Israel and Palestine -- even the nomenclature of the parties involved in the conflict that has ailed the Middle East is controversial. Some people still cannot even agree on what to call the stretch of land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River!
After all of the news coverage, academic articles and lectures that I have either read or heard regarding this point of contention, I have come to recognize three important impediments that inhibit any further progress in the area -- mutual suspicion, misfortune and misinformation.
Regarding suspicion, both Israelis and Palestinians are quick to vilify each other, often without ever having met their purported adversaries. The whole world watched this as their politicians slung mud at each other. The elements justifying this sort of demonization are passed down within families as an heirloom -- just as silver or jewelry. Of course, continuing violence does not help this process; the choices of a few, on both sides of the borders, have affected the image of two larger peoples.
Misfortune, as well, has complicated claims and ties to the land that encompasses Israel. The progenitors of both the Israeli and Palestinian people have faced countless woes and wrongs. History does not help in this regard either. Depending on how one interprets the past, this sentimental piece of land can be deemed as belonging to a whole smorgasbord of people.
In this sense, it is not realistic to be an orthodox historian if peace is truly desired. This is where misinformation worsens the already inflamed elements of our conversation regarding Israel and Palestine listed above. Frankly, I often hear those who choose to discuss Israel and Palestine spewing incorrect facts and observations that were obviously gleaned from biased sources, some of which were intentionally poor. This problem is not limited to Americans; Israelis and Palestinians are subjected to misinformation quite frequently.
Perceptions are often misinformed as well. It is hard for me, and I imagine for others as well, to converse with people about this issue without getting caught up in its sheer amount of nuances and minutia. This sort of quibble, catalyzed by misinformed perceptions, often prevents us from looking at the larger picture
The same is often assumed about me. My faith might serve, in the eyes of some, as an intrinsic bias. However, I do not doubt for a moment that my religious upbringing has helped offer me an insight into many details that pervade the Israeli-Palestinian issue. As a Jew, many of my friends have assumed that my support of a Jewish state also entails unconditional support for the Israeli government. While I believe that a Jewish state must continue to exist (which does not, by any means, exclude a two-state solution), I often find myself at odds with the policies of the Israeli government. This is an important distinction that is often not recognized.
Fortunately, my observations are not generalizations -- there are many Israelis and Palestinians who have reached the same conclusions. Whether at school or my synagogue, I have heard these concerns echoed by members of both parties. But for those who have yet to identify the existence of these assertions, the only effective way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian solution is through education. Israel and Palestine ought to construct more schools that confront the problem spot-on -- schools like the Hagar School. Hagar (as I have written before) is an institution that educates Arabic and Hebrew-speaking children within the same classrooms. Appropriately, graduates of the Hagar School possess an understanding of the commonalities between their parents that they once thought were nonexistent.
If Israel, or Palestine, were to apply this same sort of approach to a broader context, they might be able to realize a sound agreement far earlier than they currently hope.
Without clearing these clouds, neither Israeli nor Palestinian peacemakers will be able to see clearly. We need to stop the issue here. We need to stop, by encouraging learning. Then, and only then, can Israel and Palestine begin to discuss a two-state solution.