Israel & Palestine: Punch & Judy writ large
January 6, 2009
I originally posted this on Lib Dem Voice, but I had so much fun writing it I thought I’d put it here too. Disclaimer: The following post does not represent my own views, but rather a question I’ve always wanted answered.
|Geoffrey Payne wrote:|
|I do not want to be misunderstood in this sense. I think there are people of good will on both sides of the divide who are voting for extremists, and that is the real tragedy. Democracy is not working. The main reason is that both sides have a very different understanding of the history of the conflict, much of which is no longer in living memory.|
Whoa there. If democracy doesn’t produce the result we would like, it doesn’t mean it’s not working. If it produces a result that the majority of the demos do not like, then it’s not working. And this is a crucial point, which seems to have been missed in all this talk of ‘historical understanding’ and ‘justifiable body counts’ and whatever.
Both the Israelis and Palestinians have voted for governments that actively want to kill the other side in the conflict. Wouldn’t this seem to indicate that this is something they want to do? And so, this is my question: why not just let them do it?
There are two extremes in the ways in which we can view the participants in this conflict: as two societies of deranged madmen who glorify killing, or as two societies of people who’ve formed a rational response to living with violence and death in day to day life. I always find expressions like ‘historical understanding’ rather snooty; they seem to indicate that we as westerners have some sort of enlightened perspective on such things unavailable to these poor violent barbarians. Isn’t it rather the case that if your family was threatened (or you believed them to be) by an outside force, it is reasonable to want that outside force to be eliminated? Isn’t that preferable to the sort of self-effacing peace deal advocated by the West, where one side stops killing the other (in any number of ways, witness the economic-collapse-inducing Israeli blockade) for an indeterminate amount of time until the other stops too? During the period where the other side is still committing violent acts, your family is still at risk.
So why not let them do it, if they want to? Certainly, all death is a bad thing, but we and France were happily killing each other for hundreds of years before we decided to band together to kill Germans instead. To shift the rational position from the one mentioned above to a position where one side can unilaterally stop requires an exhaustion with war, and a recognition that war itself cannot achieve the goal of eliminating the other side. We haven’t reached that point yet, and we will not for some time.
I begin to worry that Western discourse on this subject has forgotten that the Israelis and Palestinians are people too, and has rather turned them into moral puppets onto which we project our particular worldview.