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November 26, 2023

The day after: Young Israelis and Palestinians do long for peace, I know

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Since the October 7 start of the current and so far, most destructive conflict between Israel and Palestinians, I've had to articulate the developing news to my grandchildren, the Twitter generation, as follows:

This isn’t a religious, but a political war; it always has been.

I add: It didn’t begin in 2023. It didn’t even begin with Israelis and Palestinians themselves, who genuinely want peace, but seem unable to achieve it for some 100 years.

I then tell them a story, a real story.

In November 1995, nearly 30 years ago, I was in Haifa as a visiting professor of microchip design, invited by The Technion, Israel’s world-renowned Institute of Technology.

I was lecturing to about 20 young Israeli men and women, the country’s best and brightest. They knew I was an Egyptian-born Canadian, a Muslim, yet they treated me as royalty, even offering to go shopping with me so I wouldn’t risk being taken advantage of as a tourist.

They also invited me to their university cafeteria, where I could get an authentic taste of student life. And when a fellow student in their midst interrupted my lecture too often with hostile questions, they apologized saying he was always like that and was not targeting me.

But on November 4, 1995, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was suddenly assassinated by a right-wing Jewish extremist who opposed the government signing of the Oslo Accords.

The next day in class, I was an eyewitness to the profound grief and shock that gripped my Israeli students, many of whom wept uncontrollably at their desks. I had no choice but to cancel that day’s lecture.

They explained to me that Rabin had given them hope, even if a slim one, for lasting peace with the Palestinians. His death seemed to have dashed that hope, perhaps forever.

Fast-forward to 2023, when many of those Technion students, wherever they are and whatever their careers have been, are now approaching retirement—those, that is, who have survived the many conflicts that have erupted since 1995.

Now, as I approach my 80th birthday on Christmas Eve of this year, I again recall the discussions I had with those young Israeli microchip designers so many years ago.

I want to share what we talked about with a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians let’s make 2023 the last war.

Let’s make a huge dent in the war industry worldwide. Let’s be smarter than the hate-mongers, hardline politicians, arms dealers, and all who profit in any way from a war, any war.

Let it be our mission to achieve a peaceful and sustainable relationship. If Israel can achieve peace with my birth country of Egypt, why can it not do so with Palestine, and vice-versa?

The alternative? Another half-century and more of death, destruction, and misery for both peoples. That is a certainty, no matter whose “side” you take.

Let the United States truly support Israel by winning a peace, as former president Jimmy Carter advocated, not by helping to “win” a war. In war, the victor is not a winner.

Here are some immediate steps to take—not next month, next year, or in some undefined future, but now:

- Form an international peacekeeping force on the ground in both Gaza and Israel.

- Establish a secure ceasefire.

- Protect humanitarian workers and their organizations, without exception.

- Exchange prisoners and hostages on both sides.

- Rebuild Gaza with the technology, infrastructure and access it deserves; make it a living place, not a concentration camp.

- Treat the numerous wounded (physically and mentally) in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and wherever suitable safe medical facilities can accommodate them.

Let's fast-track this rescue plan and follow up with strong peace treaties between Israel and Palestine, and between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Let us implement Joel Kovel's solution of “creating a single democratic state in Israel/Palestine” that was supported by another American; Edward Said. Let us follow the Canadian model of creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Imagine no killing, no destruction, no orphans, no widows, no misery but peace and good-will between neighbors. And imagine it's in my lifetime.

We know peace is the enemy of war machines, whether political, economic, ideological, or all three.

But peace can prevail. It’s beautiful. It’s human. It’s good for children, Israeli and Palestinian. And for children everywhere, including my grandchildren.

Peace is the only human state of being where everyone is a winner.

***

Egyptian-born Dr. Mohamed Elmasry FRSC, FIEEE, FCAE, FEIC is Emeritus Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo and a prolific author on topics concerning faith, technology, and world affairs.

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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