Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Israel & Palestine - No Peace Without Respect

People with strong religious beliefs at war all seem the same, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish, unless you’re one of them. They all cite some version of God as their guiding light and interpret some element of scripture to justify their position, and all of them are blind to the reality of their double standards. I’m allowed to hurt you but you aren’t allowed to hurt me. It’s a kind of skewed entitlement. 

It’s easy to judge them and the world does. But anybody who is honest with themselves will admit that at some point in their lives they have been blind to their own unhealthy entitlement and unbalanced behavior.  In our civilized society, teachers violate pupils, parents take their anger out on their children and refuse to acknowledge it, businesspeople destroy the lives of anybody who gets in their way, priests and celebrities rape children.

It’s the same principle, I can do what I want but you don’t have the right to object. In many ways our civilization is just a veneer. We’re still savages, unwilling to pay the price of true civilization, which is understanding that all reactive and punishing behavior is about scared and threatened people. Who can’t settle themselves deep within and are unwilling to face their own abysmal fears and do something about them. 

Projecting their inner uncertainty onto the material world and people around them.  Using an interpretation of some higher authority to justify what they’re doing, and clinging to the ephemeral right and wrong that never resolved an argument or a life’s crisis or a war. That never generated love and never ever settled a person down deep within themselves.  

It’s easy to look at Israel and Palestine and take sides on principles, tagging onto right and wrong. It’s easy to judge Netanyahu who believes he is civilized but behaves like a fundamentalist, and who doggedly refuses to let Palestine have its own turf. It’s also easy to rationalize his behavior in the face of missiles being launched at his country, as it is to rationalize Hamas’s actions in the face of Netanyahu refusing to budge. 

Or to judge Hamas for launching missiles indiscriminately. Or to make sweeping generalizations in either case, no matter which side of the right/wrong fence you stand. Harder is to step away and recognize that this is just about people who feel threatened. We have a tendency to forget that no matter what religion or race or nationality people are, they are affected by the same principles of cause and effect in human behavior.

Israel and Palestine need to get to a place where they can recognize each other’s humanity and say to each other “I see your vulnerability and I empathize with it because it matches my own. We’re both afraid. We’re both leading our own people towards destruction. So let us sit down and talk and listen.” Until they do right and wrong will rule and violence will continue to rape Israel and Palestine. Peace treaties will come and go, as one side or the other is bullied or cajoled into submission by other powers. 

But neither side will ever win and it won’t be about peace. It doesn’t matter who started the war. Somebody has to stop it. And you don’t beat bullying with more bullying. You beat it with respect.