With Gaza and Israel once again up in flames, discount let’s eavesdrop on a conversation you might hear between two smart people, find one Palestinian, one Israeli.
Palestinian: You have sown a bitter crop. Does it surprise you that Gaza is on fire? Hopelessness begets rage which begets violence. You say you want peace, but then build settlements that destroy any chance of it. You undermine our moderates and raise up our radicals. At 64, Israel still pretends we don’t exist. You kill and you kill and you kill. But you will never kill our dreams.
Israeli: You wallow in your victimhood. You do anything to inflict pain upon us, even at the expense of your own well being. You fire deadly rockets at our civilians, and then condemn us for responding. No nation would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens. When we withdrew our troops from Gaza seven years ago, your Islamic radicals took over and turned it into a staging ground to attack us.
Palestinian: You of all nations should understand loss – loss of dignity, of hope, of life. You yearned for a homeland for centuries, and then deny our right to have one, too. Paying lip service to a ‘two-state solution’ means nothing. You can’t enclose 1.7 million Palestinians into an area as tiny as Gaza and then claim they’re dying only because Hamas is hiding behind them. You present yourself as a liberal democracy, and then treat us as sub-human. You claim civilian casualties are unavoidable in war, but we all know that killing our women and children is the centrepiece of your “deterrence.”
Israeli: You fell in love with despair. We offered you a state and you spat on our offer. Murder and terrorism are not “resistance.” Firing on civilians is cowardice, not bravery.
Palestinian: You built Jewish-only roads to connect your settlements on our land, without so much as an exit ramp for a Palestinian village. You undermine the fight for our soul in a Middle East swept by change. In Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Libya… Scenes of our dead children fuel the forces of hatred.
Israeli: Yesterday you threatened some border towns. Now your rockets terrorize all of Israel. You are foot soldiers for Iran and Hezbollah. You devote your scarce resources to smuggle in weapons to kill our civilians rather than better your own people’s lives.
Palestinian: For every leader you assassinate, many more await in the wings. Ahmad al-Jabari’s replacement may be less willing to negotiate than he. Hemmed in, seething with anger, poor and isolated, Gaza is inherently unstable. You call your violence deterrence, but it creates legions of new fighters. You close off all hope of Palestinian self determination and then wonder why we rise up.
Israeli: We live in a tough neighbourhood. If we didn’t know how to play in it, we would have been annihilated long ago. We learned the hard way that the language you understand best is the language of force.
The funny thing about this conversation is the passionate correctness of both sides. In the end, however, both miss the point. Bloodshed surges when hope fades for the only possible solution we have: two states in the Holy Land, one Jewish, one Palestinian. The focus must be on the promise of what could be rather than the pain of what was. Everything else is noise.
Steven Gutkin served as Associated Press bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories from 2004 to 2010.