Before I begin writing about the details of the speaker, I have to first relate a quick anecdote. I remember having a discussion with a friend about the recent bombing in Israel and Palestine and he said something that still registers with me today, “Its hard to pick a side to hate because both have some responsibilities contributing to the current day situation”. I think this statement is fairly accurate in highlighting a fundamental error of human thought, the propensity to compartmentalize two sides; a good and a bad. One has to remember that the Israeli Palestinian crisis is a twisted amalgamation of hatred, fear, and death on both sides. With this objectivity in mind, let me relate to you the context of the most recent Reiff Center talk in regards to this ongoing conflict.
On September 11, the Reiff Center had the honor of having Dr. William B. Quandt speak about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the efforts at peace. Winner of numerous awards and author of several books on the subject, Dr. Quandt was more than well equipped to speak about such a controversial topic. He began by talking about how the conflict originated and stated that he believed the current crisis is a result of “two nationalisms” starting a hundred years ago. The core of this issue is the question of who is entitled to what land and what would be a fair deal to ensure lasting peace.
After a very brief history lesson of the declining Palestinian territories due to West Bank settlers, Dr. Quandt talked about the current day peace talks. It should come as no surprise to the reader that they were extremely unsuccessful and resulted in significantly more casualties than other peace talks. Additionally, the destruction lasted longer and involved greater physical damage to Palestinian infrastructure. Sadly, the recent conflict led to greater Hamas support amongst the thoroughly disenchanted Palestinian citizenry. Netanyahu, on the other hand, had a spike in approval at the onset of the conflict (at roughly 80 percent approval) with a drastic downturn, which is currently around 30 percent.
He also explained how the current situation is hopelessly deadlocked. Although some contend that Israel will be able to envelope Palestine with their constant efforts at settling into the West Bank, Palestinians are rapidly becoming the numerical majority. As a counter to what Palestinians perceive as threats to their livelihood, many are procreating at a rapid rate so that they do not get “erased”. Its oddly fascinating and horrifying that both sides are resorting to such desperate measures so that they might be victorious. Israel is sticking to its military strength and U.S. support while Palestine is mainly reliant on demographics.
After his presentation, Dr. Quandt fielded a Q and A, which the crowd took full advantage of. One such interesting answer came from a question related to Obama’s efforts at establishing peace before the current violence. In 2009 Obama urged Netanyahu to cease new settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu responded to this by taking a trip to America, telling Obama that he was wrong about the situation and then preceded to go to congress delivering a speech that netted twenty-nine standing ovations. Obama gave up soon after.
Modern U.S. support for Israel runs extremely deep. AIPAC, a lobbying organization in America for pro Israeli relations, is considered one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the nation. Opposing this lobby is often considered to be political suicide due to its overwhelming power. Interestingly, both the Senate and the House of Representatives were unanimous in a decision to support Israel against Hamas. Considering the current day political climate, a unanimous decision on anything is exceedingly rare and borders on the impossible.
Unfortunately, the situation looks exceedingly bleak on both sides. Palestinians are adamant about staying and are willing to produce more children as a way of retaliation against Israel. Many young people in Palestine, disillusioned by the caustic political and social climate, want to leave. Who can really blame them? Lasting peace has been attempted over and over again and has failed on every occasion. Dr. Quandt ended by saying that there were few times he was discourage more of peace than he is now and considering all of the factors leading up to the recent bloodshed, I have to agree.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Reiff Center For Human Rights and Conflict Resolution or Christopher Newport University.