Following John Kerry’s speech, who defended the two-state solution, I would like to echo Theresa May noting that the problems (not conflict! as will be explained shortly) in Israel are complex and indeed go beyond the issue of illegal settlements. The two-state solution is not a long-term one and I would like to propose here that Israel explore another avenue.
No Man’s land – literally.
There are many who call for the land of Israel to be returned to the Palestinians, as it seems to ‘belong’ to them. No land in the world belongs to no (wo)man. It is OUR earth and we share it with other beings, and no one has ‘dibs’. The claiming of land and drawing of boarders has long been an instigator of war throughout history, and today still.
As both Jews and Arabs grapple for Biblical and historical crumbs of evidence that will crown the land as theirs, they are both pulling at, as it stands, the unequal tug-of-war that never ends. In the meantime, more lives on both sides are lost.
But the state of affairs is already established…so what do you propose?
Yes, there is a status quo. And it is one that is instilled and perpetuated on hatred and lack of communication, fear and utter contempt. Not only between the Jews and Arabs, but this is also highly pronounced within Jewish society itself: between the religious and the secular on all its spectrum. There is deeply seeded racism and marked sexism in Jewish society. One has only to walk down an average street in the most westernized city in Israel such as Tel-Aviv and glean, simply from the abused, neglected and starved stray cats and dogs to understand that compassion is not abundant on the streets of Israel, even in the most gay-friendly capital in the Middle-East.
The Linguini (that’s me) lived for a while in Riga, a city torn in half by blind, hatred-fueled legislation. Riga is composed of about 50% of the population who identify as Russian and 50% as Latvians. The Latvian government wants to stamp out the Russians and enforce a Latvian state. They do this by banning Russian to be spoken in government facilities such as the national post office, but also some Latvian-owned private shops instill a similar policy. This results in many Russians feeling that their identity is devalued, resulting in some changing their last name to a Latvian sounding one, which, according to some, can help in admission to university.
While not exactly the same thing, the problem of identity in Israel is at the core. Oppression is abundant: religion oppression within the Jewish society, for example in the case of marriage and divorce, no civil service is recognized. Abuse and violence against women in Arab villages is rampant.
The only reason to look into the past is to learn from mistakes, not keep score of who did what to whom, because at this point it’s hard to tell who will lose, as so much death and loss has been inflicted from both sides. This is why the word ‘conflict’ does not fit the description of the situation in Israel. I propose that ‘hostilities’ does a better job. ‘Conflict’ suggests that both sides are of equal stature and power. It doesn’t matter who started this, conquered that, or annexed this. How do we get out of this so that corrupt so-called leaders can cease to benefit from the situation?
“We must only to have courage and be kind”~ Cinderella’s mom, the Disney version
It may only by a line from a cheesy, blockbuster fairy tale, but it is exactly the opposite of what Kerry suggests. Kerry’s two-state notion (must be growing mold by now, it’s so old) is the opposite of a courageous and kind move. The courage is to look into another’s eyes and finding that they are a human being, just like you. Until the Israelis and Arabs are able to do this, they will never live peacefully side by side. The shutting up and building of yet more never ending walls will not help educate either people of one another’s customs, cultures and languages. It will only benefit the propagation of violent and dangerous leaders and the ‘us and them’ culture will flourish.
The only way for both sides to live peacefully is with kindness. Starting with education. Israelis and Arabs have separate curricula which must be unified, and learning in schools should not be segregated. Language attitudes towards some of the languages (and cultures, by extension) spoken in Israel carry with them negative evaluation for example: Russian. There is a large community of Russian speakers whose culture and language has a low value in Jewish society. Bible studies in Israeli secular Jewish schools (what an oxymoron) must give way to general RE (Religious Education), where they are exposed to a range of religions and cultures. Arabic and Hebrew should be taught, together with English, to all students from a young age. The government must incentivize Arabs living in villages to integrate in the workplace and broader Israeli cities.
The first step for initiating a real change should be by devising a constitution that will reflect the diversity and identity of those living in the territory. When Israel was first conceived of and instated, it served as a refuge for Jews from persecution, endless running and fear. It should never have had to be created – all governments and societies in the world where Jews resided should have defended and protected their citizens. There shouldn’t need to exist Jewish/Muslim/Christian/Sikh etc. states – people everywhere should be free and feel safe to display their identities while respecting others through compromise and compassion. Leaders, policy makers and some people lack respect and compassion. But it’s not their fault. This is a result of respective brainwashing and lack of positive, constructive and effective policy and education.
Make no mistake, this vision is for the long haul, it requires patience for trust to be forged. At the same time, it isn’t impossible: social change and mobilization for human and animal rights has made great strides in many areas: women’s rights, LGBT, the African American civil rights movement. The Jewish- Arab context is no different.