to Jerusalem by Vice President Biden caused the postponement the presentation of the Samaritan Peace Medal to Prime Minister Netanyahu until shortly after my departure. It was a privilege to have been invited to Jerusalem and Nablus, where the rift originated, to participate in an historic peacemaking process.
Nestled within the event may lie the seed of a new narrative, one of rapprochement and peace in the Middle East. Consider, if you will, a new concept: pro-Semitism.
Most people know of anti-Semitism. Most mistake a Semite to mean a Jew but it is more inclusive. The Oxford New American Dictionary defines Semite as “a member of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs.” Add to the Jews and Arabs the formidable Israelite-Samaritans.
Championing pro-Semitism just might be another way of defusing antagonisms and of building solidarity between many of the factions in the Middle East. The formal end of a 3,000-year-old rift may seem arcane. Yet it is undeniably historic, and perhaps not inconsequential.
Chaos Theory argues that small events can have profound impact. As Wikipedia sums it up:
Following suggestions from colleagues, in later speeches and papers Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.
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