The difficulty of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: an illustration

In a post called “The Moderates are Time Zones Apart,” Michael Totten writes:

Politically moderate Israeli historian Yaacov Lozowick reviews Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape, a book by moderate Palestinian author Raja Shehadeh, and comes to the depressing conclusion that peace between the two peoples of the Holy Land is still not terribly likely any time soon.

The third link in the quote is to Lozowick’s review of the book.  It seems to be a very sensible interaction with Shehadeh’s arguments and evidence, noting the places where he agrees and calmly disagreeing when he doesn’t.  His last paragraph struck me in the same way that it seems to have struck Totten:

Ultimately it’s a depressing book. Shehadeh comes across as a moderate, reasonable man, non-violent and rational. Yet there’s no acceptance anywhere is his book – not that I could see, and I looked for it – that this very small place is the homeland of both our nations, each with legitimate claims to all of it, each with an urgent need to reconcile themselves to the loss of parts of it. He accepts that Israel is powerful and implicitly here to say, but gives no inkling of recognition that there’s justice in that. The Israelis are aggressors, the Palestinians are victims, and that’s the whole story.

This mindset seems to be one of the big barriers in the resolution of the conflict.  The way I see it (and I still have so much to learn), there are many Israelis on the right and in the settler movement who refuse to see any validity for the Palestinian claims for the land at all.  The mirror image of this, which Lozowick describes in his paragraph above, is that many Palestinians seem to reject any Israeli claim; no empathy is extended to a people who were persecuted in so many places.  This rejectionism seems to be more widespread among Palestinians is the Greater Israel sentiment among Israelis.  It’s perhaps more understandable among Palestinians because, well, 125 years ago Arabs lived in Palestine with a small presence of Zionist Jewish immigrants.  But it’s not a mindset that can hold up today.

I don’t think that it’s just about attitudes; like with James Hunter’s view of culture, I think politics are shaped by power and institutions in addition to public opinion.  But I think that Palestinian and Israeli voices that reject the other side help to create the environment in which power operates.  On the other hand, Hussein Ibish (in some of his media appearances, like this one) that most Israelis and Palestinians want a two-state solution, but at the same time don’t trust the other side to allow it to happen.

This post is clumsier than I wanted it to be, perhaps reflecting how much I have to learn as I try to make sense of the Middle East so that I can teach about it with some degree of clarity in the spring.


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