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Jewish Arab Co-operation

by Avraham Rabinovich

from The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition.

Sent in by David M. Khalastchi

Morocco's late King Hassan discussed his vision of a strategic alliance between the Arabs and the Jewish world in a 1977 meeting with the former Jerusalem deputy mayor Andre Chouraqui.

In the royal palace in Marrakesh, Andre Chouraqui saw his book lying on the table near which King Hassan waited to receive him.

Chouraqui, was the first Israeli to have ever been publicly invited to an Arab country. It was his book, "Letter To An Arab Friend", which had moved the Moroccan monarch to defy Arab precedent by extending the invitation.

Chouraqui had, in the book, spelled out with eloquence and sweeping detail the contribution of Jews and Arabs to each other's culture over the centuries.

During their hour-and-a-half meeting, the king revealed that he was thinking beyond peace to the possibility of a strategic alliance between the Arab world, on one hand, and Israel and world Jewry on the other.

"The king said that within 10 years of a peace agreement such as an alliance would constitute a world power of the first order," recalled Chouraqui. As Hassan saw it, the power would stem from a combination of Arab demography and oil and Jewish technological, military and financial skills.

Chouraqui then went to president Ephraim Katzir. "I told him the story and he said "You're free to do as you wish." Chouraqui did.

During his meeting with Hassan, Chouraqui elaborated on his own vision of peace. In order to help the Arabs come to terms with Israel's permanent presence in the Middle East and not grudgingly accept it as a foreign intrusion or a fait accompli that could be reversed when opportunity permitted.

As for the practical aspects of peace, Chouraqui rejects Prime Minister Ehud Barak's stated objective of physical separation of Jews and Arabs.

"We should unite people and separate authority," he says. In a Jewish-Arab federation, which he advocates, borders would be open.

Is it realistic to think in terms? More realistic, believes Chouraqui, than it would have been after the Six Day War to imagine today's realities, including multiple peace tracks.

In east Jerusalem this approach is already in effect, with Arabs who live under Israeli sovereignty voting for Palestinian Legislative Council.

"Palestinians couldn't speak Hebrew 30 years ago."he notes. "Today they speak it better than many of us. In many ways, they've become more Jewish than the Jews." Israeli Jews have not done nearly enough, he says, to learn Arabic or to learn that there is more to Arab culture than bombs, that it is, in fact, a great culture.

Fear of levantinization must give way, he says, to a true readiness for co-existence. "It is a mistake not to want to be part of the Levant. Jews have always lived in the midst of other nations and remained Jews. What is there to be afraid of? In our generation, we have always lived in the midst of other nations and remained Jews. What is there to be afraid of?

It was only a few months after Chouraqui's visit to Morocco that Moshe Dayan came there in disguise to meet, under the king's auspices, with Hassan Tohami, Egypt's deputy premier - a meeting that was prelude to president Anwar Sadat's breakthrough visit to Jerusalem later that year.

After publication of his translation into French of the Koran, with his own commentary, Chouraqui would visit Morocco as the king's guest a second time. "This time we spoke for three hours."

In 1983, Chouraqui obtained permission to visit his native Algeria in order to show his birthplace, the town of Ain Temoucnent, to his eldest son. "He was getting married and I didn't want him to found his own family before touching his roots."

The family had lived in Algeria since the expulsion of Chouraqui's ancestors from Spain. Chouraqui's father was a prosperous merchant and owned vineyards in the surrounding countryside. He was the parnass, or head, of the Jewish community and built a synagogue which was converted into a mosque after Algeria's 150,000 Jews left together with the French, in 1964.

Chouraqui and his son entered the building - one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean region.

From the desk in his book-lined study in Jerusalem's Abu Tor quarter, Chouraqui, 82 next month, looks out at a panoramic view of the Old City with eyes that see a panoramic view of history as well.


Scribe: For the last 30 years, Naim Dangoor has been advocating such a Middle-east federation as the only basis for a lasting peace among all the peoples of the region - not only Jews and Arabs but also Kurds, Assyrians, Turkemen, Copts, Berbers and others. This takes us back to the millet system of the Ottoman Empire which worked well in a multi-ethnic society, but was cruelly dismantled by imperial and oil greed.



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