Not too long ago I worked for an interfaith charity seeking to bring together Muslim and Jewish students on the basis of what they shared in common. Noble aims, yet as the current crisis in Gaza shows efforts to bridge the human divide flies right out the window the moment long-standing political divides come into play.
The religion of Jews and Palestinians may share certain Abrahamic roots but try telling that to a Gaza resident who is witnessing innocent women and children killed. The one-sided nature of the death toll understandably gives rise to anger. At the time of writing 140 people have lost their lives in Gaza in the past week, against three Israelis.
The longer this persists the further away the two-state solution becomes. And the longer Palestinians are denied sovereignty to protect them from illegal settlements and blockades the deeper the sense of injustice and unfairness. Wounds cannot heal if they are continually gouged at, neither can we expect two sets of people to be friends while such inequality exists between them.
Today, on the day a suicide bomber injured three people in Tel Aviv, Israel are talking of a unilateral ceasefire. Whether this is genuine or a tactic to point the finger at any breaches of the ceasefire by the Palestinians in order to justify a ground offensive only time will tell. Let’s hope a ceasefire is genuine and lasting on both sides. However a ceasefire without moves to re-fire the peace process is likely to be simply a postponement in hostilities.
And a postponement in hostilities that leaves a Hamas leadership unchanged and un-engaged in a peace process can only lead to continued fear in Israel and the re-election of hardliners in Jerusalem, to maintain the destructive cycle of friction interspersed with sporadic fighting. It is this cycle that needs to be broken. And as hard as it is to do at a time of death, it is now that world leaders need to apply the greatest pressure on both sides to sit down and broker not just ‘peace’ in terms of an absence of conflict but a political settlement, regardless of what they think of each other.
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway