Israel-Palestine: with us or against us? Neither, thank you (2014)

The world isn’t black and white. Those who demand of you to be “with us or against us” start on the wrong foot.
In the current escalation (July 2014) of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict I often get accused by one side or the other to be taking the opposite side. That is one of the keys: it seems as if for most people the responsibility for no matter what it’s always unquestionably “the other’s fault”, you can only be with “us” or against “us”.

I do take sides, but it’s with all those, Israeli or Palestinian, Jewish or Muslim, who want peace and prosperity, and they are a majority.
The right wing in Israeli politics doesn’t want peace, just like Hezbollah and Hamas don’t want peace, because in a state of peace they would lose their power, they would simply disappear.
Despite what they all say in public, both sides have been consistently boycotting all real attempts to build a peaceful state. Likud, Zionists, Hezbollah and Hamas would not exist if people on both sides weren’t living in a state of constant fear.
I believe even Arafat and his crew could have been dealt with to find a compromise, while I don’t think it will ever be possible to deal with Hezbollah and Hamas other than by removing the reasons for people to support them.
The politics of the Israeli right wing feed on those of their counterpart, it is only pressure from the international community that could force both sides out of their seats and give space to those who genuinely want peace.
Jewish culture gave the world some of its greatest thinkers, artists and scientists of the last century, it doesn’t need to give us the greatest murderers.

To make things clear from the start, I have no religion, I have no affiliation. I have many Jewish friends, some who grew up in Israel and served in the army too, while I have no Palestinian friends.
My ex wife grew up in Israel in the early 70s, and her memories are of living side by side with Palestinians with no problems, the eldest members of her family still live there. Most of my Jewish friends regret how things turned out and believe strongly this situation is artificial, it is not the will of the people on either side.
My son is 20 and, according to Jewish tradition, a Jew; if we were in Israel he would be serving in the army, and I am very glad we aren’t!
When I spent time in Israel I saw how liberal, peace-loving Israeli intellectuals, artists and journalists, were ostracised and their life made difficult by a system that sees the end of the conflict as a danger for their survival, they want Israeli to live in fear, otherwise they would not vote for them.

I make a strong distinction between the state of Israel and the Jewish people, I believe the state of Israel presents itself as representative of Jewish people, while it is not, and of the many Jews I know I can’t think of one who identifies with it.
In the past weeks I have seen images of young Israeli demonstrating carrying signs that said horrid things to the tune of “All Arabs should end up in the gas chambers”. Of all people for a Jew to say something like that is horrifying, I am sure their grandparents are turning in their graves.
I had the chance to meet Jewish people who had survived the camps, all of them showed an exemplary level of tolerance, understanding and ability to forgive, none of them were looking for revenge, their thoughts and desires were for peace, for the horrors of humiliation and destruction to be never repeated in a new era of peace. It pains me beyond measure to see their grandchildren bent on doing to others what was done to their forebears.

The state of Israel has broken more international laws and defied more UN resolutions than any other on earth, more than North Korea; yet, the international community has managed to restrain North Korea and avoid the worst consequences, while it has failed in reining in the warmongering side of the Israeli state.
Israeli politics and actions like the current attack on Gaza not only don’t solve the problem, they make it worse. The Arab world cares little for the Palestinians, however, as long as the Palestinians are oppressed by Israel that gives a good excuse to the Arab countries to oppose and fight Israel. It also plays an important part in pushing many young, ill educated, frustrated and unemployed people to join one of the too many and very dangerous terrorist organisations that are devastating the Middle East.
The growth of fundamentalist Islam, which is a danger for the whole world and a tragedy for people in the Muslim world, is in large part the consequence of western politics, of choices like the war in Iraq. And the behaviour of the state of Israel heavily contributes to that, it’s like throwing petrol on a fire.

If we don’t stop Israeli right wing politics now, in a near future it is not only people living in Israel and the Palestinians who are going to suffer, we will see an increasing growth of fundamentalist Islamic movements across the Middle East; what’s happening in Syria and Iraq should be enough to tell us that the risk is great, and Israeli politics are fuelling that counter-reaction, so we should all be worried and do something to stop them as much as we are about stopping the fanatics trying to create the new Caliphate. Both are dangerous and can change future history, in a very destructive direction.

It is not a matter of religion, true scholars know that the differences between the monotheistic religions of the Judaic/Christian/Muslim group have much more in common than differences that distinguish them, they have proven to be compatible, for centuries in various parts around the Mediterranean mixed communities thrived and lived together peacefully.
If all the effort that is put in war and all that is around it, in fueling hatred, was put into development and education one generation would be enough to turn the page.

Israel has the intellectual, technological and financial power to make a difference, the Palestinians don’t. It should be a moral duty of Israel, towards the Jews and towards the world, to use their power for a good end, to be an example to follow.
Israel has performed miracles, turning a piece of land that was little more than a pile of rocks into a fertile productive land and one of the most advanced countries in the world, it could and should perform the miracle of turning a land that has been the stage for bloodshed since the beginning of time into an example of how knowledge, hard work, wisdom and unity can turn it into an model of peace and success in a region that is devastated by wars and underdevelopment.

When I worked with mixed groups of Jews and Muslim there was always tension and suspicion at the beginning, but it almost always disappeared very soon, when people started recognising each other as just that: people with families and a life to develop. This is something that doesn’t take a miracle, it is a decision that every individual should take. The question people should ask themselves is: “do I work to create a peaceful future for my children or do I fuel a conflict situation where my children risk their life every day?”

To me that doesn’t seem a very difficult decision to take.

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