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Israel-Palestine dispute lacks press but still pressing issue

There is no shortage of headlines concerning the Middle East region these days.  Syria’s bloody civil war rages on, and debate over U.S. involvement in the conflict is reaching its peak here at home.

No solution is apparent in Egypt’s struggle to transform its government, as the military has reclaimed control.  Iraq is subjected to sectarian violence on a daily basis and is beginning to look more and more like a failed state.  Refugees from all aforementioned countries continue to pour into Jordan, which hardly has enough resources to support its own population.

Yet amidst the turmoil, one of the most prominent conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries continues unabated.  Since the Balfour Declaration and the eventual creation of the state of Israel after World War II in the land formerly known as Palestine, Israelis and Palestinians have been at odds despite ongoing efforts for peace.  Numerous campaigns for an agreement between the two sides have been led by various world leaders, including several U.S. presidents, yet the current situation is far from peaceful.

After spending a semester in Jordan, where around half of the population is Palestinian, and being able to visit Israel a few times, I was able to see for myself how bleak the situation really is, and on a human level at that.

Some scholars have likened Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank to apartheid in South Africa.  Things ranging from discriminatory ID laws to actual physical barriers separating Palestinians from Israelis can be found being implemented in the Israeli-occupied territory, creating a somber yet accurate image of the state of their relationship.  Israel,  a public ally of the United States, and its massive military, haven’t done much to help ease the tension between the two sides.

On the other hand, militant Palestinian Nationalist groups like Hamas, which consistently fire rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, make it nearly impossible for global leaders to sympathize with the greater Palestinian cause.  While most Palestinian refugees and Israeli-Palestinians want nothing more than a place to call their own, the inflammatory actions of militant groups make them an easy target for media demonization.

The struggle has been passed down from generation to generation.  A quick YouTube search will give one an idea of how children are indoctrinated on both sides: Palestinian youth are taught the evils of Jews, and young Israelis are convinced that Arabs, Palestinians especially, are a dramatic race of people who want nothing more than to steal their land.

Obviously not every individual within the conflict is completely prejudiced, but the most radical on either side continue to preserve harmful sentiments that resonate with the young and the passionate.

While many will cite religious differences as an inherent cause of the ongoing conflict, the real reasons are almost exclusively political.  And when each and every attempt at peace comes with so much political baggage, it is no surprise that no real solution has been found.

Only once was real progress made, and that occurred at the hands of secret negotiations at Oslo in 1991.  Instead of public peace talks with extensive media coverage, scholars spearheaded the confidential effort that created a self-governing Palestinian body with its own territory to control.  Unfortunately, talks between Palestinian President Yaseer Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak broke down at a Camp David Summit in 2000 hosted by United States President Bill Clinton.

With the limelight shifted from Israel/Palestine to other countries in the region struggling for stability, now may be a better time than ever to make steps towards a peaceful solution without politics weighing down the process.

Politicians and figureheads with ulterior motives should not and cannot be in charge if anything is to be done.  The people who should be in charge of finding viable answers to so many tough questions are the knowledgeable people who have studied the region and know the real causes behind the issues.  Otherwise, another century of conflict and the loss of innocent lives is in store.

 

Joey Versen is a senior political science and Arab & Islamic studies major from Scottsdale, Ariz. He can be reached at jverse01@villanova.edu. 

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