Co-operation over strife

A lack of constructive dialogue prolongs the problems that Israelis and Palestinians face

In the ongoing conflicts between Israel and Palestine, a security barrier has been erected dividing the landscape.
In the ongoing conflicts between Israel and Palestine, a security barrier has been erected dividing the landscape.
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Mike Yeomans, ArtSci ’14

Israeli Apartheid Week just ended, but the conversation about the Israel/Palestine conflict needs to carry on. Co-operation, discussion and dialogue are the only ways in which the conflict can cease. This is seemingly harder since a total break down in communications occurred following UN-recognition of the State of Palestine. Both sides must work together, to rekindle a peace process they worked so hard on between 1993 and 2008, to find a lasting solution to a 65-year old crisis.

The West can, and should, play a major role in this, as we suffer from an unstable Middle-East. We’re key to starting the whole conflict and provide significant funding to both Israel and Palestine. We hold the moral obligation to clean up our mess and have the power to reboot negotiations.

The current, inflammatory, tit-for-tat violence makes an unacceptable situation of daily fear for Israelis and Palestinians, whilst distancing both sides from an end to the suffering of millions of men, women and children.

I’m Mike. I spent the summer of 2012 living and working in Deheishe refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. I studied this conflict under Queen’s professor Oded Haklai closely following its developments. I have no personal ties to the conflict, such as religion or family. I want to see it end, as I deplore the daily suffering and killing of all involved. I favour a two-state solution; a one-state solution isn’t workable at present.

The moral arguments of who has the moral inherent right to the land are superfluous as they won’t help end the suffering. Israel is here to stay; it has too much power to be overcome, it doesn’t want a single-state and it’s a false dichotomy to entertain the moral argument that Israelis have no right to be there; that would mean ejecting them to seek a new homeland, which just recreates the situation all over again!

If real progress is to be made in finding a solution, Israeli and Palestinian advocates should listen to each other’s point and view, negotiate and at all costs stop antagonising our counterparts. Blame games don’t help. They won’t create a resolution to the conflict. Both sides have committed terrible wrongs and both sides must recognize the only way to get beyond this is to find peace through forgiveness.

Starting dialogue isn’t easy. The Israel/Palestine conflict is so complicated due to the plethora of factors involved. Resolution to the conflict must account for: regional history; culture of both sides; the huge spectrum of views amongst the Israeli diaspora and Palestinian people, which create internal political conflicts in both states.

So to begin addressing the Israel/Palestine conflict, one must begin with education. We need to learn about the conflict and the multiplicity of highly intricate and complicated factors involved. Joint action must be taken by those advocating the Palestinian case, and those advocating the Israeli case.

Both sides seek the same goal: an end to the violence blighting the region. Each side must learn from the other’s wisdom and both must educate the wider world on the conflict at large so it can lead the way in grass-roots negotiation.

The international nature of the situation means it will only be resolved with international assistance, but the principle actors — the Palestinians and the Israelis — are the only ones who can solve this struggle; the rest of the world can help, but must educate itself before it can provide the calm, diplomatic setting of negotiated conflict-resolution, which is proven to work here.

To try and start this process I lived in the JDUC lower-Ceilidh from March 4-8 to bring attention to an issue which often gets ignored. The event was organized by Students for Palestinian Human rights, but I acted separately from Israeli Apartheid Week. My aim is for both sides to come together in negotiation and co-operation — and I do not believe the negatively-connotated (if technically correct) word ‘Apartheid’ helps that.

My actions last week were intended to make people reconsider this issue, to challenge preconceptions held (including my own) and to restart something that will still take a long time: the negotiated resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Queen’s can help restart this process. We can come together to share our opinions and listen to one-another and come together with suggestions as to how to best proceed forward — together.

If we’re going to see any progress here, it’s going to be by starting from where realities on the ground stand now; by letting hatred and wrongs of both sides be ‘water under the bridge’ (however hard and painful that is); and by engaging in meaningful dialogue.

That process starts now — with education about the issue as a whole, and a coming together in dialogue of Israeli/Palestinian representatives on both sides of the divide.

If we in the West, devoid of the fears of rockets, soldiers, bombs and suicide attacks cannot overcome hostility and screaming at one-another, how can we possibly expect those living in this daily hell to do any better?

Mike Yeomans is an exchange student from the University of Edinburgh.

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