I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that only a fool would choose this most intractable and polarising of conflicts for their first blog entry. But bear with me here. I’m not going to launch into lots of analysis on the viability of a two state solution. I wouldn’t know where to start. And that’s the point.
Given that this conflict is at the centre, or at least near the inner edge of most foreign policy decisions across the world, the general level of understanding about what the hell is going on over there is pretty poor. It’s not something we like to talk about. It’s like Fightclub. The first rule of Fightclub is…you do not talk about Fightclub. And why don’t you talk about Fightclub? Because, if you do, you get in trouble. It’ll be bad. Presumably even worse than actually going to Fightclub.
You don’t talk about Israel-Palestine. If you build up the courage to make a point or express a view that might be perceived as pro-Palestinian, you’re an anti-semitic lefty with no sympathy for the Holocaust. Stick up for the Israelis, and you’re both racist and inhumane, with no empathy for an oppressed people. No one wants to be on either side of that coin. Best keep your mouth shut, your head down and just watch as the violence gets even more bloody.
There is a culture of fear about talking about what’s happening in that small quarter of the Middle East that has made its discussion virtually taboo. And as a result, unlike Afghanistan or even Iraq, this taboo has meant that all too often the whole issue falls right off the popular consciousness. Where are all the films about Israel and Palastine? Not the cool hip indie films or edgy cartoons; I mean the big films, the blockbusters, the Blood Diamond or Slumdog Millionaire of the Middle East? Or if not films, maybe books? Not high-brow academic histories or intellectual policy hardbacks; I’m talking the Kite Runner of Ramallah; the Book Seller of Jerusalem? You can hear the producers and publishers squirming in their seats as they say, quietly, ‘don’t go there.’
I’ve had enough of this complicit silence. Bad things are happening over there, things which are hurting people. Myth and misinformation spread like wildfire, ramping up the anger and the hatred while moving the region futher away from any kind of peaceful, just and secure solution.
Clearly we can’t solve the conflict overnight. But what we can do is learn more about it; the facts, beliefs and people involved; so we can actually discuss it in an informed manner. I’m the first to admit that my current level of knowledge is pretty close to zero. Which in itself is crazy – I studied International Relations for God’s sake! Where was this on the syllabus?! So, it looks like I’ll have to start from scratch. I’m doing a course and everything. So, this is my quest. I’ll keep you posted on what I find…