And so it continues … another generation of people on both sides are committing themselves to their on-going mutual destruction. Tempting as it might be to take sides, or justify the actions of one side by listing the crimes of the other, I won’t.
Both have much in common.
The stunning silence – The Israelis will point to the 600 rocket attacks so far this year from the fanatics dedicated to their destruction, yet remain oblivious and strangely silent about the violence and oppression they have dished out for generations – the theft of Palestinian land, and ignoring basic human rights. The Palestinians will churn out photos of dead children, and scream about the death of innocents, yet when challenged about the daily barrage of rockets, will also be strangely silent.
Religion – It might not be the same belief, but it has a common root and generates a similar degree of fanaticism, the surety that a god is on their side and that they are fully justified in doing whatever they opt to do.
It’s never simple and is in fact a very complicated issue. Within both Israeli and Palestinian society, the conflict generates a wide variety of views and opinions. This highlights the deep divisions which continue to exist, not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also within each society. An ongoing hallmark of the conflict has been the level of violence witnessed for virtually its entire duration.
Have we even seen anything like this before? Actually yes we have, in many ways it reminds me of Northern Ireland. We got lucky there, an extraordinary person stepped in and saved the day. No, not Tony Blair or the equally forgettable Irish PM of the time, but rather Mo Mowlam, who during her time as Northern Ireland Secretary pushed through the signing of the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998. Why did she succeed where others failed, was it her personal charisma or something else? It turns out that at the time she was dying from a brain tumour, and tragic as it was, it put her in a very unique position. She had no political career to protect, nor did she give a damn for her reputation and so she was empowered to speak plainly and focus on what really mattered. The fact that she was dying was a secret she kept to herself, and told nobody about, not Tony Blair and certainly not the electorate. It turned her into a very plain speaker, she once told Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the IRA leaders at the time, that having got off on the wrong foot, they should all start the meeting again “only this time, no cocks on the table”, and is also famous for once telling the Reverend Ian Paisley to ‘fuck off!’. In the end, she not only bashed heads together, but she said and did things nobody else could or would do and so she ended up bringing them all to an agreement. Without her it would not have been possible or even thinkable.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict needs a Mo Mowlam to knock a few heads together, tell them all to their faces that they are clueless wankers and need to recognise that violence breeds violence, and that it is time for them to stop. Sadly, they have nobody like her, instead they have been lumbered with Tony Blair as a UN peace envoy, the chap who thought that invading Iraq was a jolly good idea, so don’t hold your breath waiting for peace to break out.