Three observations about the Israeli-Palestinian issue

By Hannes Stein

This blog is known for being pro-Israel. In a way this is a shame because here I would like to propose three simple observations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, I believe, could be shared by everyone around: friends of Israel, critics of Israel, friends of the Palestinians, critics of the Palestinians, fans of Meretz, fans of Gush Emunim, followers of El Fatah (if there still are any), perhaps even some of those who sympathize with Hamas – as long as they agree that those annoying little thingies called facts are not completely irrelevant.
My three propositions are the following: 1) This is not a very interesting conflict. 2) There is no easy resolution to this conflict. 3) Peace, if it ever comes, will not come through reconciliation. Let me explain each point in turn.

1) This is not a very interesting conflict.
The most basic fact about the low-intensity conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, it seems to me, is that it is overreported. One can easily point to the reasons why should be so—the Jews-are-news-factor; then, Israel is a reporter’s paradize where everybody from top officials down is extremely talkative—AND you can be back from the battlefield at your hotel bar in time for cocktails.
But overreported it undoubtedly is. Neither can the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be called extremely bloody—just compare the Gaza campaign of 2008, with perhaps 740 civilians killed by the highest estimate, and the Sri Lankan Army Northern Offensive of the same year, with 7000 civilians killed by the lowest estimate.
Nor is it likely that this unimportant brawl in some dusty corner of this globe will lead to nuclear war anytime soon. Whereas nobody knows what the Korean roulette that Baby Kim is playing will eventually lead to; and remember, there still is the Cashmere crisis between India and Pakistan – totally unresolved—and the Pakistanis are driving nuclear warheads around their country in unarmoured vans.
So I stand by my word: this is essentially a boring conflict. Actually, one of the best things that could happen to both Israelis and Palestinians would be if the world lost interest. If TV cameras went dark. If both sides were left to their own devices for a year or so.

2) There is no easy resolution to this conflict. 
If there were some way the Israelis could go: one, two three, and then the Palestinians went: a, b, c – or vice versa: first the Palestinians go a,b,c and then the Israelis implement one, two and three – then this conflict would have been resolved a long time ago. So all those of you who come from the outside carrying heavy bags full of good advice: hold your breaths for a second. It is not easy. And please, why should it be? Why should it be easier then, say, the ethnic strife between Romanians and Hungarians after World War I? Or the conflict in South Tyrol which lasted for generations? Or the Kurdish issue which has been burning at least since the Kurds were promised a state in the Treaty of Sevres (1920), a promise which was broken in the Treaty of Lausanne three years later?
This conflict will not be resolved in a day or a year. Maybe it will still be around a century from now. Maybe it will be around forever. „Real problems do not have a solution; they have a history“ (Nicolas Gomez Davila). Patience, please! And, my dear European friends, both sides in this conflict don’t appreciate it one bit when you wag accusing fingers in their faces like some Victorian governess.

3) Peace, if it ever comes, will not come through reconciliation. 
Here I can only quote Amos Oz, a wonderful writer (and a real mensh) with whom I do not always agree. But he is absolutely on the money when he insists, „Make peace not love“. And when he says that peace is made between enemies and must in the case of Israelis and Palestininans result in partition. I also happen to agree with Amos when he warns of sentimentality.
For this reason I view all projects where Arabs and Jews are united, be it in kindergartens or symphony orchestras, with weary and cynical eyes. OK, you can do that kind of thing if you have no more pressing issues. But this is not the long and windy road which might eventually lead to peace or even a extended armistice.
Let me not mince words here: it is abso-fucking-lutely unimportant whether Israelis and Palestinians view each other with empathy. Whether they develop an understanding or whether they enjoy each other’s cooking. They don’t have to like the other side, not particularly, and they don’t have to learn to live with each other. All this is sentimental crap. This conflict does not belong to the kind where a slightly dysfunctional couple has to overcome certain marital didfficulties. This whole thing is about DIVORCE: How can the competing parties best be seperated? Who will get access to what and when? In short, how can Palestinians and Israelis best avoid each other? And what will happen to the party that is found in breach of the contract?
I am not saying this is how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved. Perhaps (see above) it will never be. I’m only saying: should there be peace it will not come through Israeli and Palestinian teenagers fiddling happily side by side while Daniel Barenboim stands at the helm with his baton.

I have not said a word here about the conflict between Israel and Iran. This belongs to an entirely different class. It is very serious, possibly deadly serious. Maybe this enmity can only be resolved through war (I hope not, but one can’t know). And although the leadership in Teheran claims otherwise: the clash with Iran has nothing to do with the Palestinian issue; nothing at all.

Published April 7th, 2013 on „Die Achse des Guten“

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