• The Feminist Times

The Palestinian Crisis & The Problem with “Look at Both Sides” Narrative

The media is in furor over the Israel-Palestine issue especially owing to the sudden escalation of the

situation with Israel’s airstrike on Gaza. An investigation into the current crisis will take you down a rabbit hole of a chain of events where the two countries have for decades if not centuries (depending on which religious fiction you put your bets on) have had a tussle of occupation of Jerusalem, exercise of their citizenship rights and the overall safety of the common citizens of both the regions, barring the politically motivated factions like the Hamas. With a deep understanding

that the following take on this matter will attempt to be tremendously meta, we delve into it.

There are three things that we must preface any analysis of the conflict that has captured the hearts

and headline of any self-respecting forum that aims to “inform/educate and report” on matters of

human rights, identity and morality. Firstly, the information that we are consuming and receiving at

this moment in not from an stand-alone event of violence, the relationship that these two countries

share has been a tumultuous if not from time immemorial then at least since 1881. Secondly, the

issues between these two countries are damningly complicated and reading two articles here and

there with the Wikipedia page thrown in the mix is not going to be enough to fully understand the

span of events that are part of the fabric of the problem and lastly, most of the information pieces

that we read situated themselves in the binary paradigm of “who is right and who is wrong” thus giving us a biased understanding of the problem that exists between the countries, concluding that the outcome should either have Palestine as a winner or Israel as a loser. The reason for issuing this as a preface to how I personally take on the events that have unfolded is to locate this article a bit

left of center of how the information is being processed by anybody and everybody who has a voice.

The detailed history of the conflict and the contours of the various complex inter-relations can be

found in elaboration here, here and here. An oversimplified summary is: Some Arab organization of

Palestine and Jewish organization of Israel have a fight over land which has dubious religious


Despite the complexity of the matter at hand, there are some facets of the conflict between the

countries that can be firmly identified. There are two national identities at play, Israel and Palestine.

There is an issue of disputed occupation of pieces of land and that now, finally the two countries are

openly retaliating with tools of mass destruction of both life and property. The issues between the

two countries range from occupation of Jerusalem and other religious sites, the status of the

refugees who migrated from Israel to Palestine, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian regions, the Gaza

blockade by Israel, division of water resources, agriculture related problems, an Israeli plan to evict

several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem,

to allow Jewish settlers to move in amongst many others. But the most important aspect that the

countries and the commentators fail to identify is the shared problem of both the countries: Loss of


Since the 2000, around 7,454 people both Palestinian and Israeli have been killed specially in the

political strife between the two countries. This number itself has been criticized by various agencies

as not being the actual number of casualties that have occurred between the two regions. The issues

that emerge in this conflict in one manner can be seen as an issue of identity. The historical matrix of

the region has created a lack of belonging of being living in both the regions towards their own

polity. The concept of identity is rooted in the conflicting claims of both Israel and Palestine’s claim

over the same pieces of land.

In the past the “two-state solution” was seen as the cure-all for these deeply religious and violent

claims over regions of the area. The Two-state solution would be such that it would establish

Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to

Israel. Although clear on paper neither side are ready to accept the divisions as per the plan. Thus we come to the second solution to the problem, a “one-state solution,” wherein all of the land becomes either one big Israel or one big Palestine. The latter solution has been time and time again been compared to the emancipation of South African countries as one despite having both

predominantly black and white populations and even deeper divides. The comparison although good

natured missed the core characteristic of Nelson Mandela's politics which shine through the African

National Congress's 1955 Freedom Charter didn't divide the people of South Africa to "settlers and

natives" but stood against such division by loudly declaring, "We, the People of South Africa, declare

for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and

white." The solution to the African strife was located in a sense of belongingness that the leaders

and the people found despite having long standing historical differences with each other. The goal of

the African struggles was peaceful co-existence rather than discriminatory division. It is also

important to denote that whenever there are any divisions, let it be of a cake or a country, it is

impossible to satisfy the parties that the division was equivalent. It is human tendency to think that

in any division we were given the short straw.

In the current atmosphere, I suspect that the approach towards the winning or losing of either Israel

or Palestine would be a highly mistaken stance. The sufferings are not segregated between the two

identities, Palestinians killed by Israel's airstrikes on Gaza, Palestinians fighting against dispossession

in East Jerusalem, or lynched by street mobs but also the Israeli civilians killed by Hamas's rockets

are suffering together under the weight of centuries of conflict that they personally have no part to

play in.

The “Look at both sides” narrative that insists on the calculations of the misgivings of both States in

the years of torture that they have dished to the people of both sides and all minorities especially

loses track of the fact that the thing of importance right now is not to identify the morality of the

matter or adjudicating which side has done more crimes, killed more people; but to acknowledge

that the methods that we have envisaged until now have clearly failed. To accept this would be the

first step towards formulating a framework that actually aims at establishing a dialogue between the

two States and coming to a final and lasting solution to the matter. Instead of getting caught up

within the binary narrative of EITHER Israel OR Palestine we must look towards a solution that

ensures dignity and survivorship of the very real mean, women and children living in these Zones of

War. To this end the solution of Edward Said (Jewish academician) rings true who imagined the

regions under conflict as "Two Peoples, One Land." The same stance has been taken further by

Mahmoud Darwish (Palestinian poet) "We recognize the State of Israel and the Palestinian people's

right to self-determination. This is the starting point in all that we do: This land belongs to both

peoples, and both have an equal right to exist.

It is plainly irrelevant what we thing about this matter and what we envisage as the solution because

the only State that can ensure the existence of an independent Palestine is Israel and the only states

that can ensure that the matter does not move towards a pacific solution are Israel and Palestine.

The international opinion in 2021 let it be of the countries of ordinary people like you and I cannot

bring forth a reality like Iran’s where the entire country was occupied by the forces of Russian or that

of American invasion of Afghanistan. The solution lies solely in pressurizing the conflicted regions in

addressing the matter in a co-operative way.

-By Pragya Singh

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