A view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, outside Instagram
Seeing that a significant share of discussions of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians occurred on very short and concise posts and reposts on social media, and more specifically Instagram in my case, I decided to write, to detail my thoughts in pragmatic yet detailed paragraphs, and eventually share my perspective of current events in more nuanced and clarified terms.
Indeed, Instagram’s short sentence will, by design, only elicit clear-cut one-sided or bland opinions to be expressed. I am not saying people do not extract their information from various sources, but that the flow of information leads the most extreme ( and eventually delirious ) thoughts and opinions to be expressed.
More importantly, many social media trends tend to reflect the fact the words used are more geared towards the expression of individual emotions through the conflict, rather than the willingness to express cartesian and rational opinions that reflect an interest in the ongoing events and debates. This is not only a hazardous and non-efficient way to define a complex situation, it is also a selfish intrusion into a discussion whose outcome affects the whole Jewish population as well as native and diaspora Palestinians, independently from the rest of the world.
The second ( and for me more worrying ) trend which stems from social media’s nature is what I would call the ‘anecdotization’ of information. Instead of taking a high level view on events, we are focusing on a small amount of emotional material ( a video of a funeral, an impressive angle of explosion, … ) as the key highlight to elicit from the event. But in conflicts which have been lasting for 80 years, nothing is as simple as a stream of rockets, or a killed civilian, as tragic as it is in reality. There are times for emotions, but I prefer to take the side of pragmatism.
A last note, you will notice that unlike many available material online, this article will not contain much statistics nor sources to support my arguments. This is because, once again unlike most motivations to present views online, this article does not intend to ‘educate’ its audience ( using today’s jargon), but to present a view on the subject, which I do not consider to be right or wrong universally, but right or wrong to me and those who share it. One does not have to agree and disagree on all arguments, and this opinion is not inert and may evolve across experiences, reflection and dialog.
My motivation is to ensure two things. The first priority is the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish sovereign state, the second is its evolution as a buoyant democracy and flourishing economic and cultural growth, with deepened ties with its neighbours in the region. My belief is that this goal can only be attained through a pragmatic and spectator view of events, to analyze and act upon it.
The first highlights which have been completely undermined in explaining the current conflict is the unprecedented internal political crisis occuring in both Israel and the Palestinian political structure.
One one hand, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is dragging the country towards a 5th election in 2 years, unconventionally intending to keep a grasp of power longer, with goals stemming from avoiding its corruption trial outcomes to simply maintaining himself in a position of authority. An opposition of parties from the whole political spectrum led by Centrist leader Yair Lapid and right wing leader Naftali Bennett, which included both Arab parties in the Israeli Parliament were close to creating an unprecedented diverse coalition without Benyamin Netanyahu. Without blaming internal politics for this conflict, the timing was obviously helpful to freeze negotiations, unite Jewish parties around the current Prime Minister as is expected in conflict times, and drag Arab parties further away from its path to taking part to a coalition. This conflict was successful in revamping Netanyahu’s stature, as is common in events involving a need for security. Once again, the turn of events showed that underlying societal tensions would have led to a conflict under any circumstances, but it is useful to take the political context into account to explain the timing and complexity of events at this very moment.
On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, officially blaming Israel for not allowing East Jerusalemite vote in its Palestinian elections, but in reality wary of its opposition, the Hamas, winning in the West Bank, calling off the first Palestinian elections in 16 years. There was a need for Hamas, at this time, to show that they were the true defenders of the Palestinian cause. The symbolic conflicts occurring near the Al Aqsa mosque, a few days before the end of Ramadan, holy to billions in the world reinforced their position as defenders of millions, and revamped their stature.
This is for the background, which is part of the rhythm of the conflict, but does not justify the conflict in itself, which was bound to happen.
Now for the trigger. Israel has a parliamentary system similar to the British one, in which parties need to form coalitions with a majority of seats in the Knesset ( the Israeli Parliament ) to rule. As Israeli elections between anti and pro Binyamin Netanyahu supporters were as tight as they could for the past 2 years, any trick would do to win a seat or two in this battle.
The fear of extreme right in Israel, the Kahanists, whose leader Meir Kahane, staunch believer in ethnic cleaning, homophobia, and sexism, rested and died in Israeli prisons, and which was scattered into a range of parties weighing less than 1% in each election ( 3.25% is the threshold of votes required to gain a seat in Parliament ), was revamped by Netanyahu into a single united list to gain some extra right wing seats in the past elections. A coalition with this party was traditionally a no-go in Israel, but this time the alliance was clear, and Netanyahu ( himself leader of a more moderate right wing entity ) did not stop these new party leaders, such as its leader Itamar Ben Gvir, from entering Sheikh Jarrah and bringing back to the table a 50 year old consensus which had a 100% success of triggering internal Jerusalem conflicts. In other words, these actions allowed oil to be put on fire, and served as a trigger for an explosive situation.
Once you pull the trigger in this region, conflict will ensue. Palestinians will intend to gain some international exposure through guerilla-like confrontations, whilst Israel will intend to destroy as much weaponry as they can in the shortest time length in Gaza. However, one element which differs from previous campaigns is the involvement of the mostly economically integrated Arab Israeli population in some mixed cities in Israel, some of which turned to violent mobs burning Jewish shops and synagogues, something unseen in Israel since 1948, This is a factor displaying the underlying nationalistic / societal tensions which were also bound to explode at some point in time.
We can also better understand the official cancellation of the intended coalition of parties, as under these circumstances, an inclusion of Arab parties in the government turned impossible.
Now, it’s time to talk about pragmatism. Pragmatism is the belief that we should not use the abstract and subjective notions of ‘justice’ and ‘rights’ in discussing events, in order to only allow the consideration of objective or subjective variables ( which can include one group’s belief in morale and justice for example without sympathising or justifying this belief ), and use these variables to generate the best solution to the conflict.
In my opinion, there is one immutable variable in this conflict:
Since the trauma of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a sacrosanct principle in Israel is to always prioritise security over any other considerations. This is, as a side note, a belief derived from the sacrosanct religious Pikuach Nefesh principle that life should be prioritised over any other religious imperative. Bearing this in mind, as long as Israel is attacked, as they were in the past days with a thousand rockets sent and aimed at populated Israel cities, Israel will retaliate, regardless of international pressures.
On the longer term, this means that any solution to the conflict ( i.e. the end of Israeli occupation on Palestinians ) will involve building a trust and an insurance to Israel that the future Palestinian State, probably more or less within the current borders of the West Bank, will not become a rocket manufacturing site, and hence a danger to Israel. As long as these conditions are not insured, regardless of international pressures and condemnations, occupation will continue.
Now, you may read that many Israelis are opposed to the so-called two state solution. They usually give two arguments:
- The West Bank corresponds to the historical land of Judea and Samaria, where Jewish civilisation lived and flourished the last time they were sovereign of this land, i.e. around 2,000 years ago. There is little historical dispute around that subject, and we should all acknowledge that this is true. One may believe that it serves as a justification for today’s “colonisation”, others may believe that 2021 is not year 2, and that what counts is the population living on the land now. After all, we are not allowing Native Americans to control the USA, Romans to occupy Constantinople anew, and for Moghuls to regain control of the Taj Mahal. Both arguments are opinions, but the historical fact should be acknowledged.
But to summarise, this is one of the arguments.
- The second argument which is often being shared is the belief that “if you give Palestinians the West Bank, they will want everything”, namely currently recognized Israeli territory. This is in line with common arguments being sang and shared by Palestinians and Palestinian supporters, such as the “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. I believe this closely relates to the lack of trust which will need to be built to solve any occupations once again. Unless Israelis can trust that a future Palestinian autonomy won’t threaten Israel the way Gaza does, the end of colonisation won’t happen.
As a side note about Gaza, we often have talks of disproportionate force being used by Israel against Gaza. Whilst this can be argued, it is important to bear in mind that if it was not for the Iron Dome technology developed in Israel to intercept rockets indiscriminately sent into Israeli territory, thousands of Israelis would have died in previous days. All that to say that the same actions launched from the West Bank would be a too short distance for rockets to be intercepted, and would pose a life-threatening situation to Israel, hence an unacceptable one given prior variables. In addition, if these rockets would have killed thousands of Israelis ( if it was not for Iron Dome ), the calibrated strikes to Gaza rocket outposts would not occur in the same restraints as today, as the required speed to neutralize the danger would be higher. I believe that, if ( let’s hope it does not ) there was to be a war between Israel and Hezbollah in the future, with Hezbollah using modern weaponry able to avoid Iron Dome interception, Israel would not be able to calibrate air and land strikes on Lebanon, independently of civilians, which would obviously be a humanitarian disaster.
This paragraph does not intend to give a definitive answer to the questions of disproportionate strength being used by Israel on Palestinians, which is essentially a value-based question, but to give additional perspectives to shape that belief.
But ultimately, at the end of the day, Israelis face a choice between the current status quo, or a two state solution. Israeli passports will never be given to Palestinians, because Israel, by design, intends to function with a large Jewish majority population, that is the whole nature of the country at its core. Two sovereign lands, nurturing a friendship side by side, is the only perennial situation, and most Israelis understand that, it is a question of semantics and trust.
Today there are, in my opinion, two ways of solving the conflict:
- The first one, which makes me optimistic, is that a trust needs to be built between Israel and its Arab neighbouring world. The more trust, the more economic cooperation, the more possibilities for Israel to trust Arab countries, as defenders of Palestinians and holy sites ( and rightly so ) to give commitments that this new country will not pose a harm to Israel.
- The world needs to stop the social media pressure on Israel and Israelis. As someone who is open to debate and nuance, it is absolutely impossible to even feel that I am siding on the side of people blindly insulting and spreading misinformation on Israel, as is common on social media. I am a Jew and defender of what I consider to be my country. Misinformation does not mean bias. Al Jazeera is a biased source of information, but one which gives explanations and contexts to events at least. It can serve as a basis for disagreements and discussions. But social media arguments are not arguments, just short sentence mottos and slogans on situations, which cannot serve as a basis for change.
Ultimately, an inherent disagreement in this conflict is that, for Israelis and Jews, the need for security outweighs the urge to end the occupation of Palestinians . For Palestinians, it is understandable that their urge to gain autonomy outweighs the risks of Israeli civilians being killed as a by-product of future independence ( for example if the West Bank becomes a new version of Gaza ).
Hence, once we will be able to have a calm and active discussion, build trust from agreements and disagreements, occupation will be on a path to stop, as we will converge towards compromises balancing both parties’ priorities.
For now, as a Jew witnessing the threats Israelis and Jews face as a by-product of these social media campaigns, and the obvious security-related fears which will inevitably ensue for us around the world, we can only blindly stand behind Israel, without which this fear could be translated into realities, once again.