To Separate, or To Be United and Kill Each Other?
By Arkady Mamaysky –
The war in Iraq is over. After all of the American sacrifices, and despite the hope for a peaceful and democratic Iraq, sectarian killing of innocent people has become a frequent and sadly familiar issue in the news.
Recent history presents the following lesson: When a dictatorship falls, different ethnic or religious groups, once held together by oppressive government forces, separate or, if kept together, very often resort to violence towards each other.
The same can happen when a dictator is not able to suppress various groups any longer, as we can now see in Syria.
Sectarian violence is a big and terrible problem. African countries like Rwanda and Nigeria are just two of many more unfortunate examples.
Recently the world has witnessed how, after the fall of dictatorship, the republics of the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and even Czechoslovakia (where Czechs and Slovaks did not historically have big tensions) decided to separate into independent countries.
Iraq is a country which was artificially created by the British Empire from different religious/ethnic groups. Considering the lessons from the fall of the dictatorships noted above, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that Iraq’s sectarian killings would cease if antagonistic sectarian entities were given a chance to separate?
Yes, separation is not simple and could cause some internal and international problems. But is the present situation any better?
I cannot resist the temptation to present an example of a similar situation, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Back in the Soviet time (which is, thank God, over) the authorities came up with an “ingenious” idea: Since we are a communist country, they reasoned, and because we cannot provide, among other things, enough apartments for our people, let’s create communal apartments where different families have one or two rooms each and share the rest.
So total strangers were forced to move into one large apartment, and share the common kitchen and, if lucky enough to have one, the common bathroom.
In most cases, these units became arenas of constant conflicts and fighting. The total strangers got on each-others’ nerves in these communist-style living arrangements. In contrast, those families who were lucky to have their own small but separate apartments most of the time lived peacefully, minding their own business.
If the outcome of the current situation in Syria will be a united Syria it will become similar to the united Iraq.
Isn’t it better for the people of Syria to separate ethnic/religious groups which hate each other?
Separation will not come without problems. But the world must consider the lessons of very recent history and try to prevent conditions in which innocent people die because of sectarian fanatics.
One small comment related to Russia’s position on Syria: A Greek saying, “Tell me who your friend is, and I will tell you who you are,” is very popular in Russia. Hopefully Russian supporters of the Syrian regime still remember it.
Now a word about Israel: When we talk about a two-state solution, the very first concern is to enable Israel to continue to exist as a Jewish state, which would be impossible in a one-state scenario.
But there is a second important concern. Jews and Palestinians should not be forced to share the same piece of land – the same “apartment,” so to say – especially because an entire generation of Palestinian children and adults has been indoctrinated by an incitement of hatred towards Jews.
One of the many problems in the world is caused by different ethnic or religious groups being forced to share the same piece of land instead of having a smaller land of their own. Separating these groups after the fall of dictatorship would lead to the reduction of sectarian violence. Until humanity learns to control its millennia-old proclivity towards violence, separation is unfortunately the better of two bad outcomes.
Arkady Mamaysky is a mechanical engineer who emigrated directly to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1979. He has visited Israel once, and often twice, during every year since then.