I would venture that a modern-day “Romeo and Juliet” remake set in Jerusalem would make a decent play or film. The plot: A young Israeli and a young Palestinian navigate their families’ cultural and ideological differences while their relationship develops.

At the very least, it might convince a few people split by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to finally see each other as humans.

My own personal interest is in the Second Intifada, which I discussed to exhaustion on a small gaming forum. A few dozen people would write long articles offering up a defense of their respective side, or a criticism of a tactic or atrocity committed by the other. Links to the latest news were also published, and underneath were heated comments trying to spin the news in their side’s favor. Each time it looked like one side might gain an edge, a new perspective re-balanced the debate.

Even after months of continuous debating, neither side budged. None of the pro-Israeli supporters became any more empathetic to the Palestinian side, and vice versa. As in World War I, both sides sat in their trenches unwilling to budge and unable to move the other side. I eventually realized that as with the computer in  “Wargames,” the only winning move was not to play. It was futile to think one side was right and one side was wrong.

I confirmed this through a thought exercise: I pretended to be pro-Israeli and debate from that point of view and pretended to be pro-Palestinian and did the same.

I found that neither side held the moral high ground. Every time a pro-Israeli supporter brought up the Hamas suicide bombings, a pro-Palestinian would post the casualty statistics of the latest Israeli airstrike. Every time Israel’s tactics were questioned, Palestine’s tactic of firing rockets at Israeli cities was the counter. The debate about the validity of bombing structures that had both civilians and armed combatants was particularly tense. This entrenched stalemate continued ad infinitum for every angle and topic. What happened on that small gaming forum was a microcosm of the larger discussion of the conflict.

I was shocked to conclude that I could find reasons to support and condemn both Israel and Palestine. How could I only support one side after realizing this?

I further concluded that there can be no victor in this conflict. I find it pretentious when either side tries to claim superiority in a conflict that started during the dawn of civilization. If there was ever a tie in this world, the Israel-Palestine conflict is the leading candidate. And yet, like Bobby Fischer in a hopelessly drawn position, the two sides continue to battle it out, both in the Levant and in the hearts and minds of many others around the world (especially Europeans and Americans).

Viewing both sides as right and wrong is not a cop-out; instead, it is an opportunity to change the nature of the discussion. Palestine needs to police its own neighborhoods and help stop the radicals that are firing rockets at Israel. Israel needs to rethink how it treats Palestine, and know that for every civilian they kill, five more radicals are born from the anger. These were hard lessons that I (and the U.S.) learned in my studies of Iraq and Pakistan. Both Israel and Palestine, including their respective supporters, need to get their houses in order before pointing the finger.

The Israelis and Palestinians both know their survival depends on garnering popular support from countries around the world. The Palestinians want to end the U.S. aid to Israel, so their interest groups are trying to win enough popular support to convince politicians to cut that aid. Israel wants to maintain their U.S. support, so they fight back. The back and forth plays out in the media, in our politics, and through activism. They use propaganda and heavily skewed analyses that arise from their bias.

Whenever I see a pro-Israeli or a pro-Palestinian group on campus, I simply shake my head. The pro-Palestinian campaign of declaring a state of apartheid is a brilliant public relations tactic, but is dangerous to productive discourse; it increases tension and defensiveness.

Both the pro-Israeli groups and the pro-Palestinian groups seldom acknowledge the atrocities their own side has committed, by either ignoring them completely, or trying to justify them through comparison. The same groups neglect to talk about how 40% of Palestinians support the use of suicide bombings. In a similar sense, pro-Israeli arguments in the forum I read tended to downplay how Israeli military operations affect or degrade the living situation inside of Palestine. It is blatantly a “chicken or the egg” situation. Who fired first? Does it even matter? All I see are students, faculty, and administrators who have bitten hard on the propaganda.

Furthermore, the way that student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, WesUnited with Israel, JStreetU, and Jewish Voice for Peace seem to approach dialogue with one another only furthers the entrenchment between the two sides. Until we, as neutral parties in the conflict, realize that the inability to speak openly about these issues is a part of the problem, the stalemate will continue. Neither side of those debates seems interested in a solution; they are interested in winning an un-winnable conflict. As such, neither side should receive our support.

I reached out to students and faculty about how the issue is discussed on campus. One student I spoke with, who requested to remain anonymous, expressed dismay at how groups often back out of discussions. Instead, as Argus articles demonstrate, both sides are more interested in lobbing public accusations at each other.

This sentiment of how poor the discussion between the interest groups on campus is was confirmed by a few faculty members, including John E. Andrus Professor of History Bruce Masters.

“The debate surrounding Israel/Palestine arouses strong emotions on both sides of the issue: Palestinian rights vs. Israel’s security,” Masters wrote to me in an email. “As such, the language employed by the partisans of either has often been heated and facts distorted. I wouldn’t say much has changed in the last ten years in that regard.”

I would encourage supporters on both sides to take a step back and look at the wrongs that their own side has committed. I would encourage them to stop playing the Oppression Olympics and trying to convince themselves that their side has been wronged more. I would encourage them to stop looking at the past 60 years of history and instead look at the past six thousand.

I would encourage them to enter debates without trying to point the finger, but instead trying to find solutions that work for both sides. I would encourage them to more often enter debates instead of sitting on the sidelines and firing criticisms from afar.

Stascavage is a member of the Class of 2018.

  • Anonymous

    ” I find it pretentious when either side tries to claim superiority in a conflict that started during the dawn of civilization.”

    You might as well write that this conflict began with the birth of Islam for, in a very real way, it did.

    Islam spread like wildfire. Mohammed lit the flame. He and his followers fought 60 battles against the Jews, Christians and Zoraostrians in and around Medina and this Islamic jihad has never really ended.

    Muslims jihadists went on to violently conquer huge sections of southern and central Asia. Pretty much the entire Middle East and north Africa. They are now fighting their way south into central Africa committing genocide against Animists and black Christians.

    And this brings us to Israel. Israel is nothing more than another infidel on what Muslims consider to be their land. Of course we all know Jews have lived in Israel for 1,500 years before the killer prophet was even born – 1,500 years before Islam’s beginnings; but that does not matter to Muslims.

    Just as Muslims are driving the Christians out of Lebanon (the Christian demographic in Lebanon has been cut in half over the last thirty years), and just as Muslims are driving the Coptics out of Egypt, the Baha’i from Iran, the Chaldeans from Iraq, the Animists from northern Africa, the Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Buddhists from southern Thailand, so too are they trying to do to the Jews of Israel.

    If successful this will not be the first time Muslims have driven the Jews from Israel. And behind all the wrods and rationalizations this is what it is all really about. Never in the history of mankind has a refugee group received the same special attention as the Palestinians.

    Throughout man’s history there have been refugees. Ultimately they all found new homes, but not the Palestinians. This is because the Muslim world are manipulating the Palestinians against Israel. When Israel was legally created the Muslim world reacted by kicking 700,000 Jews from their lands. No one hears about these refugees and one of the reasons why is because countries welcomed them in and these Jewish refugees became productive members of new countries.

    But not the Palestinians. Their Muslim brothers refuse them citizenship. Their Muslim brothers refuse them the same rights they receive in Israel. In Syria and Lebanon, Palestinians cannot become professionals as they can (and do) in Israel. In Syria and Lebanon the Palestinians cannot become citizens or own land, as they are and do in Israel.

    There IS a moral high ground in this debate except for those who are too PC to see it. Israel treats her Palestinian citizens as equals. The Palestinians attend universities side-by-side with Jews, they are afforded the same freedoms as Jews, they are elected and serve in Israel’s parliament, go to the same hospitals as Jews do, practice as doctors in these hospitals too. Jews have done their utmost to integrate Palesitinians into Israel despite Palestinians having a history of terrorism even inside their own country. It is elsewhere – in the Muslim world – where Palestinians are treated like lepers.

    It is time to quit pretending the Palestinian problem is any different than the Kashmir problem, the southern Thailand problem, the Nigerian Christian problem, the Sudanese problem, the Syrian problem. They all manifest from a religion that will not rest, has not rest, until all the world is theirs to control. Israel is a mere thorn in their side. They have had worse. It took them centuries to take over southern Asia and in the process they killed 70 million Hindus. Israel’s nothing compared to that.

    • Anonymous

      This is hate speech, politely delivered with a selective view of history and a misinformed accounting of current events, but hate speech all the same. That truly has gone on since the beginning of history, but nothing good can come of it. The notion that Palestinians are “afforded the same freedoms as Jews” is so far off base as to be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

      • Anonymous

        “The notion that Palestinians are “afforded the same freedoms as Jews” is so far off base as to be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.”
        The sentence pasted above is hate speech delivered with a selective view of history and a misinformed accounting of current events, but hate speech all the same.

      • Anonymous

        Not at all. It doesn’t condemn any race or creed and it’s easily backed up with facts. For example Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land, land that has been in their families for generations, is commonplace. The Israeli-imposed process (when it’s not ignored) requires landowners to produce deeds, travel repeatedly to defend those deeds, etc. and is designed to be almost impossible to navigate. You can google “Cremisian valley” for another land grab in progress. The blockade in Gaza clearly denies rights to Palestinians within. But these are just the kind of examples that make the news. Live there (and I don’t mean an organized tour of Israel where you’ll be saturated with propaganda) and you’ll find that grinding daily apartheid is the true reality.

      • Anonymous

        Ralphie, why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands
        anywhere and everywhere without a word of protest from you?

        But if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims and Liberals and their ilk will never stop protesting against it? Why is this do you suppose? What explanation can be given other than as the Qur’an states repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate in which all non-Muslims are subjugated.

        For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and thousands of years after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe. This is Islam’s way, not the Jew’s way. Jews control next to no land despite their being
        around for thousands of years before the imperialistic religion of Islam began.

        Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even though, for instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once lived there. According to Muslim logic per Israel
        shouldn’t this land belong to the Buddhists? How do you explain the difference, Ralphie? Are there special rules for Israel or are you just an anti-Semite, Ralphie?

        Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly converted to Islam or have been killed and now we’re told all this vast landmass belongs to Islam. That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical.

        And what about Southern Thailand. Did anyone know that in the last several years something like 5,000 Buddhists have been killed by Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the Buddhists are on belongs to Islam. Why isn’t there an end the Occupation of Thailand movement? Or might that hurt the oh-so sensitive Muslim’s feelings?

        And Southern Russia? Muslims are relentlessly waging a slow reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it, Russians are treating Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern
        section of that country to Muslims since Islam deserves all lands.
        And all this time I thought Mohammed was born in Mecca not in southern Russia I’m sure glad Ralphie straightened me out on this fact.

        Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions have been killed in Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan while Islamists steal the food from aid
        compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims.

        All other people can go somewhere else to live, I guess. They can go to South Sudan, but wait a minute, now Muslims are killing the people of South Sudan too. I guess South Sudan is also part of the Muslim caliphate or soon will be.

        And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 3,000 years – something like 2,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it? Muslim logic, I guess. Ralphie’s logic, I guess.

        And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam too. Did you know that? It’s true. Just ask a Muslim or a liberal or a Ralphie if you prefer. Even though it’s no bigger than a small
        pimple on the caliphate’s ass it is still their land and they will fight to the death to prove their point.

        Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course it does. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage. And thanks to people like Ralphie this is happening before our very eyes.

      • Anonymous

        Straw man. I never said Islamic extremists and terrorists were free to do their business, they must be fought just like the barbarian hordes of other creeds throughout history.

  • Matt Renez

    The “Romeo and Juliet” story you refer to exists. A short film called “West Bank Story,” I thoroughly reccomend it