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Eureka: Conflict in Israel - dangers of shallow thinking
by Jay Gutman
2017-05-29 10:09:25
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Even at the highest levels, the conflict in Israel tends to be confined to stereotypes and shallow thinking, including in terms of what the Palestinians want and what the Israelis want, how the conflict could be resolved and what the essence of the conflict is.

isr01_400_03The first stereotype consists in saying that “the United States” or any other organization created a problem by creating a Jewish state in the Middle East in 1948. The reality is that it’s not like the United States or any other country sent Jews by the thousands or millions to create a Jewish state, as it is commonly believe. I personally have ancestors who have been present in Israel for centuries and there were several waves of Jewish immigration to Israel, including the 19th century wave of Jewish immigration from Russia, Ukraine or Bessarabia and early 20th century wave of immigration from Europe. A larger wave of immigrants came from Europe in the 1940s, from North Africa in the 1960s and from around the world since.

The idea is that by 1948 there were about 750,000 Jews living in Israel. Either way reducing today’s conflict to what was going on the 1948 would be like trying to solve issues in Louisiana by discussing whether the territory should have remained French. Almost 70 years into the creation of Israel, you don’t try to solve the conflict by having Dutch debates on the origins of the conflict. That would be like trying to solve gun-related crimes in Texas by having Dutch debates on whether Texas should have remained Mexican or trying to solve a social crisis in Massachusetts by arguing that had the state remained British such problems wouldn’t exist.

The second area where a lot of sketchy discussions occur is the nature of the violence of the Israeli conflicts or the degree of violence of the Israel conflicts. Images are manipulated, often to show that the Israeli Defense Forces can be ruthless, bomb entire villages and shoot Palestinian civilians who throw stones at them. The same people often cast shadows on the car ramming, knife attacks, gun attacks, suicide bombs and other terrorist attacks conducted by armed Palestinian men and women. The truth is that in Israel you can get a lengthy jail sentence if you are a Jew and attack, wound or kill an Arab or a Palestinian. One more time, if you are Jewish and you live in Israel, and that for whatever reason you decide to hurt an Arab or a Palestinian with a knife, a stone or any other weapon, you could end up spending years in jail.

Another area where a lot of sketchy conversation takes place is one according to which Palestinians and Israelis hate each other to the core, or that Arabs and Jews hate each other to the core. Many Palestinians work for Jews, some Jews work for Palestinians, and friendship between Arabs and Jews is very common. Marriage between an Arab and a Jew sometimes happens, and has been happening since the creation of Israel or even before that. Such marriages can be complicated because Israeli family law is based on rabbinical law, meaning that interreligious marriages in Israel can be complicated at the legal level, in terms of inheritance or in case of family disputes. But still children from such unions go to school, have normal jobs, serve in the army and often go on to have normal lives.

The final area where a lot of sketchy thinking goes on is that Jews can’t stand or tolerate Arabs and that Arabs can’t stand or tolerate Jews. There are fanatics on both sides, usually people with other psychological issues. The truth is some Arabs speak Hebrew and some Jews speak Arabic, some Jews hang out mostly with Arabs and some Arabs hang out mostly with Jews. All of them have the main concern, which is to make bread and move forward with life.

Then there are those who say Israelis are not loyal, don’t keep their word and promises, are bossy, secretive and are obsessed with money. That’s how many of my friends of all faiths describe their ex-wives and ex-husbands. Or some of us describe our ex-bosses. How many of my friends describe the Koreans, the Chinese, the French or the Italians or any other country or organization they’ve worked for. Those are things we say when we don’t like someone.     


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