When will the Arab-Israel conflict come to an end?

Both Israel and the Arab world need peace. We must accept each other. Peace needs fair-minded people like me and my Israeli conference friend. Can you join us? Please, do.

by Ahmed Abdel-Raheem on 12 October 2012 09:09

Last July, I was in Portugal to present a paper at an international conference on linguistics. From the first moment I arrived in the conference site, I found warm welcome from the organising committee and from all the conference participants. Yes, we are the world. We are one.

Importantly, one of the participants was an Israeli professor of cultural studies. Honestly, when I saw the ID around her neck and she saw mine, I expected her to treat me as an enemy rather than as a colleague or a friend. But, to the contrary of my expectations, she showed me big kindness and respect. Furthermore, she expressed her admiration to my paper, giving me her card and expressing her wish to
visit me in Egypt.

In fact, Israel is not an enemy. Like any place in the world, it has good and bad guys. I must say I would like to visit Israel and to make friendships with Israelis. But the question is, can I visit Israel? I do not know. But one conference participant, a German PhD student, told me that she had a bad experience at the Israeli checkpoints, after a visit to Egypt. That is why she advised me not to try to visit Israel at all.

Anyway, the conference ended successfully, and I enjoyed it very much; but what was striking my mind is: what about my friendship with the Israeli professor; will I mail her a copy of my paper, as she requested; what if she visits Egypt, will I receive her? All these questions have controlled me, because I was afraid this friendship could cause problems for me.

Knowing that I participated in this big international conference, my ex-supervisor at Al-Azhar University asked me to tell him about this experience. Everything was going well, till I reached the part of Israeli professor. Suddenly, I found my supervisor unhappy, telling me that Israel is a dirty enemy. I replied that Israel has good people and it can be a friend of Arabs. But, there was no way to convince this Egyptian professor. In fact, the big majority of Arabs are like this professor. They see Israel as an enemy.

The question is, does Israel also see Arab countries as enemies? If this is the case, there will be no peace in the region.

Finally, I have an uncle who has been killed in the 1970 attrition war between Egypt and Israel. But, I see that we can get over the past and begin a new era. Both Israel and the Arab world need peace. We must accept each other. Peace needs fair-minded people like me and my Israeli conference friend. Can you join us? Please, do.

Ahmed Abdel-Raheem is an Egyptian artist and a PhD student

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