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In recent days, Australia’s capital cities have been overrun by protesters all begging for you to sign they’re petitions, showing you larger than life sized images of Palestinian children and hoping you buy their tee-shirts and badges. While the intent behind their crusade is admirable, they fail to recognise that they are preaching to the converted.
Most of the world, including a majority of Israelis and Palestinians, already support a two state solution. In fact the problem lies not with a lack of support for Palestinian sovereignty, but rather as a result of most people not truly understanding the complexities of the Middle East Crisis.
The first thing to consider is that this is a conflict which has been ongoing since the end of the last world war. The Arab-Israeli war is one which has been largely forgotten by most. In less than a month we’ve seen over one thousand five hundred people lose their lives to this battle, but this is only a small fraction of the overall death toll incurred by these two peoples. Niether side is entirely without fault and both have suffered heavy casualties. Based on recent events it is easy to villanise Israel, but to do so would be synonymus with disregarding decades of mutual destruction.
Israel and Palestine both have claim to the land. To each it represents things of extraordinary importance and cultural significance. To Palestinians it is the land on which they have lived for thousands of years. It is the home of their ancestors and if allowed, many would want to return to the places in which they grew up, now occupied by Israelis. To Israelis the land signifies their fight for freedom from persecution. The land granted to them by the UN, was for a long time the only place in a post-holocaust world where Judaism could be practised without fear of discrimination.
Even if the two parties ever amicably decided on a way of splitting most of the area, negotiations would still come to a grinding halt over Jerusalem, the promised land. Jerusalem is perhaps the only place on earth which has been used to justify decades fighting and death. Palestine’s biggest demand is the one thing they know Israel will never grant them: total control over Jerusalem. Forget the contraversy over the West Bank, the place at the true heart of this never ending war is none other that the chosen city; Jerusalem. According to the Hebrew bible, this land, the land of Cannon, was promised to future Israelis by god, himself. This would be fine had Ishmel, from whom Arabs claim decent, not been promised the same land. In the millenia since, both peoples have built monuments of extreme importance on the land they consider rightfully theirs. Sights such as Temple Mount, over which Muslims and Jews claim ownership, make it near impossible to split the holy land of Jerusalem.
Despite all this, you may still wonder why Israel and Palestine are yet to come to a solution in the decades they have had to mull over it. Rest assured it is not for a lack of trying.
The Israeli government and Palestinian authority have come together many a time. Each conference leads to more compromise on Israel’s part. At the last peace talks, in 2008, Israel offered up part control of the West Bank and Jerusalem, but Hamas refused. To know why, you would first have to understand the reasoning behind Hamas’ actions in the past. When they first came to power in Gaza, Hamas disavowed all previous agreements with Israel, including ones allowing Palestinians safe passage to the West Bank in order to trade goods. Their second move was to begin air strikes against Israel, an effort which continues till today. The conclusion that can be drawn from this? The only thing Hamas wants more than Palestinian prosperity is the utter destruction of Israel and they will stop at nothing to get it.
While on paper a two state solution seems like the perfect answer to the Middle East Crisis, when put in perspective it seems hopelessly idealistic. It is unlikely that a peace will ever be reached between Israel and Palestine, at least not while their leaders are still yet to forgive each other for crimes committed against each other decades ago. And so where does that leave the rest of the world? Helplessly clutching our “Free Palestine” badges praying for some reason to penetrate the consciousnesses of two peoples, blinded by faith and passion, who have centred their very existences, over the past decades, on finding cause to hate each other.
By Shruti J