An Essay on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Navigating the Complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: From Political Passion to Cultural Understanding

When I was younger and more impetuous, I would write about and discuss current affairs a lot, to a point where voicing my perspectives of various political happenings became a big part of my personality. I now believe that forging an identity that is heavily influenced by politics is a delicate and uncertain emotional risk, especially if you maintain it through adulthood. Politically rebellious behavior is signature for developing teens. If you, like me, were advancing through your teens and early twenties amidst 9/11, and the introduction of social media, and progressing personal technologies, and with everything happening all at once and so quickly. Learning to balance our emotional intelligence with those enveloping technologies was altogether impossible. The floodgates were opened for mine and future generations, and I, like some in my generation, gladly welcomed a subtle, declining interest in our political climate. I was able to witness the McDonaldization of politics from the nosebleeds with less emotional gravity.

            It was still clear to me that so many of my generation, now that we were all able to share our insights and opinions with everyone across the globe instantaneously, had become so familiar with having a voice that we started to demand it. It was fascinating, because I had a waning, vested interest in what was still a kind of “current affairs,” and not the atrocious political sitcom we entertain today. I was able to unplug while remaining a conscientious observer. I started becoming more aware of the unconscious behavioral patterns that were more involved in our actions than our conscious intentions. My backseat perspective also granted me an objective vantage of our biases, and more importantly my own biases—recognizing my bias allowed me to consciously work on those biases. A bias, by definition, influences our perspectives, which of course isn’t news to anyone (intellectually); however, instead of learning to place, explore, and balance our biases—so our bias doesn't control and manipulate us—we tend to defend our unconscious bias. We would rather defend our unconscious, reactive programming than apply critical thought, and purposefully develop healthy responses to the difficult and unexpected things that happen to us and in the world. For me the behavior was intriguing and bizarre. I would eventually trade my political frustrations for the frustrations of seeing the underlying, repetitive, and unconscious human behaviors that preceded our biased opinions. That, for most people, would follow them throughout their lives, exploiting the need for self-reflection, and negatively impacting their general worldview. I finally started to accept that because I care as much as I do about my website, and my collections of writings and stories, that in order to be relevant in the world today, I was going to have to start writing about “current affairs.” I’m going to have to find a way to be involved without letting it consume me, like it has so, so many people. This website is really important to me, and my writing in particular. It’s more than a collection of writings, and it’s more than my livelihood, this is my passion, and when pieced together it’s a collage of who I am.         

          With that said, international conflicts can be incredibly complicated issues, especially for those not directly involved. From the perspective of any one country viewing their relationship with the rest of the global community, it’s almost impossible to relate to cultures that are different from our own without being influenced by the seasoning of our own comfortable, and familiar confines. One single example of this, is that there are cultures that are heavily influenced by progress while others are more heavily influenced by tradition, and without being aware of this, and adjusting our perspective, and understanding accordingly, we can become dangerously susceptible to believing that one culture is more worthy than the other, especially if one of the cultures involved is your own (or one similar). This behavior is a human condition, although Americans are really good at it, way better than everyone else. Western civilization is much more secular, and we might therefore believe that our way of thinking is more flexible (that’s not always true), but as Americans we do have more of a measure to choose our own individual problems—and perspectives of problems that are not our own—inasmuch as we are also able to choose how we want to relate to those problems. A great example of this, is the way that much of the western world reacted to the Dalai Lama’s interaction with the boy early last year (2023). Passing judgement or developing unrealistic expectations without understanding a culture’s traditions, and in this case something as basic as language, and their relationship to those traditions can have devastating consequences.

            The HAMAS-Netanyahu conflict is so much more complicated than most ongoing global issues (I am not intending to trivialize the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, it’s just not what this article is about), and many of us cannot remember a world without conflict between Israel and Palestine. And no one has ever known a world without conflict between Islam and Judea-Christian religions. Nevertheless, we manage to behave in exactly the way that we always do, projecting our (American) worldview and cultural biases into that conflict. I have been lucky enough to live in a number of states throughout the country, and that opportunity has allowed me to recognize that cultural identity is a lot more diverse, although perhaps in ways more subtle, in different regions throughout even the United States than many people might presume. I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for many years, there is a heavy Muslim presence in northern New Mexico, and there are a lot of people (both Muslim and not) whose perspectives are influenced because of that presence (in exactly the same way as those living in areas with a greater Jewish population). The perspectives of these peoples are neither good nor bad, they are simply influenced by a completely natural, albeit unconscious bias. My ex-girlfriend is Muslim, the father of one of her children is Palestinian, and she spent time in Palestine, so she has a unique perspective of the conflict, although it too is influenced. Because of her I have a unique vantage of the conflict, which is also influenced. And yet, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seems so simple for everyone.

There are a lot of really delicate imbalances throughout the world today, well beyond the scope of Israel and Palestine or Russia and Ukraine, and the United States cannot just avenge. We have a huge population of people in the United States who believe that it is their responsibility to avenge or to right the world's wrongs, however, many of these people’s scope of what is right or wrong is biased and unripe. There is a lesson that we have yet to learn even throughout the course of human history, a lesson that has been eagerly awaiting our awareness, and continues to elude us conflict after conflict, whether globally or domestically, and to the most personal level. We cannot work toward peace; we can only succumb to it. The only way to change a thing is to be open to accepting an idea. And the only way to change the ideas of a person is to introduce them to ideas with the hope that they might accept those ideas to expand on their own thinking. If someone does not willingly accept an idea that has been presented to them, that’s on them—it’s not your responsibility to (and you know what, scratch that), you are grossly, and adversely overreaching when you continue to manipulate the beliefs of others. We can make a case, and trust that our case has been heard, and that is where our involvement ends; aggression begets only further aggression. Your focus, as difficult as it might be, must always be on your own personal and emotional growth. Those of you who perceive this action to be apathetic fail to recognize that as true as this is of your behavior it’s equally true of the behaviors of the Israelis and Palestinians, and when you say that it’s not enough you’re failing to recognize that something has to happen, and when faced with the dichotomy of these two opposing actions (external intervention vs personal intervention), the conflict is more likely to come to a long-term favorable outcome for everyone if people take responsibility for themselves, than it is for us, or anyone else, to take responsibility for them. And if you disagree, I challenge you to find the difference between your purview and the purview of those actively involved in the conflict.

            HAMAS & Palestine in regard to the conflict.

HAMAS is a terrorist organization. HAMAS is attacking Israel. Since 2007, HAMAS has been the governing institution of the Gaza Strip (after seizing power from the Palestinian Authority), one of two territories that make up the sovereign state of Palestine. It is the unquestionable aim of HAMAS to establish, within the country of Israel, an Islamic state. There are more than 2 million people who reside in Gaza. There are five million people living within the state of Palestine, and more than 99% of which are Muslim. Less than 30% of the population of Palestine supports HAMAS, and of the supporting percentage of the population most do not, necessarily, support the groups view on Israel or the means in which the group has gone about it, but rather a support for HAMAS as a governing institution of Gaza. The remining 70% of the population does not support HAMAS to any degree. The state of Palestine is recognized by 140 countries, and the recognition of Palestine and any support for HAMAS are not one and the same. HAMAS is a terrorist organization; the state of Palestine is not. HAMAS is a living danger to anyone who does not share their beliefs, including billions of Muslims throughout the world.

            Israel in regard to the conflict.

The British Empire relinquished control over Palestine in 1948, which paved the way for the 1948 Palestine War, the first of the modern day Palestinian-Israeli conflicts. In May 1948, the head of the Jewish Agency proclaimed, what was then known as Palestine, the state of Israel. Arab refugees established Gaza City and the West Bank. Immediately, Israel began a military occupation of the Palestinian territories. In the mid-90’s the Oslo Accords—mind you, nearly 50 years later—established a Palestinian Authority which created the U.N. recognized sovereign state of Palestine that was made up of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with a population of nearly 5 million Muslims. Meanwhile, Israel would maintain a military presence in Palestine for another 10 years, following the Oslo Accords, until 2005. After Israel “ended” their military presence in Palestine, they established a blockade that severely limited what would be imported and exported from the state (including water, electricity, and medicine). Many have referred to the blockade as an “open-air prison,” and a continued “ghost” “military presence.” In response to HAMAS aggression, Israel blindly attacks a very heavily condensed population of people, most of which do not support HAMAS, and who are already the victims of an Israeli-Palestinian Cold War.

          Israel and Palestine are both responsible for and the victims of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict; survivors are Muslim and Jewish alike. Both the Israeli government and HAMAS mount massive propaganda campaigns the purpose of which is to influence their respective citizens and the rest of the world. HAMAS is blind to the humaneness of belief structures outside of their own. Israel is attacking Palestine disproportionate to HAMAS attacks, actively working to drive Muslims out of Palestine. These are two organizations that are reinforcing their own stories in order to manipulate as many people as possible and to justify abusing the resources they have at their disposal to impress their narrative. And thousands, hundreds of thousands on both sides live as innocent bystanders and lightning rods. Things are devastating over there right now, and whatever humanitarian aid we can provide is urgent, inasmuch as whatever vicious demands we make are detrimental.

We cannot continue going on knowing (intellectually) that change, real, healthy change, starts internally and individually while simultaneously demanding force and telling ourselves that we’ll start to promote fundamental stability wherever the next conflict arises. Choosing a side is an unconscious reactionary response to conflict, and support for either state is inappropriate. Our quilted idealism too often creates more issues than it resolves. It’s like sitting in a circle on the rug in second grade, your teacher has asked you to close your eyes and imagine a familiar world, with distinct but open borders, and acceptance for cultures and beliefs that are not your own, and to imagine your role in this neutral world, as globally or domestically influential as it may be in our own imaginations, and instead of each of us building this world, we're wide-eyed and finger-waving at anyone else who’s eyes might not be closed. Intention can be clouded by perception and misinformation. We have to get better at looking through as many different lenses as possible and allow ourselves to recognize that too often the way we see things is less about what we’re seeing and more about how we're looking at a thing.

          Instead of passive self-reflection, people today practice a kind of aggressive caring, which more often inflates and turns to bitterness, anger, and resentment. We make these baseless assumptions about what action and inaction look like, and how they translate not just to our own personal involvement in situations like the HAMAS-Netanyahu conflict, but how others might perceive our involvement. People don't like a bully, and Israel is behaving oppressively, and on the other hand, people also don't like an instigator. HAMAS now knows that pushing the right buttons is going to trigger the bully, and when HAMAS applies the right pressure, and the bully gets triggered, the rest of the world is going to flock in support of the underdog. And being on the world stage is only going to provoke both the bully and the instigator, and much of the rest of the world, as good as our intentions might be, are only fanning the flame. We are, eventually, going to have to learn that focusing inward on ourselves is the only direct path through conflict; and harder still, perhaps, we are also going to have to learn that if we are not personally involved then actively involving ourselves, outside of critical thought, is dangerously enabling. And, there you have it, world peace (in our lifetimes...).

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