Last week I saw the latest Doha Debates session on BBC World, in which Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister of Israel was invited. About 300+ students (Qatar residents, various backgrounds) were also invited to have a question answer session with Mr. Peres.
It was interesting watching a seasoned politician dodge his way through the barrage of questions thrown at him by the students. The students put up a good show though, most of the questions were well thought out and well communicated. Only a couple of questions came out as too simplistic and naive.
Some of the main topics discussed were the recent attacks on Lebanon, conflict with the Palestinians, issue of Israeli encampments in Palestine areas and Israel’s stance on the current situation in Iraq and Iran.
In the case of the attack on Lebanon, Mr. Peres put the blame squarely on Hezbollah, stating the weakness of and divisions amongst the Lebanese which allows Hezbollah to use the Lebanese soil to launch their attacks. Questions were raised about the intensity of the Israeli response to the kidnapping of 2 of its soldiers, in comparison to the thousands of Palestinians that are being held captive by the Israeli government itself, but no satisfactory response was gotten. Mr. Peres kept stating that relations with Palestine would improve if they use diplomatic means, and he cited Israel’s relationship with Egypt and Jordan as proof that Israel is willing to improve relations with Muslim countries if such a path is taken.
The devastating attacks on Lebanon, which has brought the country to its knees due to the destruction of a major portion of its communications and transit networks, were justified as attacks on Hezbollah strongholds, and disruption of transportation of weapons. Hmm … from what I saw on TV, lots of innocent people lost their homes, lively-hoods and loved ones to these attacks as well. Israel really raked in those collateral damage points this time. The attacks on Qana were also played down as a more complicated issue, probably linking it to the (Israeli) claim that Hezbollah used human shields in Qana. Read more @ BBC
Regarding what’s currently going on between the US and Iran, Mr. Peres stated that a military action by Israel was not being considered. Interestingly, amongst all the other issues discussed during the debate, a quick google reveals that this issue has been highlighted the most in the online media. Everything else that questions Israel’s actions has mostly been glossed over. I guess its in line with the argument that Mr. Peres was using throughout the debate, that the past is gone and our concentration should be on the future. Quite convenient when it means that you don’t have to deal with the problem of all that Palestine land under Israeli control and countless Palestinian deaths …
Overall, the program was enlightening and extremely interesting to watch. It’s sad to see such divisions amongst people, between Muslims and the Jews. I wonder if it will ever end. Or maybe somethings are destined to be …