Mashaal and Haniyeh at Gaza rally 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is an old one, and its apparent
insolvability seems odd to most people, and especially to
This is because the way the Western world approaches this
conflict is based on two beliefs. The first is that human differences can be
solved via reason and dialogue, and the second, related belief is that most
human beings can overcome irrationality.
However, to better understand
the intractable nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict one needs to keep in
mind that at least with regard to the Middle East, this Western assumption of
rationality is subject to certain limitations. Rationality means to mainly focus
on the near future and consider how the greatest prosperity and good for all can
be attained. But can we say that this describes leaders in the Middle East?
Unfortunately, I have to say no.
Hamas’ rise to power was fueled by
Palestinian insistence on the need to “repair” the past, to undo the
consequences of the 1948 war between the Arabs and the new-born Israel. After
World War II, the United Nation recognized the right of the Jews to a country of
their own, and David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, announced its
Since the Arab defeat in 1948, they have been forced to
accept the fact that the Jews have their own country in the Middle
Many years have passed since 1948, but it still seems the most
crucial date in the eyes of many Palestinian leaders and especially Hamas. While
rationalism means acknowledging the consequences of past events and using them
to your own advantage, the leaders of Hamas are still mainly focusing on the
events of 1948.
Furthermore, in the speeches of the Arab leaders,
including the new Egypt prime minister, the word “Israel” is never
For the Arab leaders the near future is
What’s important is to change the past, the outcome of the
war of 1948 – or in the exact words of the Iranian leaders, to “wipe Israel off
Since the Israel Defense Forces left Gaza in 2004, the
Palestinians had another opportunity to build their nation. Gaza was left
without any settlements and without any Israeli soldiers.
Arab and Western leaders came to Gaza and contributed money for the future of
new country. Hopes were high and it was in the hands of the Palestinians leaders
to decide what their future country would look like.
Eight years on,
however, most Gazans live without hope for a better future. If you remember only
the 1948 war and live to “repair” its consequences, then of course it will be
tempting to blame Israel.
However, If your focus is on how to build a
better future for both nations, how to bring hope to miserable children in Gaza
or to Israelis forced to live in shelters, you must let go of the
Rationalism means acknowledging reality and assessing with reason
what you can and cannot achieve.
Acknowledging reality does not mean
forgetting the past, it only signifies that in our private relation with the
past we are not free to do as we will.