It feels like it’s time again to try and say something smart and approachable about the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, unfortunately, due to the lack of agreeable words, this will not be possible.
For example. I would like to say something about the bravery of young men and women in Gaza, who over the last months – having not much left to lose – gathered at the border with Israel to protest that country’s role in keeping them besieged. How they took sniper-shots, seemingly also in the back and in medics…But then enraged Israeli’s and right-wingers will come out with full documentation on the protests being:
- Organised by Hamas, whose once-upon-a-time representative rule over Gaza cannot be seen as anything close to peaceful, due to the countless missiles fired at civilians inside Israel in military engagements over the last 12 years.
- Not so violent at all, with some references to the bringing of knives, intended to penetrate the land of Israel and publicly calling to massacre and drive away Israeli citizens from towns which used to be Palestinian.
- Over-reported and over-analysed, with claims of international organisation, western media and celebrities conspiring to put Israel in a negative role. They might add that this is yet another example of deeply rooted antisemitism, a world-view in which the Jew is always going to be the bad guy.
Bearing these retorts in mind, it might still be useful to try to establish some common ground. For example, I could seek to ‘address’ those enraged Israeli’s and right-wingers, by putting forward that:
- Hamas’s rule over Gaza is indeed militant, and it’s political promise is that of fundamentalism Sunni Islam mixed with the illegitimacy of the State of Israel and it’s mission is effectively to liberate the land of Palestine. But, even this being the case, the people living in Gaza, millions of them, should be allowed their basic human rights.
- The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is a respected institute within Israeli society. It gets a glorified narrative in history textbooks and is with the mandatory draft, it serves a unique purpose in almost all young Israeli’s lives. The drill is clear. Protect the land of Israel at any cost. Soldiers used (not anymore I heard) to swear allegiance at Masada where several fanatics resisted the Roman law of the land and rather committed collective suicide (women and children included). This army of young people. Which purposes does it seem to serve today? The daily degrading of the quality of life across the West Bank. Is that the type of life you wish for your 18-20 year old’s to have? I can hardly imagine the task of sitting on top of a well secured concrete checkpoint and been asked to sniper people who are effectively your prisoners. Which kind of condition does that leave you in?
But ultimately, this path of rationality will lead nowhere. The narratives and purposes are fixed. What is left is emotion, and empathy. Israel is a regional superpower, and a global fixer. Arabic countries have also played their role in screwing up the lives of millions of families with repression and war. Everybody suffers, but none more than the people who live in Gaza…
Some interesting bits and pieces of media and reading I’ve picked up over the last weeks:
- In this episode of BBC The Inquiry, a Norwegian diplomat explains how the simple, and basic, importance of friendship, help to secure the Oslo Agreements in the 1990s.
- Israeli Peace-activist Gershon Baskin has always kept communication lines with Hamas and was early to make clear the protests this year were different than anything else. An act of civil desperation. In any case, I do recommend following this man.
- This down-to-earth observation in Israeli commentary site +972 nicely sums up that this never-ending retaliation and siege can not go on like this.
- An alternative view in The Guardian on how young people live, and commit suicide inside Gaza might help to see that – especially taking into account how many healers and spiritualists live in Israel – the mental scars of living in Gaza…
- Mapmakers have done something interesting in order to try to help see how, indeed, before Israel, there was Palestine (although the aforementioned group will instantly politically frame that this is not the case as it was Ottoman territory, later governed by Great Britain).
- One distant friend, a scholar in Israel, published his work on Israeli fascism in 1922-1942, which is helpful in understanding the political conflict in and around Zionism among Jewish people. I still need to read this one though.
So what else is there to say? Around the world, people vicariously take part in this conflict. This perhaps, as a friend historian suggested earlier this week, makes this conflict much too big than it is (a few square kilometers..)
I hope the people living in Israel, as well as in Palestine, find heart to view the other as human and to be able to nudge their leaders toward a conversation. I know it’s cliche. I know an Israeli claim would be “but they want to obliterate us” and that a Palestinian claim would be “but they are killing us”. This would mean that Israeli population needs to take off the blindfolds and see what’s happening with regards to human rights.
Let me close with one observation. The UN has this Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Israel in 2015 was accepted into this committee, but not without objections from Syria and Pakistan, that Israel should first respect other UN decisions and end the occupation. Well, wouldn’t it be nice, if Israel would at least accept membership of the State of Palestine (a UN observer) to join this committee as well. Who knows, they may find together a peaceful purpose for outer space, and later see how it may work on Earth.
…and then I haven’t even begun to talk about history…