Thursday, 8 January 2009
I have watched the recent events in Gaza with a sense of despair and resignation.
The state of Israel is exactly the same age as I am, and I can't remember a stage in my life which didn't have some aspect of the conflict being played out in the background.
Israel was involved in the Suez crisis when I was nine, the six-day war was fought the year I turned twenty and the Yom Kippur war when I was twenty-six.
We lost a baby in 1982, the year of the first Lebanon War, and our youngest was born in 1991, the year of the first Gulf War.
Through all of this, I've never really understood the depth of hatred and fear which has fed this most vicious of conflicts during my lifetime.
I wonder what would be possible if in some miraculous way, the sad history could be completely obliterated. With all these old wounds healed, or if you like denied, I wonder would it be possible to move on.
In an equally miraculous manner, the following principles could be set out and agreed upon –
Both Israel and Palestine have the right to exist as free and independent states.
Both states should have a right to choose their own governments in a secure environment.
There would have to an acceptance of Israel’s existence and a renunciation of terror.
These two states should share equally the scarce resources of the region - water and arable land.
There should be no general right of return for either Israelis or Arabs.
There are many other issues to be resolved, including the status of Jerusalem, but I believe that any solution hinges on this notion of historical amnesia. There is just too much fear, hate and despair chronicled in that history.
It reminds me of the one major obstacle that was successfully overcome in the negotiations that finally put an end to the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The participants in the power-sharing agreement knew they were making progress, when they stopped saying "but what about…." in reference to the historical litany of fear hate and despair that had characterised 200 years of conflict.
It's time for "But what about…." to be dropped from discussion about Palestine and Israel, to be substituted by "What if…."
Update - Both Hamas and Israel have rejected a ceasefire - here
Maybe they deserve each other.
God help the civilians in both places.
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