One Cannot Start Speaking About the Middle East…  by Tom Dolev, Israel

One cannot start speaking about the Middle East, and even more so about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without dissatisfying various groups with various opinions and various claims on the truth, on justice and on suffering, often contradicting.

This is all the more true if this specific one is a Jew from Israel, who might even seem a self-hating Jew. And I am not self-hating at all! As I once replied when accused, I am actually relatively fond of myself; it is more a perception of some of my compatriots, who are persuaded I am not so keen about it.

Everything is political. When you come to reflect or write about the conflict, every word and every phrase you choose, every objective as you may hope it to be, has inherently a political value. No word can ever describe the complexity of reality and encompass it, precise as it may be; no phrase can come without endless presuppositions. Every sentence will inescapably be a site of struggle between different groups who view the necessary emphasis of reality differently. imageThis is all to explain why I’ve had so many difficulties writing this wretched blog: I want to write of reality as it is, as if such a thing could exist, and as if people from every position on the political map could deal with it – with the actual impact of the conflict on real peoples’ lives, and not with the dogmas surrounding them. I don’t want them to deny the necessity of change and reconciliation, while they continue each to stick to his or her pre-constructed ideology, and the hardships that come with an unacceptable status quo, fed by their fixation and lack of changeability.

Call it occupation or conflict, terror or revolt of the oppressed, apartheid or necessary security measures – and I have my own preferences and learned reasons for them (the only difference being that I’m right and you’re wrong 🙂 – the truth is that the impact the conflict has day-in and day-out on “regular people”’s lives is unbearable.

As my favourite Israeli band ‘Habiluyim’ says in its new album:

After all, nationality is merely an invention

which allows the rich to screw the rest

while the rest stands at a market stall

and thinks the enemy is out there

when out there is another man at a market stall. 

The conflict is Moad getting arrested without trial and spending two years in prison, only to be released without explanation; it is Boaz losing his girlfriend in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv; it is Ahmed and his family’s economic hardship, as it cannot work in its land in Bil’in, because it is now a settlement; it is Yoav who, instead of studying like in any normal country, spends three years in mandatory military service, in an army which in turn, among other tasks, makes Palestinian lives unbearable. I’m sure if you knew all these people, you would want a better life for them.

It’s true that “regular people” are, whether they like it or not, part of their countries and their institutions, and therefore part of the systems which uphold injustice and violence; but if we don’t start being able to see ourselves outside of these structures, and if we don’t open a window for the other to stand outside with us, we will never be able to create something different and end the deadlock we inherited. I know it’s hard to put so many years of justified baggage and unjustified sufferings aside. I don’t expect it fully from anyone – I am even aware it’s impossible. But I think we must at least have the intention and make the effort. Middle East countries have in the past few years known revolutions that toppled oppressive regimes. It’s high time for a middle east peace revolution – God knows what the alternative is.

Tom Dolev, Israel

YaLa Young Leaders

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