Islam and Israel

By , Dr. Mahmoud H. Farghal is a political counselor at the embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington.

Is Islam responsible for the vicious cycle of violence in the Middle East? Definitely not. The conflict in the area is political, not religious. Islam does not hinder the chances of promoting peaceful Arab-Israeli relations, because the core of Islam is peace. The Koran says: ''And if they incline towards peace, incline yourself also towards it.''

Arabs are conscious of this Islamic demand. They are ready to recognize Israel within secured and recognized boundaries once Israel withdraws from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan, and accepts, as well, the right of the Palestinians for self-determination. The same attitude is adopted by the Islamic Conference, which agrees to all the UN resolutions that provide a mutual recognition within a just and durable settlement.

The readmission of Egypt to the Islamic Conference is not at the expense of weakening Egypt's relations with Israel. There is no paradox between Egypt's membership in the Islamic Conference and its commitment to the Camp David accords. These accords are a framework of a comprehensive peace. The Egyptian-Israeli Treaty is one step toward that goal. The autonomy talks to solve the Palestinian problem have been fruitless, so far. This does not imply a shortcoming in Camp David but reflects Israel's plans to absorb the West Bank. Egypt will not give up its efforts - with the United States, Israel, and the Arabs, particularly King Hussein and Yasser Arafat - to get all parties concerned to the negotiating table.

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Islam is not only a call for peace, but also a command to be tolerant and understanding of other religions. Islam encompasses the teachings of all prophets who share the same plea for the oneness of God. As the Koran says: ''We believe in God and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob and his children, and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to all other prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between any of them. To Him (God) we submit ourselves.''

Because of such tolerance, the Jewish minority could flourish and prosper during the Islamic rule in Spain, which lasted for five centuries between the 8 th and 12th centuries. Jews did not suffer from oppression during that Islamic rule. Persecution is anathema to Islam.

This cordial attitude could carry over into co-living between Arabs and Israelis once peace becomes a reality. Arabs and Jews are the grandsons of Abraham. Their ethnic unity is evident in Arab and Israeli cultures. Arabic and Hebrew languages are similar in vocabulary and pronunciation. For example, the word ''peace'' is ''salam'' in Arabic and ''shalom'' in Hebrew. It is also difficult to distinguish between the tune of classic Israeli music and that of the Arabs. These examples of Arab-Israeli affinities indicate that once Israel relinquishes its policies of occupation, then peace and stability will prevail. To that end Sadat made his historic visit to Israel, declaring from the Knesset: ''I have come to you with firm steps to build a new life to establish peace. We all on this earth - Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike, worship God and nobody but Him. God's teachings and commandments are love, sincerity, purity, and peace.''

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