Oral statement by David G. Littman to the UNCHR delivered on 6 March 1990
“A quarter century after Winston Churchill’s passing, I am emboldened to conjure up his historic 1946 Zurich speech on Europe. By adapting it – with the essential aid of sustained metaphor – to the Israel-Jordanian-Palestinian predicament. I would hope that his memorable peace-framework, proposed at a tragic period of Europe’s history might yet serve, not only as an inspiration, but as a model for those who have no alternative but to find peace. It is essential to find a way to put an end to all practices relating to ethnic exclusiveness or intolerance. What follows is a positive approach.
“I wish to speak today about the tragedy of the Middle East. This noble ancient region is the fountain of the three Abrahamic faiths. It is the spiritual origin of more than half of humanity. If the Middle East were united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and the glory which its tens of millions of people would enjoy. Yet it is within the Middle East that have sprung frightful nationalist and religious quarrels, which have wrecked the peace and marred the prospects of that vast area of the world.
“Yet all the while there is a remedy, which if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in these lands, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all of the Middle East, or the greater part of it, free and happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to create the “Family of Abraham” – or “Family of Ibrahim,” dependent on one’s pronunciation of that hallowed personage – and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of “United States of Abraham”.
The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and to gain as their reward blessing instead of cursing.
“And why should a future United States of the Middle East not take its rightful place with other great groupings and help to shape the onward destinies of man? In order that this should be accomplished, there must be an act of faith in which millions of men and women, speaking their diverse languages, must consciously take part. With regard to the past, there must be what that great nineteenth century British statesman William Gladstone called: “A blessed act of oblivion.” All must turn their backs upon the horrors of the past. All must look to the future. One cannot afford to drag forward across the years that are to come the hatreds and revenges which have sprung from all the various injuries of the past.
“If the Middle East is to be saved from infinite misery, and indeed from final doom, there must be this act of faith in the concept of a “Family of Abraham” and this act of oblivion against all the crimes and follies of the past.
“Can these peoples of the Middle East rise to the height of these resolves of the soul and of the instincts of the spirit of man? If they can, the wrongs and injuries which have been inflicted will have been washed away on all sides by the miseries which have been endured. Is there any need for further floods of agony? Is the only lesson of history to be that mankind is unteachable ? . Let there be justice, mercy and freedom. The people have only to will it and all will achieve their hearts’ desire.
“I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the creation of the Family of Abraham – or Ibrahim – must be a partnership between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians within that geographical area designated as ‘Palestine’ in the original 1921 Mandate of the League of Nations. The structure of the “United States of Abraham,” if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single State less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause. The ancient Peoples, Nations and modern States of the Middle East, freely joined together for mutual convenience in a federal – or other – system, might eventually take their individual places within this unifying concept, or condominium. I shall not try to make a detailed programme for tens of millions of peoples who want to be happy and free, prosperous and safe. If this is their wish, if this is the wish of so many peoples living in so many lands – comprising the very cradle of the most ancient civilizations of the Near East – they have only to say so, and means can certainly be found, and machinery erected, to carry that wish to full fruition. Time may be short. At present there is a breathing-space. The cannons have ceased firing. There is a lull in the fighting; but the dangers have not stopped. If there is to be a United States of Abraham – or whatever name it may take – work on this concept must begin now.
“I must now sum up. Under and within the world concept of the United Nations Organisation, one must create the Family of the Middle East in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Abraham, and the first practical step would be to form a Council of Abraham. If at first all the Peoples, Nations and States of the Middle East are not willing or able to join the Union, one must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of all the peoples in the Middle East from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations. In all this urgent work, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians must take the lead together. The United Nations Organisation, the Twelve-Member States of the European Community, America and, I trust, Soviet Russia – for then indeed all would be well – must be the sponsors of the new Community and must champion its right to live and shine. Therefore, I say to you: Let Abraham, let Ibrahim arise!
“Winston Churchill’s vision of Europe has taken nearly half a century to become reality. May Arab and Israeli political leaders and intellectuals – and also the representatives of all the region’s minorities – act with determination, so that peace and reconciliation will come at last to the Middle East, in an upsurge of enthusiasm. If this should be the peoples’ desire, surely wise leaders would wish to achieve, within the next decade, genuine peace and reconciliation (Sohl, in Arabic; Shalom, in Hebrew). Was it not written in the prophetic biblical Book of Joel? (2:28): ‘Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.’ May the dialogue begin now, perhaps even here at this Commission.” 4