Conflicts become intractable when both sides cease to believe in the possibility of there being reasonable people on the otherby Tom Clark / August 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
“I’ve always been a supporter of Israel,” wrote the Conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein in The Times this summer, “ever since my mum told me about the people who had left Belsen with her on the train and found themselves homeless.” That isn’t a perspective to be casually dismissed. Nor is that of Nasser Nawaja, the Palestinian Donald Macintyre met in the West Bank. His father was displaced as a toddler by the state’s creation; he was then carried from his own home on his father’s shoulders when the settlers arrived, and he could soon be forced to uproot his own toddler in turn.
Conflicts become intractable when both sides cease to believe in the possibility of there being reasonable people on the other. Many families have stories which constitute a powerful argument for Zionism; many others have an inheritance that means they are almost bound to oppose the idea of Israel. The anti-semitism row in the Labour Party reflects many things: faction fighting, individual bigotry and institutional indulgence.
But another aspect is the inability of pro- and anti-Israeli opinion to engage. Even in the remote safety of the UK, the debate is caught in a trap: one side equates Zionism with racism, the other anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Engendering mutual empathy within Israel/Palestine itself—where personal freedom, security and prosperity are at stake—is tougher still.