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Israel-Palestine: Compromise in the face of human nature

With increased violence in several occupied settlements, the United Nations Secretary-General has called on Israel and Palestine to compromise, stating that security measures alone cannot stop the cycle of violence nor remove the sense of alienation among Palestinians. He called the cycle of violence perpetuated amongst the two groups as “human nature”.

The Secretary-General stated that, “as oppressed peoples have shown throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism, while so-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity.”

The Secretary-General touches upon several central ideas that we have seen in previous and other current crises, which are undoubtedly prevalent in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Human nature, hate, and dignity: What exactly do these terms entail and how do they intersect in this ongoing conflict? What is so “human” about the perpetuation of retaliation? Hatred is endemic between these two sides, but is it really the hatred of people for one another or is each person being deduced to their state? How can dignity be salvaged on both sides of the conflict—at this point, is it still even possible? These questions might not have simple answers, but they certainly deserve our attention.

In his 2009 New Yorker article “Captives,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright provides historical context to the struggles that plague the two states. Wright’s explanation of Israel and Palestine’s long and tumultuous relationship sheds light on various issues.

Wright discusses the connection between geography and psychology. At one time, the two economies worked with one another; many Palestinians ventured into Israel on a daily basis for work. As Wright points out, however, Gaza has become “a floating island, drifting farther away from contact with any other society.” Wright engages the reader with questions from economist, Omar Shaban about states, which may not be geographically distant from one another, but instead, are worlds apart when it comes to ideology and peaceful coexistence.

Many of these civilians are prisoners of their own state, as the individual is deduced to the political ideology of their related group. The Secretary-General noted that occupation is “an incubator of hate and extremism,” but what exactly is the hatred in this conflict? Part of the hatred is evidently for the occupiers; however, dangerous generalizations permeate the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. An Israeli might not have the mind of an occupier, but simply has the identity of one. A Palestinian might not want to violently oppose the occupation, but rather belongs to a group that continues to do so. The violent fight is perpetuated by hatred, but as Shaban suggested in Wright’s article, fighting someone unknown to us is easier than making peace with them.

Following the most recent attack, the Secretary-General addressed the United Nations Security Council, urging the two sides to come to an agreement that will include “difficult compromises.”

Despite the ongoing attacks, the Secretary-General maintains his hope for a successful agreement between the two sides stating, “Israelis and Palestinians have an opportunity to restore hope to a region torn apart by intolerance and cruelty. I urge them to accept this historic challenge in the mutual interest of peace.”

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