Events in Israel and Gaza and their repercussions
CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS, January 4, 2009

"We need to go back to the basics to talk about human suffering, to be able to get on with each other. And these two (Israelis & Palestinians) are neighbors. These two are people who have so much in common. They have to learn to live together."

- Akbar Ahmed, Chair, Islamic Studies at American University

"I'm not too concerned about radicalizing the Muslim world and radicalizing the Arab streets. We have paid too much attention to that danger. We should really talk with the Arab street rather than fear the radicalization."

- Judea Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered in Pakistan.

FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

War in Gaza: IDF Begins Ground Incursion

Aired January 4, 2009 - 13:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: Judea Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by al Qaeda in 2002.

Akbar Ahmed is the chair of Islamic Studies at American University.

These two professors -- a Jew and a Muslim -- have an ongoing dialogue about Muslim-Jewish relations, and they join me now -- Judea Pearl from Los Angeles, and Akbar Ahmed from Washington, D.C. -- to talk about the events in Israel and Gaza and their repercussions.

Welcome, gentlemen.

JUDEA PEARL, PRESIDENT, DANIEL PEARL FOUNDATION, LOS ANGELES: Thank you, Fareed, for having us.

AKBAR AHMED, PROFESSOR OF ISLAMIC STUDIES, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "JOURNEY INTO ISLAM": Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Professor Pearl, let me ask you. People often say that it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is at the heart of the problem of the radicalization of the Islamic world.

Do you feel, when you think about it, that your son was murdered in part because of hatreds that stem or are fueled by the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?

PEARL: Well, there is no doubt about it. You can see it in the murder video. He was accused primarily for his relationship with Israel, for being a Jew. And it clearly shows anger, a very deep anger, aimed at his identity as a Jew.

ZAKARIA: And do you think that the Israeli attack on Gaza thus further radicalizes Muslim populations around the world?

PEARL: I'm not too concerned about radicalizing the Muslim world and radicalizing the Arab streets. We have paid too much attention to that danger. We should really talk with the Arab street rather than fear the radicalization.

ZAKARIA: Akbar, how do you think about this issue? Because when you think about the murder of Daniel Pearl as one example of some of the barbarism that has come out of al Qaeda and groups like it, it seems very deep, almost nihilistic.

And it's difficult to imagine that, if you had a two state solution, you know, and everybody signs some pieces of paper, somehow magically the hatred and nihilism of those people -- the fringe minority, of course -- but that hatred and nihilism would just disappear.

AHMED: Exactly, Fareed. I am really concerned about the question you have raised, because I do look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a long-term perspective. And I really feel that this particular conflict has profoundly saddened me, because all the commentary seems to suggest a dehumanization, a de-sensitivity to the pain and suffering of the other side.

So, you see a line in the sand being drawn, and supporters of Israel simply justifying what's going on in one way, and supporters of the Palestinians taking a completely opposed position. And we are not even concerned about innocent people dying anymore. We are somehow justifying this.

For me, if one innocent Israeli or one innocent Palestinian dies, it's one human being too much.

So, really, in a sense we need to go back to the basics to talk about human suffering, to be able to get on with each other. And these two are neighbors. These two are people who have so much in common. They have to learn to live together.

Or, Fareed, you give the example of India and Pakistan, who fought three wars. If the Indians could show very wise restraint, I think we need to take lessons from the subcontinent for the Middle East.

ZAKARIA: Professor Pearl, when you think about the problems of Muslim-Jewish relations, do they strike you as fundamentally about politics, about land, about religion? You know, where does the nub of this lie? And therefore, how can we solve it?

PEARL: We have here a very deep clash of ideology. Muslims are extremely angry at Jews, because Jews support a state which Muslims perceive to be an outpost of European imperialism. And Jews are angry at Muslims for almost the same reason, for not accepting Israel as an indigenous entity in the Middle East, but as an outpost of European imperialism.

So, this is a basic clash. And what we see today in Gaza is opening the wound that wouldn't allow it heal, and, as a matter of fact, got worse and worse since 1948 on the ideological dimension. The two parties got to be farther apart than where they were in 1948.

And all the attempts to patch the differences with the various tricks do not work unless we hit and discuss the real basic issue that I've just outlined.

ZAKARIA: And Akbar, how would you frame this in a way that, say, radical Muslims in Pakistan would feel that you were -- you know, you were helping the matter, you were somehow ameliorating the tensions?

AHMED: Fareed, that is a challenge not only in Pakistan, in most Muslim societies. But I really believe that the mainstream, the mass of the Muslim world, is moderate -- quote, unquote "moderate" -- the term I don't like using, but we use it for lack of a better term.

And that, if somehow we can involve them in a wider dialogue -- for example, Judea Pearl and myself. His son is killed brutally in Karachi. And yet, Judea and I have become great friends. We have constant dialogues. We have huge audiences turning up.

And that's changing how people, the dynamic of how Jews and Muslims relate to each other. This needs to happen much more vigorously in the Middle East. And the leaders on both sides need to be looking at each other through a human frame, not seeing each other as potential enemies, as potential people to be targeted and blown up.

ZAKARIA: Professor Pearl, do you feel that, until the Israeli- Palestinian issue is solved, the kind of hatred that resulted in the murder of your son will only grow?

PEARL: I think it will. Yes, it will grow.

But I was also -- I would like to support what my friend, Akbar, is saying, in the sense that I was optimistic to find the willingness from Pakistani Muslims, that participated in our dialogue, to listen and to accept and to accommodate the historical process that led to the State of Israel, and to overcome the ignorance that divides the two cultures and they set them apart.

So, that willingness to listen and to accommodate gives me great hope.

ZAKARIA: You gentlemen are doing great work. Keep it up. Thank you.

AHMED: Thank you, Fareed.