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Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter
Special Edition -- 12 June 2003


Dr. Menahem Alexenberg -- sculptor, artist, and a long-term member of Meru Foundation's Advisory Board (see his bio at www.meru.org/adviboard.html) -- sent us the essay below from his home in Israel. This essay is an insightful example of "out of the box" thinking.  It offers a new perspective on an "impossible" problem. Dr. Alexenberg's re-framing of the relationship among the Abrahamic faiths is similar to our geometric "take" on the same subject -- The Tree of Abraham: An Organic Model of Western Civilization, at www.meru.org/Posters/TreeofAbraham.html.

We also include a response to Dr. Alexenberg from Abu Ibraham Kalim, assistant to Shaykh Abdul Hadi Palazzi of Italy. 

We welcome your comments, and will pass them along to Dr. Alexenberg.

Yours truly,
Cynthia and Stan Tenen
Meru Foundation

(c)2003 Mel Alexenberg
June 12, 2003

The Road Map to Peace in the Middle East is too small. It needs to be enlarged to include the entire Islamic world surrounding the State of Israel.

The major obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the Islamic world's rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. The 55-year-old State of Israel still does not exist on maps produced in Islamic countries.

President Bush's attempt at peace making at Sharm el-Sheikh was rejected by Arab leaders who refused to accept Israel's right to exist. The next day in Aqaba, these leaders were incensed when the U.S. President publicly declared America's commitment to Israel as "a vibrant Jewish state." The Arab leaders' anti-Semitic incitement of the Arab street was confirmed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project released the same day as the Aqaba summit where no Israeli flag was allowed to fly. The Pew research found that the large majority of Arabs agreed with the statement: "The rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the State of Israel exists." According to the survey, 80% of Palestinians and 90% of Moroccans support the extermination of the Jewish state.

All road maps to peace in the Middle East will come to a dead end until the sovereign State of Israel is included on Arab world maps.

This obstacle to peace can be overcome, however, by drawing a new Islamic map derived from Islamic art and thought. The Arab conflict with Israel is an aesthetic problem that calls for a shift in perception. Historian of Islamic art, Elisabeth Siddiqui, writes in the Arabic Al-Madrashah Al-Ula, that art is the mirror of a culture and its worldview. She emphasizes that there is no case to which this statement more directly applies than to the art of the Islamic world. "Not only does its art reflect its cultural values, but even more importantly, the way in which its adherents, the Muslims, view the spiritual realm, the universe, life, and the relationships of the parts to the whole."

Islamic art teaches Arabs to see their world as a continuous geometric pattern that extends across North Africa and the Middle East. They see Israel as a blemish that disrupts the pattern. It is viewed as an alien presence that they have continually tried to eliminate through war, terrorism, and political action. Palestinian Authority television labels Israel as a "cancer in the body of the Arab nation." Its emblems, publications, and web sites show the map of Israel labeled Palestine. Israel does not exist. Former Iranian president Rafsanjani expressed his longing for a day when an Islamic nuclear weapon could remove the "extraneous matter" called Israel from the midst of the Islamic world.

A perceptual shift that can lead to a genuine peace can be found in Islamic art and thought. In Islamic art, a uniform geometric pattern is purposely disrupted by the introduction of a counter-pattern that demonstrates that human creation is less than perfect. Only Allah creates perfection. Rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs. Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Iman of the Italian Muslim community who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences by decree of the Saudi Grand Mufti, writes, "The idea of underlying the Divine infinitude and the human fallacy by including some 'voluntary defects' in works of art is common in Islamic art, and extends to tapestry, painting, music, architecture, etc."

Israel can be drawn on Islamic maps as a small patch of blue and white on a large green rug running from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of India. If the contiguous Islamic world from Morocco to Pakistan were the size of a football field, Israel would be a football placed in the middle of the field.

Sheikh Palazzi quotes from the Koran, Sura 5:22-23, to support the Arab world's need to switch their viewpoint to recognize the sovereign right of the Jews over the Land of Israel as the will of Allah: "Remember when Moses said to his people: 'O my people, call in remembrance the favor of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the people. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and then turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.'"

Islam's holiest book confirms what every Jew and Christian who honors the Bible knows: The Land of Israel was divinely deeded to the People of Israel alone.

Peace will come from a fresh metaphor in which the Arabs see Israel's existence as Allah's will. A shift in viewpoint where Israel is perceived as the necessary counter-pattern in the overall pattern of the Islamic world will usher in an era of peace. The Islamic world needs to recognize Israel as the realization of its own values. Only after it draws new maps that include Israel can peace be achieved.

On 12 June 2003, Dr. Alexenberg received the following response to his essay:
From: "Istituto Culturale della Comunita' Islamica Italiana" <islam.inst@flashnet.it>
Date:  Thu, 12 Jun 2003 22:24:25 +0200

Dear Mr. Alexenberg,

We highly appreciate your article and completely agree on its contents.
Thank you very much for mentioning our director, Shaykh Abdul Hadi Palazzi.

With best greetings and blessings,

Abu Ibrahim Kalim
Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community

Mel Alexenberg is former Professor of Art and Education at Columbia University and Research Fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. malexenberg@beethoven.com

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