“A place where girls once dreamt of getting married. It was a cup shaped wedding hall in a beauty spot on the edge of the ocean. Today, this dream has been smashed. The walls and windows broken, leaving just a concrete skeleton with spiral staircase ascending into the thin air, which smells of gun powder.”
The Israel-Palestine conflict traces its roots to the late 19th century. Marred with periodic bloodshed, the said conflict has set an unprecedented example of human rights’ violations and failure of international diplomacy. It has been defined by right to self-determination, statehood and territory.
To start with, it is definite that there was a time when both these communities lived in harmony. The daily accounts of Babatha (a second-century Jewish woman) which were found in the Judean desert on the Southern fringe of the West Bank reflects a peacefully co-existing society without friction between the Jews and the Arabs. With the passage of time, escalating hostilities led to the intervention of the United Nations which in 1947, produced a plan for the partition of the area of Palestine, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
The plan seemed benevolent and was welcomed by the Jews but outwardly rejected by the Arabs. Consequently, this conflict has taken many violent forms and has given rise to an Israel-Palestinian conflict which forms a part of the wider Arab-Israel conflict. These conflicts have not only undermined the principles of the Charter of the United Nations but have also laid a bitter imprint on the minds of the Palestinians.
At this point in time, bearing in mind the violation of the International Humanitarian Law and the ceaseless cycle of death in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank make me feel for the Palestinians. Organizations like the Hamas have claimed to be the voice of the Palestinian people and yet, their actions have been greeted with unprecedented criticism. However, the people living in the West Bank and the Gaza strip have come in terms with this new “culture” – that of fear, oppression and abuse. A Palestinian child living in the Gaza Strip has seen horrors of war. The distant sound of the machine gun and the sound of exploding shells have become a part of a conflict-torn childhood.
Palestinian terror attacks on the Israelis (such as suicide-bombings) have been counter- productive, leading to their dehumanization in the eyes of the Israelis. Such acts of violence have boomeranged and thus, have become major hindrances for the Palestinian resistance movement. Even the international community has failed to acknowledge and recognize the harsh realities and the surprising truths of the Gaza Blockade. When dealing with conflict resolution, it is crucial to address underlying human needs and values and question if they are being violated or not. In the complex Israel-Palestine conflict, there is a strong need to include actors at all levels of society in a peace-building process. There needs to be vertical co-operation between all levels – from the grassroots to the civil society; from middle-range leadership to the top leadership. An important way that Palestinians can participate in conflict transformation is through resistance based mainly on civil disobedience.
It is also essential to deal with underlying structural causes for the conflict and to aim at fulfilling basic human needs such as security and the correct expression of cultural and national identity. Building peace in Israel and Palestine is a long process which requires continuous and sincere efforts from the international community at large. However ‘ideal’ these solutions might sound, they have a chance of transforming this conflict. As of now, it stands still and has already surpassed the pillars of international diplomacy.