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.