Someone asked me a weird and quite mad little question the other day. It went like this, ‘Whose side are you on in this Israel/Gaza thing?’ Whose side?
I said ‘I’m on no-one’s “side”,’ which is absolutely true. My questioner looked confused. But it’s a position I retain and stand by. This is why.
Neither side has a right to kill and that is just a fact. Whatever their fears or grievances no-one has the right to take life and that includes Israelis and Palestinians. The three monotheistic religions that Israelis and Arabs adhere to – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – all prohibit murder, which what is happening right now out there, actually, is.
Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in what is now called Israel without fear of persecution, violence or prejudice. Neither side is not guilty of those crimes but both sides are guilty of a selective attitude towards history. For instance when Israelis deny that the early Jewish settlers destroyed Palestinian villages and threw the inhabitants out, they are flying in the face of reality. On the other hand when Islamic militants deny The Holocaust they are not only saying that the deaths of 6 million Jews didn’t happen they are also denying the evil that Hitler did to countless numbers of gypsies, the mentally ill and gay people too. Historical ‘selection’ (I shall be kind here in the terms that I use), helps no-one. Only when the past has been looked at as it really is as opposed to through hate coloured glasses can progress to the future be made.
Everyone should be able to worship as he or she pleases anywhere and that includes in Jerusalem. Personally I don’t think that Jerusalem can actually be ‘owned’ by any group that has a religious interest in it. Unless Jews, Muslims and Christians can agree to jointly own everything (not likely) then some outside, and disinterested party, should do that for them. Let the Chinese, the Japanese or the Thais own the city. They agree to give equal access to all as well as to punish those who cause trouble. A poisoned chalice if ever there was one but Jerusalem is such an issue now, I cannot see how any Jew, Christian or Muslim can police the place without prejudice.
Much as the past must be faced as it really is, it must also not be used as an excuse for current acts of violence. But this happens all the time on both sides. Terrible, terrible things have happened to both Israelis and Arabs in both the near and the distant past. But if any sort of solution to this problem is to be arrived at, then tomorrow must be a clean slate with no reference to what has happened in the past. However hard there has to be forgiveness. There has to be common sense sometime too. Because if there isn’t common sense soon then something truly terrible will happen.
I mean a war that will engulf the whole region, including Iran. Israel we know has nuclear weapons, Iran is developing them and countries like Egypt are heavily armed with conventional weapons. Heaven knows what a currently unstable Syria has and hasn’t got at its disposal. I dread to think. But that just mustn’t happen. It mustn’t. And those of us who are outside of the situation must do everything that we can to make sure that sense, in the end, prevails. We must be on no-one’s side. That way, when the time comes, we can have the right to figuratively, bang both their heads together.