In the Israeli/Palestinian conflict much ink is spilled and much breath is wasted speaking into the echo chamber. Many supporters of both sides have a tendency to surround themselves with people who share their own points of view. We make accusations and talk at and past each other, not with each other. We spend a tremendous amount of time and energy making arguments to discredit and delegitimize our adversary. Interestingly, the accusations that Israelis and Palestinians make about one another are mirror images.
“Israel/Palestine is a fictional entity with no right to exist.”
Many supporters of Israel go to great lengths to explain that there never was a country called Palestine. One of the most popular iterations of this argument can be found in the six minute video entitled “Israel Palestinian Conflict: The Truth About the West Bank” by former Israeli Ambassador to The United States, Danny Ayalon. Over 850,000 people have watched the video on YouTube. Supporters of Palestine make similar arguments claiming that Israel is a product of European colonialism, that Israelis with European surnames clearly belong in Russia or Poland, not the Middle East. A major voice for the notion that Zionism is Colonialism is Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad. See, for example, his piece entitled “Peace is war: Israeli settler-colonialism and the Palestinians” published last year in Al Jazeera.
“Israelis/Palestinians are morally depraved and are hopelessly violent and barbaric.”
Israelis and their supporters often assert that Palestinians are incapable of peace. They point to polls that prove the violent intentions of their Palestinian neighbors and explain that violence is part of the Palestinian culture. See for example “Culture of Violence: A Palestinian Hobby” by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary Magazine. Critics of Israel are quick to point out that the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are hopelessly violent. Sometimes these criticisms come from Israelis themselves, notably Amira Hass, columnist for the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper. See, for example, her recent column entitled “Israeli Soldiers Are Licensed Thugs Applying State Violence In The West Bank.” Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek are two vocal critics of the IDF. Have a look at the recent Times of Israel piece, “Twitter-verse compares Israel, Islamic State.”
“Israel/Palestine is Anti-Democratic.”
Israel’s supporters often point out that Mahmoud Abbas is still serving as President of The Palestinian Authority despite the fact that he was last elected in 2005 for a four year term. See “Who does Abbas represent?” by Guy Bechor in Ynet. Supporters of the Palestinian cause are quick to accuse Israel of Apartheid. The separation barrier Israel constructed in response to the Second Intifada is described as an Apartheid Wall. More recently critics of the controversial Jewish Nation-State bill call it the legal framework for an Apartheid State. See “And now apartheid is being sneaked into Israel’s very foundations” by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy.
Regardless of whether one personally supports or refutes any of the above assertions, it is important to see that ad hominem arguments against Israel and Palestine as nations accomplish nothing except making one feel good about the righteousness of one’s own side and the evil of the other side. These arguments will not liberate one inch of Palestinian land. They will also not bring peace and security to Israel. It is impossible to wish away the pain suffered by both Israelis and Palestinians. Dwelling on the past, however, will not help either. We cannot and should not ignore or forget history. We would, however, be better served by investing more energy in creating a brighter future than in repeatedly recounting the offenses of the past. As Eisenhower said, “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” Perhaps in 2015 Israelis, Palestinians, and their supporters can spend more time speaking with, not at each other. Perhaps in 2015 we can all spend more time looking through the windshield than in the rear-view mirror.