The language of hysteria

'This is our country, our country exclusively- including Gaza’. Moshe Feiglin, the Deputy Speak of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), wrote these extraordinary words this week, in a plan designed to ‘annihilate’- again, his words- any support for the resistance against Israeli occupation. 


On the other side of the divide, demonstrations against the Israeli assault on Gaza have turned ugly, with certain pro-Palestine components continuing to conflate Israel with Judaism, resulting in the astonishing rise of anti-Semitic attacks across the world. Attacks on synagogues and swastikas superimposed onto Israel flags are just two examples of a worrying backlash against the wider Jewish community outside of Israel.


Anti-Semitism is abhorrent. Jews are rightly worried about the effects of Bibi Netanyahu’s policies on their safety. But, so is the extremist hysteria decidedly obvious within Israel calling for the complete subjugation of the Palestinian people, along with phrases such as ‘from land to sea’. The most shocking example of this came when the Times of Israel allowed a blog post to be published titled ‘When Genocide is Permissible’. This disgusting attitude of a proportion of Israeli society breeds hatred within Palestinian society. Such rampant Anti-Semitism breeds fear and insecurity within both Israel and the Jewish community as a whole.  Any chances of peace vanish.  


What prevents sensible debate on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the language of these extremists. Criticize Israel? One runs the risk of being labeled a Nazi. Criticize the tactic of lobbing rockets into Israel by Hamas? Condoning an apartheid state. It is, and should be, possible to feel sympathy for both sides.  For the past 65 plus years, Israel has grown up in an intensely hostile neighborhood, facing danger from all comers. Since 1948, the Palestinians have been forced from their land, and herded into what barely amounts to a land of their own. They have been stripped of basic human rights, restricted in their freedom of movement and torn apart by incessant wars with their Israeli neighbors. Young Israeli soldiers have lost their lives and families have been torn apart by suicide bomb attacks. Thousands upon thousands of Gazan civilians have died in the name of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this can stop. And it only will of the moderates win out, stamping out the ire of people like Feiglin or the military wing of Hamas.


What both Israelis and Palestinians need is negotiation in good faith. They need honest brokers and they need compromise. Hamas wants the blockade lifted? Israel needs to compromise. In the meantime, Hamas needs to stop firing upon Israel; otherwise more and more innocent civilians will die. There are steps that can be taken to diffuse tensions. Israel can increase the zone around Gaza allowing Palestinian fishermen to work without threat. The crossings can be re-opened with 3rd party help (the Dutch have offered an advice which can detect any weapons being brought into Gaza). Finally, a return needs to be made to the guidelines of the 2002 Arab League Peace plan.


Only when both sides have taken steps to restore a semblance of trust in the peace process will progress begin to be made. Until then, we will continue to be stuck in a cycle of hatred and extremist hysteria.