Friday, November 01, 2002

Language differences at the root of the conflict.
The main thing I remember from the Dalai Lama’s public speech in Tel Aviv a few years ago, is his saying “compromise, compromise”.

The Hebrew word for compromise is “P’shara”. It comes from the same root as the word “pesher”, which is meaning, interpretation. This is fitting, because for compromise to be possible, understanding is necessary.

Egyptian intellectual, Tarek Heggy, points out in a bravely critical article, originally published in Arabic in the Egyptian Al-Ahram on 29th September, 2002, that there is no word for compromise in Arabic. He explains that, unlike Westerners, in the Middle East, “many people, even educated ‎people, (associate) the word compromise with such negative terms as ‘submission’, ‘retreat’, ‘capitulation’, ‘weakness’ and ‘defeat’”.

This explains a lot. I think both sides have to learn to listen to what the other side is saying more carefully, but it would help if we could understand each other. If we are saying “compromise” and the Arabs are hearing “submit”, we have a slight problem.

Thank you, Mr. Hochstein, for pointing out this article and the MidEast Web for Coexistence site.