It has become an article of faith that a country has the right to defend itself. Many hold to this view as if it carried an unshakeable and irrefutable truth.
Countries worldwide use the slogan. We heard it again daily from Israel’s Prime Minister and then from US President Biden – “Israel has a right to defend itself.”
This specific statement means the nation state has the right to wage war on another country.
Is this the only way for a country to defend itself?
Such a view of self-defence reveals the death of imagination giving license to untold suffering.
The proponents of such a view live in a surreal world believing that the enemy will give up after suffering from a flood of rockets.
Attacks and counter-attacks may bring about a cease-fire but attacks do not bring peace. The ceasefire may last weeks or a few years until the next traumatic outburst, when a government engages in warfare as political expediency to distract its citizens from internal issues.
Responsibilities of the Dominant Power
Both political regimes can only offer violence. Both sides claim the right to defend itself. Both blame the other side for starting the killing spree.
This situation in the region has carried on for over 100 years since the time of the Ottoman Empire and the British mandate who occupied Palestine.
The dominant power has to take the bulk of responsibility to initiate meaningful change since they primarily control the lives of others. Western countries, who fund the dominant power, have to take most responsibility for the current nightmare.
USA is at the top of the list. In 2020, the US gave $3.8bn (£2.7bn) in aid to Israel – almost all of this aid was for military assistance including rockets and bombs dropped on the people of Gaza. Military control along with policies of divide and rule control a neighbouring population until the collective trauma erupts again.
Political leaders in the region and Western countries have let everybody down, so citizens in Palestine and Israel do not feel safe and secure.
Fear, blame and suffering reignite past trauma for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The traumatised Israel mindset is often under occupation from its painful past. There is no peace and so there is no peace of mind.
What is an intelligent way for a country to defend itself?
Small and beautiful initiatives have taken place for years between Palestinians and Israelis to listen to each other and understand their respective needs. Some creators and organisers have had to endure abuse from family members, friends and local community for developing a Palestinian-Israeli dialogue. These groups planted seeds of inter-connection and friendship between the two countries. Such meetings need to develop on a massive scale.
A fresh start would include both countries engaging in a public discourse on the unresolved issued of their relationship.
Leaders and citizens can learn and listen to each other. Palestinians and Israelis have much more in common than they dare admit. Both countries need to remember they both live on the same land, share a long history and a similar temperament. Both people regard Abraham as a founding father of their respective religions.
Mutual respect and support come through getting to know each other. It is hard to hate people who you know through person-to-person contact. Public meetings and sharing of views can change the hearts and minds of people. Change comes through exploring ways for peaceful co-existence,
Healing takes places through negotiation, diplomacy, conflict resolution, meetings of citizens of both countries, aid, cultural exchanges, the arts, a vision of the future, open borders and much more. Both countries need a network of skilled facilitators/counsellors to work with the trauma of its citizens. A human being cannot resolve his or her trauma and then support traumatising of others. That trauma still influences perceptions, even if the pain of the trauma has faded from consciousness.
More than a century of regional wars, skirmishes, armed insurrection, violent demonstrations and assassinations have proved disastrous policies.
Rulers have failed the people because the rulers remain addicted to power.
It is time to find ways to take down the Wall as a statement to each other and the rest of the world of the commitment of Israel and Palestine to live in peace with each other. Both countries can allow their citizens to settle in either country creating communities of Israeli settlers and Palestinian settlers.
Israel can offer wonderful work opportunities to Palestinians and contribute to Palestine getting back on its feet. Owing to international aid and its entrepreneurial spirit, Israel has developed into an economic powerhouse that could help transform the daily hardships in Palestine.
Palestine offers Muslim hospitality, beautiful, untouched countryside and quiet roads with small cities and villages. Palestinians share a deep sense of community. Young Palestinian women and men are exceptionally bright and articulate. Young Israelis need to meet them. They can cooperate together to forge a new future and leave behind the violent discord of previous generations.
What are you waiting for?
BACKGROUND. I visited Israel every year, and twice a year for about 15 years,
between 1992 and 2019 offering retreats, workshops and public meetings.
This gave the opportunity to listen to thousands of Israelis.
I gave numerous workshops on transforming suffering in Palestine.
The visits to Palestine including meetings with the elders in Nablus,
giving workshops on non-violence to young Palestinians and going to Palestinian villages
near Jerusalem with a coachload of Israelis.
Sadly, very few Israelis and Palestinians have shared experiences with each other.
Time for Change.