Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Solving the Middle East Conflict: It's Not About Israel and Palestine

Written by johnleemk on 4:15:41 am Feb 7, 2009.

I was watching television for the first time in a long while some weeks ago, when I saw something that upset me quite a bit. It was a demonstration in Los Angeles, where "pro-Palestine" and "pro-Israel" protesters were yelling epithets at each other. It was not the protests which upset me; it was that the journalist quite offhandedly referred to each of them as "pro-Palestine" and "pro-Israel". Why do we have to pick sides in this stupid conflict? Why can't we all be on the same side — against senseless violence?

I don't like writing about the Middle East in general. It is much too depressing and all too confusing. People literally spend their whole lives trying and failing to understand the conflict there.

I'm not too interested in historical debates. The Israelis may say their ancestors were there first and the Palestinians' ancestors stole their land. But any historical argument from the Palestinians today is essentially the converse. I'm not in any real position to judge the validity of these claims.

The important thing is to look to the future. What do we ultimately want to have in the Middle East? I think we all know the answer: we want a stable region where people can live in peace without killing, maiming or abusing one another.

How to accomplish this is ultimately another issue. Does a state called "Israel" have to exist in the Middle East for this to be accomplished? Probably not, although the only way to guarantee peace without Israel would be to deport or murder every Jew in Israel — hardly the ideal solution. Ideally, Israel would become a pluralist, multicultural state accepting of Arab and other minority ethnic groups; alternatively, Palestine, Lebanon and other neighbouring states would have the full control of their territory and the full international recognition they need to prevent terrorism.

I don't know what you would call either of these two positions, but I doubt either of them is strictly anti-Israel or anti-Palestine. Ultimately most of us want peace to prevail in the Middle East. It is just too bad that most of those with the actual power in the Middle East seem to have the exact opposite desire.

It is true that ultimately we will have to take certain positions on the actions of the actors in the Middle East. Those disapproving of Israel's ridiculous and inhumane foray into the Gaza strip are likely to be called anti-Israel; those disapproving of how terrorists in the Gaza strip and other Palestinian territories are likely to be called anti-Palestine. But is it not possible to condemn both acts of aggression and violence, regardless of which "side" is supposedly in the wrong?

When we view the situation in the Middle East as a zero-sum game — one where Israel or Palestine has to win, and the other has to lose — we can never realistically attain peace there. Peace can only be reached when everyone realises that it is in everyone's interest to treat one another with mutual respect. As idealistic and impractical as this sounds, the right position on the question of the Middle East isn't whether you support Israel or Palestine; it's whether you support the right of every person to live in peace and without fear of oppression, or whether you don't.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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