The accusations levelled at Hamas surrounding the death of three Israeli teenagers have erupted into vengeful violence, but is it possible to apportion blame to either side for the situation we see today?

Recent events would appear to show that groups on both sides of this conflict are culpable for the violence that taints the area.  The powerful members of the international community appear to see Israel as the more civilised and reasonable partner.  Many people within these powerful nations appear baffled that their governments support a criminal and oppressive regime.  It all appears to be problematic, does it not?

The greatest difficulty in resolving this ongoing conflict is one of trust.  Israel’s government sees the most powerful group rallying for a Palestinian state, Hamas, as a terrorist organisation.  Unfortunately for the Palestinians, much of the evidence suggests that this is correct.  On the other hand, Hamas does not recognise the state of Israel, which represents a huge barrier to negotiation.  A barrier consolidated by Israel’s military activities, settlements and blockades, which are seen by many to be in violation of international law.

This is of course a long-standing conflict.  Both Israeli and Palestinian forces have committed atrocities since Israel’s formation in 1948 and both have received backing from numerous external powers.  The events of the twentieth century will most likely not be smoothed over or forgotten even by the end of the twenty-first.  This has created the current mindset of stalemate and resignation that casts a dark gloom over the future and over the idea of peace.

The Israel-Palestine issue attracts a huge amount of interest and debate around the world.  Universities throughout the West host pro-Palestine and pro-Israel societies, while the leader of Respect, a British political party, advocates Palestinian independence as one of his main policies.  These are just a few examples of the campaigning that goes alongside the huge amount of commentary on the issue in the Western world.  It gathers much more attention than independence debates such as those surrounding East Timor and hitherto Kurdistan.  The mixture of racial, religious, historical and democratic complexities to the issue is perhaps the explanation for this, but is it possible for us to help the situation?

If you were to look at the reaction in the Western press, the outlook is not a bright one.  The Guardian had declared ‘the bleak truth is that diplomacy is non-existent’[1], while Chris Doyle of the Council for Advancing Arab-British Relations believes it now unclear who is fighting to bring security and peace[2].  Despite the truth in both of these claims, change in the region will always remain possible.

However, the most important thing to bear in mind is that the prospect of change will remain small if sides continue to be picked.  I do not believe it is possible to see one side as morally superior in this conflict and I do not think it is useful to try to do so.

As citizens of foreign nations, we of course feel very distant from the issue and powerless to change it.  This does not, however, change the fact that we can influence the policy of our governments, if only slightly.  If we were to hone the Western interest in the conflict to organize a unified peace campaign, rid of the sentiment or bias towards either side, we could prompt a change in the policy of states.  Similarly, if the foreign policy of our governments followed suit and created a united front for peace, rid of their own sentiments and biases, then real progress would be far more foreseeable.

It may seem foolhardy to believe we can force this sort of change, but the abolition of apartheid should stand as an example of our power.  Citizens hold the power to force progress anywhere, but only if we realise that progress requires unification, not division.



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