“We want peace. Of course, we want peace. But look! Just look at all the terrible things they have done to us!”
Investigating political disputes and conflicts in a frame that I think of as “break-away movements within the rich/developed world” has a lot of challenges. One of them that comes up occasionally is that there are a few areas I’ve been wary of writing anything about based on their being too controversial for me to want to touch at the moment. The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of those topics.
This is not for lack of education on the matter. I’ve chewed through more than enough pedantic historical matter on the subject viewed through multiple lenses, both local to the conflict and not. As I see it, the problem is that there is a large and outraged anglophone audience on the internet who don’t take kindly to their opinions on this conflict, not being represented by every voice that says a word about it. This is true, to a certain degree, on both the Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian sides of the online discussion.
Inevitably, taking my framework of looking at Israel/Palestine through the lens of 1. Movements to establish non-extant political identities in the real world and 2. in Wealthy/Developed territory means taking a somewhat open-minded look at the ideas behind a variety of different perspectives on the Israel/Palestine conflict, which are deeply offensive to anyone with some specific set persuasion on the matter. This means exploring topics like Akhzivland, Greater Israel aspirants, and Palestinian national liberationists.
I’m reminded of something a professor of mine in college – Dr. Peter Bechtold – said once in a class on the Israel/Palestine Conflict. He was speaking about his time working for the State Department in Cyprus (An island trapped in conflict ever since the Turkish invasion and occupation of the North of the island decades ago). He said that when representing a neutral government in such disputes, you must watch out for “the story.” The story goes: You meet with folks representing one party to the conflict and sit down with them for lunch one day, and at some point in the conversation, it turns to, “We want peace. Of course, we want peace. But look! Just look at all the terrible things they have done to us!” Then the next day, you visit with someone representing the other side of the conflict, and at some point, the conversation turns to, “We want peace. Of course, we want peace. But look! Just look at all the terrible things they have done to us!” Eventually, each side’s narratives get repeated so frequently that there’s almost nothing to say anymore.
Unfortunately, most reporting on Israel/Palestine is focused on old pre-established frames that everyone knows and expects. As a result, everything reported leans into what’s already presumed to be known. While aiming to crack the uncanny valley of “this place is developed, why do people want to change everything?” I need to find more. Everyone thinks they know the narrative because everyone has heard a narrative repeated so often that it is assumed absolute. But there’s always more to be uncovered when millions of people live through constant tensions, anywhere.
But the internet isn’t ready for those stories yet. Hopefully, someday it will be. Maybe next year, in Jerusalem.