It is hard to think of any geopolitical dispute in my lifetime more difficult to grasp in full, much less solve, than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, witch is a subset of the Arab-Israel conflict.
From the very moment modern Israel declared itself an independent state in 1948 (when I was three years old), it has had to defend itself from its Arab neighbors and from terrorists who have sought to wipe it off the map.
That, at least, is a broad stroke of the Israeli narrative. The Palestinian narrative has more to do with being evicted from the land, with Israel's relentless encroachment and occupation of Palestinian territory and with Israeli leadership that seems mostly to want to poke a stick in the eye of this or that Palestinian leader.
Is either side "right" in the sense of having an obvious and accurate grasp of the historical truth? It depends on whom you ask.
But one thing is clear: All parties in the dispute often have failed -- sometimes willfully, sometimes not -- to understand the position of the other parties and to have some sympathy for the reality that those positions are held with vigor and with a belief that they are right.
So what to do?
Well, as this fascinating story in the excellent British newspaper, The Guardian, reports, a teacher at a Muslim boys school in Britain "has set up a project called Parallel Histories, which teaches Israel/Palestine from both sides rather than 'twisting competing perspectives into a single, compromised narrative.'”
School boys are required to study the issues from all sides and then debate things, defending a side with which they may disagree -- as happens in any formal debate in school settings.
I loved this section of the story:
"Abdul, 15, on the Israel team, says his side had to work harder: 'I told the team, swallow your pride, just do it. Even after hours and hours of research we thought Palestine had a stronger argument, so to find an argument for Israel and the Jews to have this thing was really difficult.
“'But we did find it, we found small things to pick out and expand on, and we were very close to actually winning. I was more on the other side but now I’ve got a bit more understanding and think Israel does have a point. In this school especially we are trying to become Muslim scholars but we have to go out there and we need to be aware of what’s going on – this is Britain, we need to understand British values. All of this will help us understand tolerance, etc. If we are biased to one opinion by ignorance then it’s not fair. No matter if they are Jews or whatever, they are still human. We have to respect them.'”
Exactly, Abdul. You've got it. My hope is that Abdul and his classmates can teach that lesson to Israeli and Palestinian politicians.
(The photo here is one I took in 2012 in Jerusalem showing a tired dove of peace looking for a place, finally, to land.)
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As the U.S. Senate considers the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it will -- and should -- consider how he might approach cases involving religion. Mark Silk, an excellent writer about religion, has done just that in this RNS article. He concludes that although people who identify as religious conservatives might be happy with many of Kavanaugh's votes, that won't always be the case. It's complicated.