A country divided, is a country with violence. It is not normal - opinion

Israel and Palestinians have been going back and forth with the fighting. When will it be enough?

 PALESTINIANS CLASH with Israeli security forces in the Shuafat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem, Monday.  (photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
PALESTINIANS CLASH with Israeli security forces in the Shuafat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem, Monday.
(photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

I am really angry and very sad. It is not normal for an 18-year-old girl to be shot and killed for serving her country. Noa Lazar was just a child 18 years ago, 11 years younger than my youngest son. Ido Baruch, 21 years old, was also killed at another Israeli checkpoint.

Noa and Ido are not alone. This past week the following people were also killed: Fayiz Dumdum, age 18, Khaled Dabes, age 21, Salame Shaaria, age 19, Alaa Zaghal, age 21, Adel Daoud, age 14, Mahdi Ladadwaa, age 17, Mohammed Sawasi, age unknown, Mahmoud Smouti, age 12, and Rayan Sulieman, age 7. Israelis and Palestinians reading this will be angry at me and ask “how can you compare the killing of a child defending us while the others are killing us?”

I ask: Haven’t we been sending out children to die for long enough? This is not martyrdom for the sake of God, for the sake of the nation, or for the sake of our people, it is insanity! There are roughly equal numbers of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs living in this holy land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Neither person is leaving here. Both peoples have legitimate claims here (even if not recognized by the other side). Both peoples have rights to live here in peace, security and prosperity. Seventy-four years after the founding of Israel and 74 years after the Nakba, it is time to come to terms with our mutual rights to live on this land, our mutual rights for self-determination and our mutual rights for mutual rights.

Our lives have adjusted to this kind of reality

Our lives are shaped by the consciousness of our reality. The shapers of that consciousness – politicians and the media – craft terminology that enables us to live in the complex world that they interpret for us. An example of this in Israel is that every Arab who fights against Israel is called a terrorist. Every Israeli soldier killed in battle or at a checkpoint is murdered. In reality, the young woman soldier shot and killed at an Israeli checkpoint in part of the illegally annexed part of Israel’s capital city was killed by a Palestinian combatant. That term combatant instead of terrorist paints a very different picture of the same reality.

Palestinian rioters in clashes near Ramallah (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman) (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)Palestinian rioters in clashes near Ramallah (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman) (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

There are many examples of how the changing of words alters public consciousness to the extent that people looking at the same reality seem to be examining at least two very different realities. Lazar and Baruch were part of an Israeli military machine that has kept the occupation in place for over five decades. In reality, the Israeli Defense Forces are much more of a force sustaining the occupation than defending Israel.

Another example of how our consciousness is manipulated can be found in the creation of the myth of “no partner for peace.” In reality, in every acute violent conflict, there is no partner for peace until there is. We don’t usually choose our enemies, they are simply there because they oppose whatever it is that we stand for. This is true on both sides of any conflict and it is true here as well. A partnership is created, built, and developed by peoples and leaders who come to the realization that the continuation of the conflict is futile and its continuation will not bring more victories, only more death and destruction.

Negotiations over real acute violent conflicts are hard, no doubt. Sometimes the parties need a break to reconsider options and possibilities but no conflict of the type that we are engaged in ends without negotiations. The people who shape our consciousness on both sides have decided that there are no partners for peace on the other side and that there is no good reason to resume negotiations. So they don’t and the conflict will not go away.

Public consciousness shapers and manipulators have convinced large numbers of Israelis that there is no occupation, there are no Palestinian people and that it is possible to manage this conflict. On the Palestinian side, they have shaped and manipulated the consciousness that Israel is a weak, false state with no right to exist. They have shaped a reality that tells them that there are no Jewish people and that the creation of Israel was a western Jewish-led conspiracy against the Arabs and Muslims.

It is beyond imagination how deep and wide these interpretations of reality have taken hold in Israeli and Palestinian societies. They exist and are perpetuated in order to continue to hold onto power and to attempt to control and shape reality in ways that these so-called leaders and public opinion shapers remain the point of reference in how we view our situation. “Our situation” is another term created to sustain what the consciousness shapers use to convince us that we are passive victims in our communal lives.

Let’s face it, it is not normal for there to be armed checked points all around the nation’s capital. It is not normal for there to be a refugee camp with some 100,000 residents existing for 55 years in our capital city. It is not normal that four young Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in one day in the West Bank. It is not normal that life expectancy is eight years less in the West Bank than in Israel – just a few kilometers away from some of the best hospitals in the Middle East.

It is not normal that on one side of the Green Line the average per capita income is $43,600 (NIS155,380) while on the other side it is $3,665 (NIS13,060). It is not normal that for 55 years, millions of people are living under a military occupation while millions of others enforce and serve that military occupation. It is not normal that millions of people living under occupation acquiesce to their plight. It is also not normal that millions of people accept the outright lie that it is possible to manage this conflict or to even shrink it. Is it normal for the leaders of Israel and Palestine to offer no political horizon that embodies hope for a better future?

 Palestinian youth clash with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 10, 2021 (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90) Palestinian youth clash with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 10, 2021 (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)

We all need to demand from our leaders that they give us hope and offer a plan – not for continuing the status quo but for changing the reality of conflict. It is not easy and there are definite risks but the sooner we get back to the table and put all of our needs and interests on the table, the sooner we will begin to come up with new solutions. The risks to both sides of continuing the conflict and continuing the burying of our children are so much greater.

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to Israel, and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.