An Essay on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by James Bonner

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Practical Guide From Conflict Through Acceptance

When I was younger and more impulsive, I would write about and discuss current affairs a lot; to the point where voicing my perspectives on various political happenings became a big part of my personality. Forging an identity heavily influenced by politics is a delicate and uncertain emotional risk, especially if you maintain it through adulthood. Politically rebellious behavior is the signature of developing teens. If you [like me] advanced through your teens and early twenties amidst 9/11, the introduction of social media, progressing personal technologies, and happening all at once and so quickly. Learning to balance our emotional intelligence with those enveloping technologies was altogether impossible. The floodgates opened to future generations and like many Millennials, I gladly welcomed a subtle, declining interest in our political climate. I witnessed 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 our insights and opinions were available to everyone 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;” not the atrocious political sitcom we entertain today. I was able to unplug while remaining a conscientious observer. I was becoming more aware of the unconscious behavioral patterns 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 biases allowed me to work on those biases. A bias, by definition, influences our perspectives, which 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 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. For most people, this would follow them throughout their lives, exploiting the need for self-reflection, and negatively impacting their general worldview. I was willing to accept that because I care as much as I do about my website, and my collections of writings and stories, to be relevant in the world today, I was going to have to start writing about “current affairs.” I’ll have to be involved without letting it consume me like it has so many people. This website is 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.         

International conflicts can be incredibly complicated, 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 different from our own without being influenced by the seasoning of our comfortable, familiar confines. One example is that some cultures are heavily influenced by progress while others are more heavily influenced by tradition. Being aware of this, 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 excel, much better than everyone else. Western civilization is much more secular, and we might believe our thinking is more flexible (that’s not always true). As Americans, we have more of a measure to choose our problems, and perspectives of problems that are not necessarily ours. Since we can decide how we want to relate to those problems. One great example is how the Western world reacted to the Dalai Lama’s interaction with the boy early last year (2023). Passing judgment 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 more complicated than most ongoing global issues (I do not intend to trivialize the continuing Russian-Ukrainian war, it’s just not what this article is about). 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 behave exactly the way we always do, projecting our (American) worldview and cultural biases into that conflict. I have been lucky enough to live in several states throughout the country. This opportunity has allowed me to recognize that cultural identity is 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 the same way as those living in areas with a greater Jewish population). The perspectives of these people are neither good nor bad, they are influenced by a completely natural, albeit unconscious bias. My ex-girlfriend is Muslim. The father of one of her children is Palestinian. She spent time in Palestine. She has a unique perspective of the conflict, although it too is influenced. Because of her, I have a unique vantage of 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. The United States cannot position itself in these conflicts or intrigue the narrative to avenge. We have a huge population of people in the United States who believe 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 human history, eagerly awaiting our awareness and continuing 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. Introducing new ideas in mitigating ways is the only way to change a person’s mind or open to broader 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. That is where our involvement ends. Aggression begets only further aggression. Our focus must always be on your own personal and emotional growth.

            HAMAS & Palestine concerning 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. Five million people are living within the state of Palestine, and more than 99% of them are Muslim. Less than 30% of the population of Palestine supports HAMAS. Of the supporting percentage of the population, most do not support the group's view on Israel or how the group has gone about the conflict. But rather support HAMAS as a governing institution of Gaza. The remaining 70% of the population does not support HAMAS to any degree. Palestine is recognized as a state by 140 countries; the recognition of Palestine and any support for HAMAS are not 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 concerning 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 the state then known as Palestine, to be the new 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-90s the Oslo Accords, nearly 50 years later, established a Palestinian Authority that created the U.N.-recognized sovereign state of Palestine, 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, it 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.

You have to broaden your way of thinking to recognize that 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 two organizations are reinforcing their own stories 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, since whatever vicious demands we make are detrimental.

Real change starts within, we’re all aware of this, and yet, in situations such as this conflict, we ignore that, promising to promote real change after the violence, after the accords, after something concrete happens. Choosing a side is an unconscious reactionary response to conflict, and support for either state involved in this conflict is inappropriate. We should be supporting victims, Jewish and Muslim alike. 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 of 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 imaginations, and instead of each of us building this world, we're wide-eyed and finger-waving at anyone else whose 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 involvement in situations like the HAMAS-Netanyahu conflict, but how others might perceive our complicity. People don't like bullies, and Israel is behaving oppressively, on the other hand, people also don't like instigators. HAMAS knows how to manipulate Israel (they know now too, how to influence many Americans). By applying pressure in the right place, they’ll trigger Israel and Israel is going to respond, and the world is going to perceive it as the more powerful nation picking on this small, defenseless nation. The court of public opinion will express outrage, the cycle will continue, and we’ll continue to fan 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 understand 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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