The Cycle of Violence
The horror in Palestine is the first thing I notice when I’m listening to the news. I want to cry but more often I laugh or sardonically talk back. The hypocrisy is hard for me to miss. Yet when I step back and reflect, I wonder– why?
Why do I continue to tune in to Democracy Now when I already know what’s happening? Why don’t I do anything I might have done before, like write letters or attend rallies? And why do both sides continue to engage in violence?
These questions nag at me. I’m going to try to answer them here. I need to feel engaged with the world, I need intellectual stimulation, and the radio helps me wake up in the morning. Sometimes I listen to other stations, though, so why am I so drawn to this topic in particular? Certainly it holds personal significance for me, an American Jew with family connections to Israel and family experience in the Nazi holocaust. So it’s hard for me to objectively evaluate my next claim: I think this conflict is symbolic of and perhaps even a touchstone or potential point of leverage for human conflict all over the world.
I think people commonly note the symbolism– it’s the holy land for three major religions, site of conflict for millenia. Also geographically a central location of the old world. People tend to overstate this of course, and the view is a fairly Western one, I’m sure, when Asia and Africa have their own centers and rich histories and enormous populations going back for millenia as well. And of course, Palestine is only a small part of the Middle East. Yet I think there’s something to it, considering that engagement between the West, South and East travelled and continue to travel through this region’s land and waters. The Sinai canal, I’m guessing probably the most important commercial territory in the world per square mile (not sure how to measure that) is right down the road from Gaza. And of course, a significant chunk of the world’s strategic oil reserves make their home here.
I know that this isn’t really an argument. It’s more a gut feeling. Or perhaps a personal bias. I don’t think I’m alone though; My impression is that people tend to express and experience more passion about this issue than any other. And when it comes to gut feelings and passions, those may indeed be the deepest form of understanding we are capable of.
In any case, I’m going to attempt to complete my effort to answer why. I hesitate to even call this situation a conflict, it seems so lopsided to me. I see an extremely powerful state, backed by an even more powerful state, massacring people imprisoned in a refugee camp. Some of the people in the camp try to kill some of the people who live just outside it. The population of Gaza and the population of Israel seem to be fairly close to uniform in their support of the violence of their own side. If anything, the people in Gaza are more opposed to the attacks on Israelis than vice versa.
Yet my gut feeling is that none of the details really matter. My impression is that people in the United States, most of whom have no personal stake in this conflict, tend to see it as an intractable cycle of violence; no right, no wrong, no victim, no perpetrator, no winners, no losers. I think this view, while not exactly accurate, is absolutely a necessary step toward solving the problem. Fundamentally, we don’t need to be right– we need to get along.
So, in the end, I’m giving up on my effort to answer why. That is I think truly hopeless. Maybe not. Either way, more important is finding a solution. This is my contribution. I hope you will believe me when I say that I sincerely do not choose sides. I really want the best for everyone. The truth does matter, of course. And we can’t get along if we don’t get to know each other. So I’ll end with an invitation– I’d like to talk with you, so that we can figure out the truth together.