The Israel-Palestine conflict is almost as old as the end of World War Two. And there doesn’t seem to be an end to the conflict. With the war in Syria on the border it certainly doesn’t become easier to solve. I won’t be able to definitively explain the reasons on why this conflict is still looming or how it came to be. Instead I will focus on how to move on from here and what has to be changed or acknowledged and from whom to achieve progress.
The first aspect is the demystification of Israel. In order to solve this conflict it is necessary to view Israel as a regular state with regular state interests and different parties with different interests. If you view it as God’s country or the country of the Jews than you won’t be able to solve the conflict, because then you can’t properly criticize Israel. I will now explain what I mean with that. It’s called double standard.
Take any disliked dictatorship. For this example we use South Africa during the Apartheid, because it fits quite well. If this dictatorship now occupies land which belongs to another country and starts colonizing it (settling people in the land), you would be quick to criticize it for this behaviour. Especially if the people in the occupied area are treated worse than the citizens of the occupying country. Now take the same behaviour but this time it’s not a dictatorship but a liberal democracy doing it. Would you criticize them in the same way? You might say Yes but you won’t. The reason is that you value a liberal democracy with a ground positive value while the dictatorship has a ground negative value before considering anything else. Therefore - in plain English - a democracy has to behave more illegaly and/or has to be fucked up more, before you will criticize it in the same way. That’s because you fear damaging the concept of a liberal democracy itself by criticizing a liberal democratic country for this behaviour. You probably know where this is going but imagine the democracy is Israel. All of a sudden it becomes even more difficult for you to criticize it in the same way you would criticize a dictatorship. That’s because Israel is not only a liberal democracy but also the Jewish state. Therefore you fear that by criticizing Israel you criticize the concept of a Jewish state and are therefore antisemitic.
Of course this is not scientific and you can have another opinion than I do on this matter but I think it is somewhat logical. The consequence is that many people in especially Germany struggle with criticizing Israel for such observable behaviour. In Germany another layer is added and that is the historic responsibility towards Israel which adds another hurdle for criticizing Israel.
This imbalance regarding the criticism of certain behaviour by states can be especially observed by conservatives in Europe and the US. For them it is incomprehensible how you could criticize for example the US and any criticism is assumed to be a criticism of democracy. Similar patterns relate to free trade agreements between the US and EU. Criticism of those is assumed to be a criticism of free trade as a whole instead of the specifics in the agreement.
Weirdly this balance is completely inverted when it comes to the left political spectrum. There it is predominantly Israel and the US taking the criticism while more authoritarian countries like Russia and Iran are almost not criticized. Doesn’t that disprove my theory? No, it’s just the other side.
Democracies and additional features like being a Jewish state or the sole democracy in the Near East still have a positive ground value. But instead of allowing more missteps and illegal behaviour, less is allowed, because these features are viewed as role model features. This means a democracy is held to a higher standard than a dictatorship - based upon expectation. You expect militant and somewhat illegal behaviour from dictatorships. This makes their actions not right but it is less scandalous than a democracy doing these actions. The virtues of Israel and the US are therefore their downfall. By being model states for democracy, they are under increased scrutiny, because the chances of correcting such illegal behaviour are higher in a democracy than in a dictatorship. Therefore it seems to be more efficient to criticize a democracy compared to a dictatorship.
These two main reasons for double standards should make it easier to understand why there are so many problems even talking about the conflict. When people belonging to different sides of the aisle talk with each other about the conflict and Israel is criticized, they interpret the criticism differently which leads to misunderstandings and accusations.
It is important to note that so far the occupied people are not part of these two sides. Because for them it doesn’t make a difference why they are oppressed or who does it. They suffer regardless.
Therefore it is necessary to eliminate the double standard before trying to solve the conflict. This means all parties participating in talks about the conflict must agree to only judge the actions, which are verifiable, and not other non-materialistic features like being a democracy.
Ground support for Anti-Israel hate
This brings us to another important point. The Palestinians are not angels. There is real hate towards Israel which in huge parts is truly antisemitic and doesn’t want to stop until Israel is destroyed. But this is not godgiven and nobody is born with this hate. So how did it develop and why does it continue to build?
This question is truly hard to answer comprehensively. Therefore I will focus on a few points which can serve as an example. I my opinion the best way to try an explanation is to take a newborn in the Palestinian territories and to follow this person all the way to adulthood. Because to solve this hate it is key to understand how innocent newborn babies can become terrorists or at least Israel haters.
A key factor for this is obviously some level of indoctrination and propaganda. But propaganda can only work if it is based upon some base level of unhappiness. If the social situation in the territories would be fine, the propaganda against Israel would be very powerless. Why go protest against those who give you bread and a good life?
But more importantly than propaganda are real experiences. Children who lose their relatives by military attacks from Israel, whatever the reason of those, will have a negative view of Israel. Palestinians who observe unfair treatment by Israel regarding criminal justice, water supply or other things will have a negative view of Israel. Palestinians who don’t have enough to eat will lay blame on Israel. This is without propaganda. The propaganda can now use this ground negative view and turn it into hate by providing simple answers on why those things happen.
Israel has no real chance to win in any of this, because as the defacto controllers of the area, they will be held responsible for what happens regardless of behaviour from the Palestinian authorities. Israel is routinely facing criticism for the blockade of Gaza but they always claim that they don’t block food from entering the area. If that is so why do people hunger there?
The answer are the Palestinian authorities. They are radicals and have an interest in keeping the Palestinians unhappy about Israel. Whenever they can fuel the negative views of Israel - for example by unfairly distributing the food supplies and laying the blame on Israel - they will do it. On the other side the right wing Israelis also have an interest in unhappy Palestinians. A bad social situation and regular military crackdowns fuel the anti-Israel hate which then can be used as a reason to increase the settlement and military spending. Those two groups surely don’t really cooperate but their interests align for different reasons.
Leaving the cycle
This leads to a cycle of violence, settlement, illegal behaviour and even more violence. The only way to exit this cycle is by criticizing the illegal actions of Israel very openly and forcefully demand an end to more settlement, while also criticizing the radicals on the Palestinian side. The moderate and left on both sides must unite, stop the cycle in Israel by elections and then start mandatory peace talks.
The solution however won’t be a two state solution. This is not feasible. It would just leave the radicals on either side in power. Instead a unitary state which is binational should be realized. In such a state there should be no second class citizens and the constitution should consist of unchangable principles like democracy, equal rights and fair representation. That way a solution could be found to prevent a discrimination of then-minority Jews by then-majority Muslims and vice versa. Only by embracing diversity it will be possible to solve this conflict.
The state should be designed as a federation with large autonomy to the different areas to allow multiple cultures to exist in parallel. That way gay people in Tel Aviv, orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and very conservative Muslims in Bethlehem could live peacefully together. Due to the importance of religion for discrimination in that area, all major religions should be represented in an equal way to not give any religion the advantage over another.