The Israel-Palestine Impasse

“What do we do about the Palestine problem?”

Whether accurate or not, there’s a quote attributed to Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem. When asked about the situation regarding Palestine he responded with something along the lines of:

Problem? We don’t have a Palestinian problem. Problems have solutions. What we have is a condition. Conditions are managed.

I’ve held back from touching this issue because it’s so wildly polarized. The middle ground is wide and vacant. Emotions are extreme on both sides, and so is the coverage surrounding it.

Ultimately, this is why I felt compelled to comment on what’s happening in Israel-Palestine. Simply put, there aren’t enough voices showing support and criticism of both sides equally.

I can’t stress enough that I am not an expert on this situation. However, as a traveller and travel writer, I spend considerably more time than most studying the geopolitical nuances of certain regions. And the region in question has been a fascination of mine for a very long time.

For the past several years I’ve been planning a trip to the region. One where I can spend some time exploring Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I want to talk to people, to try and understand the situation better, and to get a personal perspective — from both sides.

That won’t be happening any time soon.

But this issue still needs discourse. And unfortunately, as with any polarizing issue — and this is about as polarizing as it gets — finding unbiased information is tricky.

Emotions skew every detail of what is happening on the ground. One-sided stories flood the news and litter social media with biassed information. What’s worse is the toxic labels and resentment that fall on those supporting one side or the other, regardless of their intent.

People are quick to point out that this is merely a religious issue: that Muslims and Jews have been fighting and will continue to fight until the end of time.

This argument is simplistic and inaccurate. True, these two ancient faiths have their differences — as much as their shared origins — but this issue goes much deeper than that. And I’m no scholar, so I won’t bother trying to intertwine the nuances here.

They aren’t needed.

After being displaced from their homes and villages during the formation of present-day Israel, millions of Palestinians now live in two concentrated areas known as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Gaza is particularly awful in the sense that, since 2007, it has been entirely cut off. Supplies — including necessities like food, water and fuel — are controlled by the Israeli and Egyptian governments.

Many consider Gaza to be an open-air prison. Others make a more sinister comparison to a concentration camp. But the reality is a purgatory of sorts, a place without full recognition or representation. A place where many of those born will remain, with little hope of ever getting out. Where even peaceful resistance can end in a massacre.

Punished at birth, imprisoned for life. The majority of those who live there want little more than a life of peace and freedom.

Their frustration and anger should come as no surprise.

Of course, looking back a century, you’ll find the Jewish people in a similar spot. Though walls, armed guards, and razor wire would come later for them, they lived lives without an official homeland. For hundreds of years, they lived in scattered pockets throughout the world.

At best, though outcasts from regular society, they lived in relative peace. At worst, they faced constant persecution and even death.

Decades before the rise of Nazi Germany, Jewish populations across the globe were massacred on countless occasions. Tens of thousands were murdered in mass collective lynchings across Europe and as far away as Russia and Argentina.

To suggest that the Jewish people should have a place of their own is not controversial. Nor is the idea that it be their historic homeland.

The tragedy is that even in their own land, they live with an ever-looming threat.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. This is not up for debate. They’re open and clear about their objectives towards the state of Israel — and it isn’t pretty.

They intentionally fire artillery from hospitals and schools. They want these targets hit in retaliatory attacks because it fuels the fire of anti-Israel sentiment. To Hamas, using innocent civilians as human shields is justifiable as martyrdom.

The attacks of October 7 are unfathomable. With many referring to the event as Israel’s 9/11. If only it had such an impact.

Considering the ratio of population to those killed, the Hamas attack on Israel was 13 times as deadly as September 11.

They slaughtered elderly people and children. They raped and murdered women. For no other reason than to bring chaos on innocent civilians.

Hamas is a cancer. Without question. To Israel, to Palestine, and the rest of the world.

But they are not representative of the Palestinian people, or their fight for freedom.

In the same way that Hamas is not Palestine, the Zionist element of the Israeli government is not representative of the nation. But their hands are no less bloodied.

In 1946 the Zionists bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing nearly 100 people, many of them British government officials. The Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon, while perpetrated by local militias, was supported and assisted by the IDF. Upwards of 3500 civilians were slaughtered.

More recently, the world saw the killing of roughly 200 peaceful protesters at the Israel-Gaza border in 2018. And over the last few weeks, the seemingly indiscriminate bombing of Gaza City has killed thousands of innocent civilians and displaced countless more.

And while these deaths are tragic, they aren’t, as many critics put it, murder. Israel is, presumably, targeting Hamas militants — and those civilians killed are considered, as so many often are, collateral damage.

Still, these situations, and the people behind them, are not actions of the people of Israel. They don’t represent the vast majority of those who live there.

As I write this, a ceasefire has been called and many of the Hamas-held hostages have been released.

To many, this feels like the beginning of an end.

I wish I was as hopeful. This mutual hatred has been growing for decades. It’s become generational. Reversing course, while not impossible, will be a hard road. As the ego-centric elements on either side continue to accelerate tensions rather than yield for peace, this apparent calm will be little more than the eye of a brutal storm.

The Hamas terrorist attacks of 10/7 are beyond horrific. And the heavy-handed retaliation of the Israeli government is only mildly better — their killing of civilians is a by-product of their actions rather than the action itself.

Unfortunately, this situation is so ingrained in both societies that, for many, the lines of right and wrong are blurred beyond the realm of clarity.

The Jewish people have spent over 2000 years wandering without a homeland, persecuted wherever they tried to settle. Now, in the land they call their own, they continue to live under fear of attack from within.

Palestinians are still reeling from the chaos that fell upon them. A situation that came as one of the most violent and upheaving colonizations in modern history.

Regardless of which side of this issue you take, the displaced have become the displacers. The oppressed the oppressors.

Criticism of Hamas is not an attack on Palestine. Standing with the Israeli people is not the same as standing with their government.

Support for Palestinian independence is not support for Hamas. And criticism of the Israeli Government is not anti-semitic.

Both sides of this conflict are entirely justified in taking action.

Their actions taken, however, are unconscionable.

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