In a day long Twitter conversation with an Irish pro-Israel activist it became clearer to me that one of the great obstacles to peace in that conflict is the absence of honest dialogue. Street politics in the north of Ireland have demonstrated in a less than sophisticated way that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is polarising. Every party to the discussion comes with their narrative of this highly complex political entanglement, and over its long history these narratives have to a considerable extent become mythologies – absolutist versions of history and reality. The problem for peace is that these equally irretraceable positions are facing off in what is a contested history.
Logically, both sides cannot be correct, but this does not mean that either of the competing sides is always in the right or always in the wrong. After almost sixty-nine years the State of Israel, regardless of one’s opinions on its creation, has become a reality. Fringe extremists will continue to demand its destruction, as extremists in Israel demand the destruction of Palestine, but we have to deal with what is real. Israel isn’t going anywhere. The same cannot, however, be said of Palestine. It now seems likely that if Israel’s state policy towards the West Bank and Gaza continues and if the settlement expansion continues Palestine will cease to exist. Extreme pro-Israel voices often reason that since Palestine is not a state it therefore does not exist. Ireland recognises the statehood of Palestine, and so I will hold to my acknowledgement of these two states’ existence.
It is a simple matter of fact that Israel is at present holding the West Bank under an oppressive and repressive military occupation. It is a matter of fact also that Israel has hermetically sealed the Gaza Strip and maintains around it a military and economic blockade. A peaceful resolution therefore ultimately lies in the end of this stranglehold. What also must end in order for a Palestinian state to become a viable political and economic reality is Israel’s illegal settlement process. Israel and Palestine can exist only behind their respective sides of the 1967 Green Line. Yet when this point comes to the table the dishonesty begins. It is true that there are elements within Palestine who would do Israel harm, but these are exceptions, and as we have seen in the most recent Israeli invasion of Gaza their capabilities are insignificant in comparison to Israel’s armed forces. Still they become the excuse.
Mark Humphrys (@markhumphrys), the chap with whom I was chatting, has every right to be concerned about violent Islamism. Nothing of his pro-Israel views make him a bad person, and that’s the problem. This debate encompasses the opposing views of many good people. The problem in the discussion is when the symbols of extremism on one side are used by the other to vindicate their own extreme opinions. That violent extremism is a reality in the Palestinian armed struggle cannot give a reason for flouting international law to favour Israel. This is the behaviour of rogue states. International law made Israel a state, and it also set its limitations to ensure the security of Palestine.
4 thoughts on “Honesty is required in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”
Almost everything you say is wrong or extremist. Let me give some examples.
“Israel is at present holding the West Bank under an oppressive and repressive military occupation.”
All security “repression” is because of the need to protect people from Palestinian terror. If Palestinian terror stopped, the “occupation” would go back to what it was in 1967-2000, i.e. not so repressive. It was a period when Palestinians got a lot richer (tripled their GDP). See graph:
“It is a matter of fact also that Israel has hermetically sealed the Gaza Strip”
Again, restrictions are entirely because of Palestinian terror. If Palestinian terror stopped, all restrictions would end. Gaza could be rich. They choose not to be. Hamas could run its own state. But it does not want to.
“A peaceful resolution therefore ultimately lies in the end of this stranglehold.”
You have it the wrong way round. All security restrictions will end when Palestinians decide to stop terrorism. In the absence of that decision by the Palestinians, ending security restrictions will lead to more killing, not less.
Mark, thank you for your comment. You begin by stating that almost everything I have written is wrong, yet then you go on to acknowledge the factuality of what was written while providing reasons for it from the Israeli point of view. So there is an occupation, repression, and a blockade of Gaza.
“Terror” is such a difficult term. We both know that it is also the term of choice when Palestinians speak of Israeli military actions. Ultimately this word “terrorism” is just another word for violence. It is the preferred term in conflict situations when one side is seeking justification for its own violence, but the meaning is the same.
This of course gets right to the point of the original post. More honesty is needed in the discussion. Either these events are happening (whatever the reasons) or they are not, it is either violence or it is not, dialogue is possible or it is not. Those who benefit from the occupation, and those who are responsible for the violence (call it what you will) will always find an excuse not to look for peace.
“Israel and Palestine can exist only behind their respective sides of the 1967 Green Line.”
This is an extremist position. 0.5 m Jews live outside the 1967 borders. You propose they all must move? And then there will be “peace” (yeah, right).
The 1967 borders were not set by God. Israel would be happy to see a democratic Palestinian state if such could ever exist (unlikely), but demanding 1967 borders is an extremist position. Borders should be part of a negotiated solution, not decided in advance by extremists.
“It is true that there are elements within Palestine who would do Israel harm, but these are exceptions”
Um, that would be the GOVERNMENT of Gaza (Hamas) and the GOVERNMENT of the PA (Fatah). Not “elements” or “exceptions”. That is ridiculous.
Your basic problem is you think the Palestinians want a state. They do not. If they wanted that, they could have had it long ago. What they want is the end of Israel. Until that changes, there is nothing Israel can do, and certainly nothing meddling foreigners can do, to end the conflict.
In fact, by encouraging Palestinians in their extremism and rejectionism, meddling Westerners actually help prolong the conflict.
“you go on to acknowledge the factuality of what was written … So there is an occupation, repression, and a blockade of Gaza.”
No, I deny that your words are an accurate description of the situation.
“Repression” is an inaccurate way to describe the West Bank. “Security measures to protect against terror” is more like it. If Palestinians wanted these ended, that would be easy for them. Just stop attacking Israelis. But they do the opposite. Hence the stabbing intifada.
Likewise the “blockade” of Gaza is only “security measures to make rocket fire more difficult”. If Hamas wanted this ended, that would also be easy for them. Just stop firing rockets.
Your entire way of phrasing the conflict is one-sided. Your moral equivalence of Islamic terrorists with those who try to stop Islamic terrorists I find outrageous.
I don’t think you understand what motivates Israel’s enemies. You should read what they say in Arabic. They are very clear. There is no partner for peace. Never has been.