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Eureka: Explaining the situation in Israel
by Jay Gutman
2017-12-11 11:03:37
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Israel is another widely misunderstood country. Why is it misunderstood? I'll give the reasons below. Again, like in yesterday's article, I'll offer a question and answer format rather than a linear format to better understand what goes on in that part of the world.

Question: why is Israel misunderstood?

isrr01Answer: To be interested in Israel from outside you have to be interested in politics and a lot of people are not interested in politics. Then there are those interested in local politics. Then there are those interested in international relations. Among those interested in international relations, Israel has supporters everywhere, for many different reasons. Some support Israel for religious reasons, others for political reasons because Israel is democratic and multicultural, others because Israel has technology and military innovation.

Now among those who don't support Israel there could be four broad categories, or lens if you prefer. That is they wear a pair of glasses that distorts their view of Israel if you like. There is the Communist, Marxist-Leninist lens which views Israel as an imperialist nation with close ties to the United States and whose goal is to destroy proletarian aspirations, starting with the Palestinians. Then there is the far-right or ultra-nationalist lens, that views Israel as having double standards, one for Israel and one for the rest of the world. That is ultra-nationalists think that Israel doesn't want multiculturalism in its country but forces other countries to adopt it. Then there is the moderate nationalist lens, which does not view favorably the fact that Jews, and to a lesser extent Israelis are represented in most spheres of government, entertainment, business and academia in most developing nations. Then there is the Islamic lens, which tends to view Israelis as lacking modesty, lacking fear of God and views Israel as a “secretive” state with powerful lobbies.

Question: Why all these contrasting views on Israel?

This has a lot to do with cultural factors and with the way people consume the  media. There has been a Jewish presence around the world, so when people are present, people talk about them. No one talks about Bhutan or Cap Verde probably because no one knows people from Bhutan or Cap Verde. So when there's a presence, people talk about it.

Different people have different ways of organizing around the media. You might find out that an actor you like or a politician you like is Jewish and start researching the question that might lead you to Israel. Or you might watch something on the news about Israel. Then your personal worldview will meet that of what you just saw. For example, I don't have a problem with drinking and enjoy the occasional beer. If I see people drinking on television, there's no reaction on my part. But the wife of an alcoholic might have a reaction, and a Muslim raised to believe that all those who drink will go to hell might have yet another reaction to seeing images of people drinking alcohol.

Question: President Trump just recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Why now? Why the timing?

Imagine I've just separated from my wife but the divorce has not yet been officialized. Officially we're still married, but people don't know what to call us. A couple? An ex-couple? His wife? His ex-wife? So people will abstain from calling us anything. Then imagine the wife does not want to divorce because she won't admit that we ever got married. So we will be on two different wave lengths and people won't understand what's really going on.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. But Palestinians call it the “occupied Al-Quds.” A lot of times they don't even want to discuss the borders of Jerusalem, to them all of Israel is Palestine. So as I said, there have been different views, different opinions, different interpretations of the conflict, and there was never a consensus. Who is right? Who is wrong? A lot of people thought the consensus in the region (Israel-Palestine) was that there would be two states and both states would have Jerusalem as their capital. Now that the Americans, and the rest of the world, is realizing that Palestinians don't want half of Jerusalem, they want all of Jerusalem, they don't want the 1967 borders, they want all of Israel to be called Palestine, once that was clear, because it used to be ambiguous, the United States took the lead in designating Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Kind of like my friends finally deciding to call my ex-wife who won't sign the divorce papers by her real name: my ex-wife.

Question: But is calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel going to solve the conflict?

It certainly will lay the foundations to get the Palestinians to change their strategy. In the past, basically every country in the world had a different map of Israel and Palestine and called the different territories and cities by different names. There was no consensus on the capital either. But to the Palestinians advantage, most Arab states call Al-Quds (the Arab name of Jerusalem) the capital of Palestine. So if anything, Palestinians should perhaps call it even.

Question: Why does everyone seem to be so passionate about the conflict? Why does everyone seem to have their theory about the conflict.

Long answers short. Israeli democracy. Israel is a plural democracy, where almost all views are accepted and tolerated. You have the far-left in Israel which argues that you should have one state or two states, but that Israel should not be a Jewish state or a religious state. You have the religious parties who think traditional Jewish laws should be strictly applied in Israel. You have moderates who disagree on everything from the borders of a Palestinian state to how to deal with the Palestinians to the status of religion to everything in between. This is within the borders of Israeli democracy. So a lot of Western democracies can't really make up their minds about the conflict when they get all these conflicting stories from Israelis themselves. If there were one unified theory of how Palestine should be dealt with or the identity of Israel, then probably Western democracies would have an easier time taking sides in the conflict. I'm not even going to get started on the views of the Jewish diaspora or the different political views within Western political parties. Basically everyone has a different take on what Israel should be and how the conflict should be resolved.

Final question: What is the future of Isreal and Palestine?

Instead of bringing different points of view together, the Internet and other communication devices have brought different views on the conflict further apart. So perhaps the priority will continue to be security, then the economy, then perhaps save politics and social views for times when elections are about to be held. Politics in Israel and Palestine are so divisive that hardly anyone talks about them. Activists who visit Palestine are often disappointed that they get cut off for merely mentioning the word Israel. That's how things have always worked, and will continue to work in the foreseeable future.

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