An Interview with Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority. He is a member of the Fatah party and was elected Chairman of Fatah in 2009.

Michael Richardson-Borne: In 1948, Israel became a recognized state. This triggered around 700,000 Palestinians to flee, many of them traveling to refugee camps in Gaza. What was formerly the land of Palestine became partitioned in a way that favored the new Israeli state, now backed by Western military and economic might. How would you describe what happened back then?

Mahmoud Abbas: We live in the Culture of Separation – what transpired in 1948 (and what continues to this day) is just an expression of the divisive way in which we interpret ourselves individually and collectively. Notice that I said “way,” not “ways” in which we interpret ourselves – singular. There is only one divisive way of interpretation that we need to know about to get to the bottom of what drives the war between Palestinians and Israelis. This divisive way is an embracing of life that’s lived under the assumption of being a Separate Self, a false sense of self-authorship. I always say the primary assumption of humanity is the belief in separation – so the false existence of a Separate Self is ignored by the culture at large and leaves us with firestorms like the Arab-Isreali war of ’48, the Six-Day War of ’67, and the seemingly never-ending conflict in which we remain involved.

To continue the thread, interpreting ourselves in “ways” (plural) just adds particulars to the baseline division of the Separate Self. “Ways” are a distraction from the root of separation – a root which can be located and questioned if we’d all take a look under the veil and discover the Original Story of our separateness, the first instance of individuality that happened to all of us.

So I’d describe what happened in ’48 as a sad product created by two groups of people who fail to remember the first moment of their separation and therefore fail to understand how their relationship is skewed by not being aware of who this first instance of separation happened to.

Who we are comes before who we think we are. So in 1948, there was no Israeli state; there was only a conspiracy of the imagination. ’48 was a by-product of thinking in the context of separation; it was the maintenance of a stagnant imaginary world imposed upon spontaneous possibility – it was separative dominoes logically falling with a gravity that was the pull of the Separate Self away from its true being. It wasn’t hatred. It was misalignment with Non-separation, blindness to all that is the self-rightening.

I mean, taking it back to the basics, just look at the structure of the question you had to assemble in order to create an inquiry into our past – look at all the separation that had to be implied to re-create the story. That should tell us all we need to know. Division of years, partitioning of land, labeling of people, refugees crossing borders, the pompousness of isolated states determining who will get to experience their form of separation and who won’t.

But my job, the expectation of the Culture of Separation, is to agree with the divisive mode of relationship being offered and to answer all questions as if separation really exists. To question the separative structure of a question is to violate the violent cultural agreement that assumes a Separate Self is the foundation of human interaction.

So how do we change this? Well, it’s the same answer I give when asked about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole. We must first understand where the territory of the crisis lies. Our internal experience and external world arise together as a story – but the mechanism for how this happens is ignored by political rivals. They are too focused on one another – there is no time to be wasted on self-reflection because the obvious problem exists in the form of “an other.” So they attempt to manipulate external separations while keeping the Separate Self firmly intact. This is the misunderstanding of the territory to be explored – which guarantees a form of separation will survive.

MR-B: One of the problems you currently experience is forced disconnection. Israeli soldiers make it difficult for your holdings in the West Bank and Gaza to work together in a systemic way that would function as a unified state. This leaves West Bank territory landlocked with no access to the outside world. On top of this, Gaza is stuck between Egypt and Israel, with the only outlet being the Mediterranean Sea – to which your usage is also obstructed. How is the “two-state solution” supposed to heal the rift with Israelis in this scenario?

MA: There are vultures circling our future, out for their own gain or continued power – their goal is to keep the situation in turmoil, to keep the region destabilized and weak. Being proxy players to the most powerful militaries in the world, we are disempowered from standing on our own two feet and looking one another eye to eye in an earnest attempt to straighten things out. So we are left with a game of self-deception, allowing the separative instincts of outside influence to drive our own separative instincts – which is just a silly game of the Separate Self.

It’s dumbfounding to watch adults travel all over the world, dressed in their big boy and big girl clothes on serious business, unknowingly play pin the tail on the donkey or take blind-folded swings at a piñata in the name of “finding peace.” If only we could figure out that even if somebody hits the bulls-eye or makes the perfect swing to drop the candy on the ground, the results only bring fictional solutions because living from the assumption of a Separate Self only brings outcomes of separation.

Our leaders do not know how to get down to serious business and take care of the problem once and for all – which is to get their butts in gear and begin excavating the stories that keep them locked in the illusion of a Separate Self. But to know this, they must make the journey from separation to the mental understanding of “not separate.” They must locate the lived experience of Non-separation and learn to be lived as the existence of Non-separation. Can you imagine the level of egoic resistance to this solution if the representatives of our global states were asked to take the time to investigate this?

That said, there are also people sincerely interested in getting to a peaceful solution. The problem with this is that they have the same starting point as the disingenuous – they live with the same assumption at the foundation of their mental experience. This means their pathways to “peaceful outcomes” are just separate but equal expressions of the Separate Self – which, you guessed it, only perpetuates the Culture of Separation despite the good intentions.

So the level of disconnect you mention between Gaza and the West Bank is only the surface of our problems – and this goes for both Palestinians and Israelis. Below this surface, there is a felt disconnect with our native land. Below this, there is a disconnect from the Story Identities that drive the imagination of a native land. Below this, there is a disconnect from our Original Story, the felt experience of “I am,” the common story of humanity. Below this, there is a disconnect from the Impersonal experience that renders the story of humanity useless. And below this, there is a disconnect from our true nature, which is being lived as an impersonal invitation to Non-separation.

From this, it is easy to see the work that has to be done to come to the real solution to the conflict in which we’re involved. Layers of disconnection take us further and further from the truth of our being – so the first step of the solution is to make sure that the gap of these layers of disconnection is fully closed.

The two-state solution must change the foundation on which it is built. Instead of building our house on a bed of quicksand called the Separate Self, we must locate the rock of Non-separation and build accordingly.

MR-B: It seems that Israel and Palestine are stuck in a Hobbesian trap where both parties have an unavoidable incentive to strike preemptively, fearful of the opponent attacking first. This trap leaves a few options – as I mentioned a pre-emptive strike, a defensive posture (being able to absorb the first strike before responding,) and revenge (not necessarily an immediate response, but certainly a keeping of score and an intention to respond violently.) How do you break this cycle of violence?

MA: For a cycle of violence to begin, an original act of violence must happen to two people. What is this original act of violence? It’s the experience of individual separation that happened to who they truly are – the arrival of a mental construct that sets up shop inside of impersonal experience and separates him or her from the world.

After the original appearance of separation, these two people must then completely forget this burgeoning act of violence and live lives with the assumption or contrast of “others” dominating the field of their experience – which is the catalytic story that brings the manifestation of fear and, therefore, the need for violence.

With that, the Separate Self is firmly in place, panic is set to trigger vehemence, and a cycle of violence has all it needs to carry on indefinitely – which it has and will.

Ending the cycle of violence that is the Culture of Separation takes nothing less than the remembrance of Non-separation – seeing through to the source of violence. Arranging summits, engineering peace treaties, calling for ceasefires – we must realize these interventions are advancing separation no matter how hard we pretend that something peaceful is happening. They’re flat out symptoms of separation. And adding more symptoms of a Separate Self to a living conflict just creates different diseases, it doesn’t reverse the disease’s course of action – which can only be done when solutions are sourced as the lived existence of Non-separation.

MR-B: Many strategists apply game theory to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. You are frequently asked if you’d be content with a zero-sum game at this point as a solution to the conflict.

MA: Neither zero-sum nor non-zero sum solutions are what we’re calling for. Both of these are just stories that pacify the mind for brief periods – eventually, the pacification must call for new stories that stoke the embers of a fading tolerance for the dying narrative. Game theory reveals potential outcomes in the Culture of Separation. It doesn’t account for the game that has Non-separation as its baseline.

Non-separation is a game that plays out “prior to zero” – so what we are calling for is a self-rightening that occurs before the zero-sum and non-zero sum games arise in experience. Resting in what is before zero, it becomes evident how the Separate Self began – which exposes the layers of separation needed to get to the solutions offered by game theory. It exposes the shallowness and cheap materials used in its construction. The houses offered by game theory will never be homes for Palestinians or Israelis. Houses are built to create walled settlements, they’re built to claim the land on which they’re raised. Homes, on the other hand, build themselves as invitations to become the building process.

A “pre-zero” game begins at the remembrance of Non-separation and spontaneously unfolds as its own existence. There is no individual experience of separation to choke and then carry the corpse-solutions by the neck to a pre-planned destination. As Non-separation, outcomes are celebrated as alive in the moment, all participants watching the revelation of what wants to happen absent of separative guidance.

MR-B: In March 2007, a Palestinian unity government was formed between your Fatah party and Hamas. By June of the same year, the government had fallen apart. How did this happen?

MA: What we failed to grasp is that a prior-unity government was needed rather than a unified one.

Collections of Separate Selves concoct unity governments – and as we’ve learned, anything with separation at its core rots from the inside no matter how pure an alliance seems to be. We look for unity downstream as something that can be created when prior-unity, or Non-separation, is upstream as something to be remembered.

MR-B: What are your thoughts about the United States’ support of Israel?

MA: Let me just say this. You cannot force Non-separation, it’s not an ideology. It’s not a means to control minds or manipulate behaviors. Non-separation is an invitation like rain falling on soil and seeds – it exists as the life-giving source and invites the environment to grow based on its deepest intuition and experience.

That metaphor is the basis for a new realpolitik. Coming to know this, our leaders will realize Non-separation is the most practical solution any state can bring to its people.

*This is a fictional interview written by Michael Richardson-Borne as a teaching of Non-separation.