When it comes to the generations long struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians, I am no expert. There is too much water under the bridge, and too many details of a history I was neither there for, nor had the time to study independently in depth. I am aware of the complaints of the Israelis regarding their security in what they see as their ancestral homeland, and also aware of the complaints of Palestinians regarding their displacement and alleged subsequent mistreatment at the hands of the Israelis.
But as a father of two girls, there is one thing I am an expert in, and that is conflict resolution. I am reminded somewhat of a situation in which my children were fighting in the back seat of the car, eventually coming to blows. As I tried to sort out the situation, they just kept hitting each other and screaming about how the Papa Smurf toy was THEIRS. In between hair-pulls and snatching the toy, both made reasonable semi-coherent points about why they should get the toy. As I hurtled down the freeway, I said what I think most parents would say in the situation “Calm down, stop hitting each other and give me Papa Smurf!” By stopping the violence, and removing the offending toy, I was hoping to determine with a clear mind a reasonable solution to the problem–though I knew it would inevitably involve some sort of sharing, and neither girl was likely to be completely satisfied.
The point is that the first step in this process was to stop the violence. As long as the two girls were hitting each other, the argument would escalate and no agreement would be able to be reached. While this analogy is unacceptably lighthearted for such a serious situation, and is no doubt imperfect (whither Papa Smurf and whither holy Jerusalem?), some important parallels can indeed be drawn.
The Palestinian argument for the violent Intifada, in plain English, can be boiled down to the basic sentiment “We need to stand up and defend ourselves, or else Israel will obliterate us and our homeland completely.” The violent component of the Israeli response is summarized as “We need to stand up and defend ourselves against these violent peoples who threaten our security and our ability/right to exist”. Is it any wonder than, that we have ended up in an ever escalating vicious cycle of bloodshed?
The only way out of this situation is to first, stop the violence. And to do this, one side will need to have the courage to act first. As the group claiming to be oppressed, that onus clearly falls to the Palestinians. To claim oppression is to claim a certain moral high ground, which is the main weapon of the oppressed. As long as they persist in violent uprising (or defense, based on one’s perspective), they will have ceded this all important moral high ground to those they accuse of oppression. The only reasonable course of action currently is to insist on a total stop to all violent action (aggressive or defensive) on behalf of the Palestinians.
If, in fact, the Palestinians are right and Israel represents a group of aggressors committed to Palestinian oppression if not total annihilation, this will become abundantly clear as Israeli violence continues or itensifies in the face of Palestinian non-violence. Such action would then stand glaringly obvious in the international spotlight, exposed for its ugliness. If, however, Israel is correct in their assertion that their violent actions are merely defensive in nature, the entire impetus for violence directed against the Palestinians will disappear as Palestinians lay down their arms. Peace can then move forward.
The Palestinians win either scenario. Either Israel is exposed for the violent imperialist power that they believe it is, world pressure comes to bear, and the Palestinians are treated to world sympathy; or violence stops and peace prevails based necessarily on a two-state solution. Yes, there will be short term losses, but those losses are already occurring. And if Israel is truly the peaceful giant it claims to be, it likewise has nothing to fear and everything to gain from this turn of events.
The question comes up, where will the Palestinians find a leader strong enough to convince them that the non-violent resistance of Ghandi and King are potential answers to their problems? A leader willing to forsake short term gains and demagoguery for long term solutions? A leader willing to admit that justice is less important than peace, the past less important than the future? Hope continues that such a leader will arise from among them. However, among the current players, only one possesses the credibility to advance such a solution–Hamas. Hopefully they realize that in the struggle for peace, the best place to find a helping hand is at the end of their own arm.
Note to the reader: I realize this is an inflammatory topic and struggled with the decision of whether or not to post this at all for that reason. However, I do believe this post accurately reflects my views, and as such do not fear in publicizing them. I do fear them being misinterpreted however. To reiterate, my intention is not to express my (essentially meaningless) support for either side in this existential struggle, but rather to emphasize that regardless of “right” or “wrong”, the initial steps towards peace are the same. I implore any who choose to comment to keep their comments respectful of those with different viewpoints.