Opening any form of social media these days is like walking through a minefield: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – all inundated with videos, pictures and articles expressing bold opinions on the Israel-Palestine hostilities in the West-Bank and Gaza regions (often blindly shared by the unwitting dupes of pedagogy). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people getting involved in current affairs; the problem is just that everyone seems to interpret the solution to the debate, to the problem, as attributing blame to either Israel or Palestine. Staunch Zionism from Facebook ‘friends’ of Jewish descent is met by the fanatical vitriol of Israeli actions, from those ‘friends’ for whom anti-establishmentarianism is the pinnacle of edginess. You can blame Russell Brand for the latter.

I’m not going to attempt to qualify or justify either side of the debate; in such a vicious circle of events the juvenile question of ‘who started it?’ seems wholly irrelevant. This question is the basis of the debate surrounding the conflict, but to focus on it is to ignore the larger issue at hand – the fact that this is not a hypothetical discussion, that a real and existential tragedy is actually occurring.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 120 Palestinians, whilst Hamas continue to propel rockets on the Jewish state. Stalemate. It is wholly understandable to see both sides of the argument. The pro-Palestinian argument is born from the existence of illegal (strictly adhering to definitions by international law) Jewish settlements and the mistreatment of Palestinians in Gaza/West-Bank, whilst the other, extremely valid, argument emphasises the need to protect Israeli citizens from the military wing of Hamas. The reason behind the conflict is simple: differing perceptions.  It is a collective flaw amongst all humans that we are so often unable to appreciate the viewpoint of those in a different position. An unpublished quote of Henry Kissinger’s, written in a letter to his parents has resonated with me deeply ever since I first heard it, and seems extremely relevant in this situation, to both sides of the conflict: “only the most callous of persons chooses what they know to be wrong”.

For many years, the situation fermented along the lines that neither side was willing, nor able, to recognise this truth. The majority of developments in the conflict, prior to 2005, was seen through the subjective lens of either belligerent; unequivocal retaliation was the name of the game. Yet in most of these cases there was a visible discord between extremism and the majority of the population. The continuous nature of these conflicts, of recurrent conflagrations, has bred a propensity toward hatred on either side – hatred that is no longer confined to extremists. Perhaps the biggest signal of such came in 2006, when Gazans democratically elected the ‘militant’ Hamas as their de-facto rulers.

What this election showed was that a significant metamorphosis of thought was occurring in Palestine. A new youthful population, one which had been brought up in a climate of continual war, no longer has a perception of a rogue Israeli state; it has become a predisposition of hatred. This ‘us and them’ mentality appeared in many young Israelis too, since 2000. Tamir Lion, an anthropologist, has noted that many young Israelis, when questioned on why they had joined Israeli combat units had given the disconcerting answer ‘to kill Arabs’. The recent revenge killing of a Palestinian boy may have been an isolated example of Jewish extremism, but the dehumanisation of Palestinians has led to a significant absence of condemnation of such acts. Anshel Pfeffer refers to a ‘moral blindness’ in Israel as the reason why they continue to attack Gaza – seemingly undeterred by the civilian casualties they inflict. It is a moral blindness reciprocated by Palestinians, who continue to support a terrorist organisation that they wrongly see as their only hope of freedom. Why have we reached a point where dialogue and negotiation are nothing more than far-fetched implausibility?

Israel’s inhumane attacks on a civilian population has left the majority of the world critical of its actions, and rightly so. Yet critics on social media seem to overwhelmingly ignore the vow made by Hamas to target every Israeli citizen – the words of the supposed democratically-elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Israel has a right to defend herself and protect her population. The problem that exists is largely because of the shortcomings of supranational governing organisations.

Peacebuilding is about more than a ceasefire, or more than simply ‘freeing’ Palestine. Real liberation can only be achieved when both sides are able to tackle their inherent predispositions of hatred. Peace will only be lasting when the UN and other mediating bodies realise that the task they now face is to change the stern predisposition of either population to hate their neighbour. Education must come first and legislation will follow; extremism may always exist, but it is necessary for the UN to show these troubled regions that it is not a viable solution.

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