Saturday, June 05, 2010

Israel/Palestine; How do we get peace?

Israel/Palestine looks like Northern Ireland in the Troubles, or South Africa under apartheid. Many pundits shake their heads and intone, "Insoluble". Matthew Parris just wants to stop thinking about it. He wants to wipe I/P off the cognitive map, and in this he is, dare I say it, somewhat like AhmadiNajad, although the latter only wants to wipe the I part of I/P off the map.

It looks insoluble because there are fundamentalist religious bigots on both sides. We have experience of this little problem here in Northern Ireland. Dogmatism and its false absolutes are a powerful force, but war-weariness is in the end and even stronger force. It usually takes a generation to for war to cause people to drop the simple dogmatic absolutes and adopt some realistic compromises. The first intifada was 23 years ago. That means that we should be ready for a resolution soon.

This conflict is a complex system, with multiple lines of causalities, and  multiple positive feedback loops. The question is NOT a simple binary choice of "Which cause is right, the Palestinian cause or the Israeli cause?" The question is, "How can we help reverse the process of escalation of violence?"

Part of this is for the two Governments involved, Israeli and Hamas and their supporters, to understand that their mutual paranoia and mutual violence is counter productive to the interests of their people.

Another important part is to be aware of the many cross-community peace initiatives that exist.

Politicians deal in absolutes. The people deal in realities.

My favourite reality based, cross community initiative is Friends of the Earth Middle East.  I want to see their work supported by the EU, and magnified many times over, into a serious water management system.

If the root cause of the conflict is the inward migration of significant numbers of people, then the answer is to make the land bigger, so that it can support them all.  That sounds impossible, and spatially it is impossible, but functionally it is not. Land is only useful if it is fertile. Water and biological waste recycling are all that is required to make arid land fertile. This can be done with water harvesting, water conservation, and reforestation from the coast inwards. The economic effort of doing this will increase prosperity, and divert energy from hate-related activities.

The vicious cycle of hate can stop. The first step on this journey is for us to stop believing that hate is some kind of a solution, and that hate and paranoia are permanent state of affairs. They are not.

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