WASHINGTON – Sadly, there is a hopeless circularity in the reasons produced by both sides for the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Regarding the current invasion of Gaza, with all the accompanying misery for civilians trapped in the crossfire, Israel argues that it is acting in self-defense, in order to stop Hamas rocket attacks and the terror group use of sophisticated tunnels to infiltrate Israel.
Palestinians perennially aggrieved
The Palestinians, even the supposedly moderate and reasonable leaders from the West Bank paraded on western TV stations to make their case, essentially tell us that we should give Hamas a pass.
Case in point, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian Palestinian, with a Ph.D. in medieval and comparative literature from the University of Virginia, repeated the same story during a recent interview on Fox TV.
it is all about the Israeli occupation
At the source of all the problems, including Palestinian violence, you will always find Israeli oppression, she argued. She would not say openly that Hamas is justified in launching rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. But she did say that at the root of any and all Palestinian reactions, including terrorism, you will find the Israeli inhumane occupation. End the occupation, and the violence will also end.
Bottom line: the Palestinians are a perennially aggrieved people, treated as second class citizens by the brutal Israelis. If Hamas engages in terror tactics, these are caused by Israel’s state terrorism.
Terror attacks are the problem
On the other side of the divide, the Israelis gloss over the occupation and its effects on the Palestinians and focus only on the threat represented by indiscriminate attacks perpetrated by Hamas.
So, Israel justifiably reacts to the current violence. Hamas, according to the official Palestinian narrative, reacts to perpetual violence, against which all means are justified.
The two positions are well entrenched. I doubt that they can be replaced by a more constructive approach.
Related to all this, there are the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Israel may consider them as insurance, as a way to expand its extremely thin defense perimeter, if and when there will be a real Palestinian state.
The Palestinians see the settlements as an obvious sign of Israeli bad faith. How can you talk about recognizing a Palestinian state when you are slowly but systematically chipping away at Palestinian territory? And even in supposedly “free” Gaza, they claim that the local Palestinians live in a de facto state of permanent siege, with Israel controlling what goes in and out.
Land for Peace?
In the end, here is the depressing scenario. The Israelis do not trust that there will ever be a truly peaceful Palestine that will see to it that no terror threat will originate from within its territory.
The Palestinians, including the highly educated and articulate Dr. Ashrawi, do not believe that the Israelis will ever treat them as equals, with the respect and deference that this status would entail.
Until this frame of mind changes, on both sides, this old conflict will continue.