Both the Jews and the Arabs trace their origins to Abraham. The former descend from his son Isaac, the latter from his son Ishmael. Both the Jews and the Arabs originate in a father who bound his son in order to offer him up as a sacrifice to God. In the Jewish tradition, Abraham stood over Isaac to slaughter him. In the Islamic tradition, Abraham stood over Ishmael to slaughter him. Thus, according to the tradition, both peoples, Jewish and Arab, have their genesis in the awesome posture of a father about to sacri¬fice his son, and of the son, the intended sacrifice.
What state of mind besets a person who offers his son (or any other per¬son) to God as a sacrifice? It may be described as a pair of interdependent opposites: aggrandizement and depreciation. Self-aggrandizement, on the basis of what he perceives as a divine decree, to exercise omnipotence over the life of others (his own son or anyone else), and depreciation of the life and dignity of others, to the extent of willingness to terminate their lives.
What is the state of mind of the one sacrificed (the son or any other per¬son)? It is both a sense of powerlessness vis-a-vis the other, who has made himself omnipotent over his life, and a state of rage, in which the victim seeks omnipotence over those who offer him up as a sacrifice.
It is the fate of the victimizer and the victim, in a world where sacrifice prevails, to exchange roles until the end of time, unless both decide to extricate themselves from the early trap once and for all.

The Theme of Sacrifice

The theme of sacrifice is deeply woven into both the Jewish and the Muslim faiths. First, it is interwoven with worship. What was the main feature of wor¬ship in the First and Second Temples? Sacrifices. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews no longer practice ritual sacrifice. Muslims practice rit¬ual sacrifice and celebrate a festival of sacrifice to this day. On an altogether different level, many Muslims - although certainly not all - still perceive blood vengeance as a supreme tribal and religious decree, a decree sanctioned by the Koran (although in every Muslim country, the modem state has deprived the individual of the right to exact punishment for murder).
Second, the sacrificial mindset is woven into the historical experience of both Jews and Arabs: Of the Jews - in the thousands of years of suffering as a persecuted minority in the Diaspora, from Pharaonic Egypt and Babylon to Christian Europe and Muslim countries, a history of humilia¬tions, deprivations, expulsions, and massacres culminating in the Holocaust; and of the Arabs - in their history of intertribal warfare, cen¬turies of colonial rule and their uprisings against it, the civil wars of our generation (Yemen, Lebanon, Sudan, Saharan Morocco), and the violent confrontation between Muslim fundamentalists and the state (Syria, Algeria, Egypt). Even in the ultimate of Islamic shrines, Mecca, there have twice occurred in the past decade serious clashes that left hundreds dead - one an attempt to take control of the holy places and the other in a violent demonstration by Shi'ites of Iranian origin.
It is no wonder, then, that both the Jews, who have re-established sovereignty in their homeland, and the Arabs - especially the Palestinians, in their self-deception as victims of the Jewish state - swiftly found them¬selves caught up in a vicious circle of victimizer/victim. The latter, in their anger at the Jews, whom they perceived - or still perceive - as foreign invaders who robbed them of their land, therefore sought random victims for their rage, on the sole condition that they were Jews. The former, in their anger against the Arab murderers who had turned Jews into sacrifices, made them into sacrifices at random, on the sole condition that they were Arabs.
Thus, the long chapter of victimization began, each people with its own catalogue of victims, which each side memorizes like a sacred catechism. The Jewish side has the victims of Jaffa, Hebron, and Safed in the 1920s, and the fallen of the 1936-39 Arab rebellion, and in 1947/48, "the 35," Sheikh Jarrah, and the Etzion Bloc; the victims of the 1950s infiltrators, the athletes at Munich, Ma'alot, the coastal road bus, and the Tel Aviv-¬Jerusalem bus; the Istanbul synagogue; and hundreds of terror victims in Israel and abroad. The Palestinian side remembers the casualties of Deir Yassin, Qibya, Gaza, and dozens of other places where reprisals were staged; the casualties of Kafr Qassem, Land Day, and Sabra and Shatila; the hundreds of Intifada victims; and the victims of the Hebron massacre, when a Jewish murderer walked into Abraham's tomb, daring to call him¬self his offspring, and sacrificed Abraham's offspring - fathers, sons, brothers - merely because they were Arabs.

A God of Vengeance

Thus, both among Jews and among Arabs, there are those who believe that their religion and nation sanctify the sacrificer or the sacrifice itself, pro¬vided that they belong to one's own religion and nationality. In this fash¬ion, Jewish and Arab believers have fashioned a god in their own image and likeness - a murderous god of vengeance. Thus, on the Jewish side too, religious believers who praise the perpetrator of the Hebron massacre are the "soul brothers" of secularists such as Rafael Eitan and his party. Similarly, the Hamas and Hizbullah fundamentalists who murder Jews for being Jews are spiritual partners, in their murderous prescriptions, to the rejectionist organizations headquartered in Damascus, with their secular leaders, such as George Habash, Naif Hawatmeh, and Ahmad Jibril. Mutual massacres have prevented the development of neither Israeli nor Palestinian national aspirations.

Victims Creating Victims

This, then, is the harsh obstacle that obstructs the process of making peace between the two peoples. As long as a sizeable percentage of Palestinians and a sizeable percentage of Jews are caught up in the vicious circle of vic¬tims who wish to create their own victims, it will be a victim-intensive peace. After all, there will always be a few who derive their strength for the sacrificial act from the explicit or tacit support of the many. (According to a survey published in Shishi on 11 March, 1994, six percent of Jews justi¬fied the Hebron massacre and another 30 percent condemned "but under¬stood," compared with 63 percent who condemned it categorically.) A 1994 survey of public opinion among Palestinians in the West Bank revealed that, at the time, more than 50 percent supported terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Are Israel's leaders capable of standing up and stating: "We have not cast off our exile, in which we were the victims of others, merely in order to reverse roles and make the others our victims. Therefore, peace is not only an end to war; it is also an end to the era of sacrifices"?

'I am a Citizen'

Words alone, of course, will not change reality. The most profound need of Israel's highly ramified society is to develop a dynamic of civic ethos shared by all: men and women, Orthodox and secularists, Jews and Arabs, immigrants and native-born. This ethos is rooted in the dignity of humankind, in the need to respect every person for what he or she is. The subject of the civic ethos is the citizen; and the statement "I am a citizen" signifies real entitlement to an impressive package of rights, but also of obligations. In comparison to powerful concepts such as "I am a Jew," or "I am an Arab," the citizen concept, as one shared by all, is still weak.
Can we look forward to the development of a corresponding civic ethos among Palestinians? Can one expect the ascent of Palestinian leaders who will address their people as follows: "No more sacrifice between Palestinians and Jews, nor between Palestinians and Palestinians, nor between men and women, nor between adults and children?" Is there any possibility whatsoever of the emergence of such a leadership in a society that Palestinian scholar Hisham Sharabi terms "neo-patriarchal," i.e., an authoritarian society of the superior and the inferior, of rulers and subjects, of the privileged and underprivileged? There is a young generation of Palestinian leaders with whom to revise these models radically and facili¬tate the progress of Palestinian society as a democratic, civil society. Will they be able to bring about such a profound and difficult change, free of victimizers and of victims?
Our reply, in the words of the Sages, is: "All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given." All is foreseen, because as long as a sizeable portion of Israeli society, albeit not a majority, and as long as Palestinian society, again not a majority, accept the path of sacrifice, the vicious circle will con¬tinue to spin.
But freedom of choice is granted to both peoples, singly and jointly, to bring about the greatest turning point in their history: the emergence from the era of sacrifice into one where, instead of superiors and inferiors, one finds human beings and citizens who respect all people as people and as citizens, irrespective of their national language, faith or opinions.
If leaders emerge for whom the end of the age of sacrifice is the highest pri¬ority, the threshold of such an era may be even nearer than we dare believe.