I get asked all the time. It can actually get quite annoying. People will stop me on the street and ask me what it’s all about, and sometimes I just don’t know what to say. “What about Israel, eh?”, that’s the kind of question I get. “Did you see what the Israelis did the other day? What’s that all about?” And then other times I get “blimey, those Palestinians, what’s going on there?”. Occasionally I may even get the sense that the person with the question is taking sides when they ask “they’ve got some nerve, those Israelis, with their Promised Land and their Iron Dome air defence system, don’t you think they’ve got some nerve?”, or, “Jesus effing Christ, what are those bloody Palestinians up to now, they’ve got some cheek, what with their de jure sovereign state and their indiscriminate Qassam rocket arsenal. What do they think they’re playing at?”. I can’t deny that their questions are definitely questions, but I would question whether their questions are good questions. More to the point, I often wonder why the fuck they’re asking me.
I am, as you have no doubt established for yourself, only kidding. Not that this is a joking matter; if there’s one thing (or two things) we must take seriously it’s the Israelis and the Palestinians. As far as I can recall no-one has ever asked me a question about the Israelis and the Palestinians, and there is a very good reason for that – I just wouldn’t know what to say. I could probably write quite a lot about what I think the whole problem is (helped by my ‘D’ at A-Level RS, I expect) but I am inhibited by a deep, and justified, feeling that just saying one wrong thing could spell trouble. I could choose to take sides against the Israelis for occupying Palestinian territory for so long and so illegally, but then I might be accused of anti-Israeli propaganda or, even worse, anti-Semitism. Alternatively, I could rail against the fervent bloodlust of the Palestinian Hamas, but that might get me a fatwa and my own jolly little war with Islam. You just can’t say anything these days.
Turning on the news to find that Israel and Palestine (or more accurately what there is of Palestine) are getting specific with one another again, using hard-man talk and the gift of incendiary devices, is in fact a big turn off. They wheel out their Middle East correspondent (foremost of whom is Jeremy Bowen, at least according to Jeremy Bowen) and they relate to us stories of bombs and rockets and advances to borders and gunfire at night and retaliations and tough, fiery rhetoric – all because one God says one thing and another says different. How very easy for those who have faith. Watching Israel and Palestine go at it just reinforces the notion that there will never be peace in the Middle East, and so why bother putting yourself through the boredom of watching it all flare up time and time again?
This is a very simplified view, but the simple view is still a view, and it doesn’t need to take in all the complicated detail. Being British I will happily accept that we should really keep well out of it every time tension rises, since it’s mostly thanks to us that Israel finally got the lands that had been originally promised to them by God, via Abraham, all the way back in Genesis; a land of magic ribs and talking snakes, when a God’s word was his bond. We should remember this, and we should also remember that the State of Israel has some serious backing, including massive military assistance from the United States, another country who seem desperate to solve the problem while throwing fat on it at the same time (this is the standard US diplomatic default tactic – create or plough into a problem, then make it worse by trying to make it better at the same time as clearly taking sides; they learnt that from the British).
And then we have what we’re left with when we strip away at the Israel v Palestine problem – both sides are adamant that they have God on their side, but He never seems to be there when they need him the most. On the other hand, who need God when you have a missile defence system built by the most powerful country in the world, or a steady supply of rockets from an unnamed Arab benefactor? I know who I think could do with putting in their place first, but it’s more realistic to accept that the whole situation would be laughable if it wasn’t so bloody tragic. Grown men, little boys, throwing bricks at each other under a hot Mediterranean sun, both convinced that thousands of years ago their God pointed at them and said in a booming voice “it’s you, it’s yours”. If it was a playground then they would both be sent home and up to bed without their supper and, if it was still allowed, they’d both get a slap on the back of the legs as well. After all, what harm can a slap do if all they achieve is to go back to blowing the shit out of each other every single time? Maybe God should skip supper too.
G B Hewitt. 19.05.2021