The Western narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict often hides the brutal animosity felt by both sides, and instead portrays the Palestinians as the violent antagonists. As the story goes, Palestinian acts of terrorism provide legitimacy to Israel’s occupation of and military incursions into Palestinian territories. Palestinian rockets and mortars falling on Israeli houses are twisted into a perception that the Palestinians cannot be trusted nor diplomatically dealt with. Yet gradually, stories are being revealed by Israeli soldiers serving in the Palestinian occupation which paint a different picture. A level of brutality comparable to, if not even more atrocious than, that shown by the Palestinian terrorists is exercised by this occupying force. These soldiers’ stories reveal the true nature of this conflict: Not only are Palestinian acts of terrorism committed against Israelis, but Israeli atrocities are also committed against Palestinians.
Violence begets violence. Kidnapped Israelis lead to murdered Palestinians. Murdered Palestinians lead to Palestinian rocket attacks. Palestinian rocket attacks lead to Israeli airstrikes, and Israeli airstrikes lead to kidnapped Israelis. As with any relationship, the dynamic between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a “two-way street.” Antagonisms breed off of antagonisms, and both sides have come to feel that violence and hatred are the only methods capable of achieving their aims. However, the violence exhibited by both sides simply breeds more violence, deepens the animosity between these two peoples, and makes a peaceful resolution to the conflict seem ever more unlikely. If any peace is to come to this region, this vicious cycle of reciprocity needs to be broken.
As an internationally-recognized state, as the more powerful partner in this conflict, and as the occupier, the moral and legal responsibility to break this cycle rests on Israel. It is true, Israel has legitimate concerns and complaints about Palestinian actions. It is true, Israel has suffered equally in the violence and inhumanity that this conflict has bred. None of this is to say that Israel is the sole antagonist in the conflict; rather, both sides are. Yet Israel, being the stronger partner in this dysfunctional relationship, has the resources and the capacity to break the cycle of hatred and violence. Ultimately, the steps taken to end the conflict must begin on one side. As a country created on the express notion of protecting an oppressed people, as the country which is now occupying other people’s lands, the moral spotlight shines brightly on Israel. It is they who should take those first steps.
Peaceful solutions to the conflict exist in theory, and are as equally applicable in practice as the violent responses we see today. So long as the conditions which have produced these soldiers’ stories continue to exist, however, we should expect the conflict to continue to rage.
The stories told by Israeli soldiers, as reported by The Guardian: