Three Myths-William Keo
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What We Get Wrong About Israel and Gaza



The tragedy of the Middle East is that it is a confrontation of right versus right. Israelis deserve their country, forged by refugees in the shadow of the Holocaust. Palestinians deserve a country, freedom and dignity, and should not be subjected to collective punishment. Israel has a right to be uneasy in any case, but the best way to ensure its security may be not to postpone Palestinian aspirations, but to honour them with a two-State solution. The third myth is found on both sides of the conflict and is approximately: People on the other side only understand violence.

With the bilateral slaughter in the Middle East unleashing poisons that are worsening hatred worldwide, let me outline what I see as three myths inflaming the debate:

The first myth is that in the conflict in the Middle East there is right on one side and wrong on the other (even if people disagree about which is which).

Life isn’t that neat. The tragedy of the Middle East is that this is a clash of right versus right. That does not excuse Hamas’s massacre and savagery or Israel’s leveling of entire neighborhoods in Gaza, but underlying the conflict are certain legitimate aspirations that deserve to be fulfilled. …

The second myth is that Palestinians can be put off indefinitely, strung along by Israel, the United States and other countries. That was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy, his way of avoiding a Palestinian state, and it worked for a time — the way a pressure cooker works, until it explodes.

It’s difficult to know the counterfactual, whether a Palestinian state would have been better for Israeli security. But Palestinian statelessness in retrospect has not made Israel safe, and risks may increase if the Palestinian Authority collapses from corruption, ineffectiveness and lack of legitimacy. …

The third myth is found on both sides of the conflict and is approximately: It’s too bad we have to engage in this bloodshed, but the people on the other side understand only violence.

I hear that from friends who support the war in Gaza and regard me as well-meaning but misguided, as a naif who fails to comprehend the sad reality that the only way to keep Israel safe is to pulverize Gaza and uproot Hamas at whatever human cost. …

….. Seeking humanity in each side means demanding the release of Israeli hostages and calling out the dehumanization that leads people to pull down posters for kidnapped Israelis. It also means renouncing what Netanyahu called “mighty vengeance” that transforms entire neighborhoods of Gaza into rubble, with bodies buried underneath.

I’m exasperated by people whose hearts bleed for only one side, or who say about the toll on the other: “It’s tragic, but ….” No “buts.” Unless you believe in human rights for Jews and for Palestinians, you don’t actually believe in human rights.

If you weep only for Israeli children, or only for Palestinian children, you have a problem that goes beyond your tear ducts. Children on both sides have been slaughtered quite recklessly, and fixing this crisis starts with acknowledging a principle so basic that it shouldn’t need mentioning: All children’s lives have equal value, and good people come in all nationalities.

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