On the second week of September 2019, Lasallian Week reached a climax, but only one out of many that I can fondly remember from those days.
On Thursday night, my friends Danna Divinagracia and Vinz Nanas, then student Senators from the College of Arts and Sciences decided to stay on campus to watch renowned local reggae band Cali Island perform.
Joining us that evening was Danna’s cousin, former USG President Angelica D. Moreño, who worked hard to make our L-Week experience a truly enjoyable one. As the band played on, they started to belt out American Jewish rapper Matisyahu’s hit “One Day”, which we couldn’t help but sing quite loudly ourselves. Two of the stanzas of “One Day” go:
“One day this all will change, treat people the same,
Stop with the violence, down with the hate,
One day we’ll all be free, and proud to be,
Under the same sun, singing songs of freedom.
All my life I’ve been waitin’ for,
I’ve been prayin’ for, for the people to say:
That we don’t wanna fight no more,
There’ll be no more war,
And our children will play.”
There are no places in the world today where these lines for peace have felt more resonant than in the flashpoint of all Middle Eastern flashpoints, the Holy Land. About a week ago, violence broke out between Israelis and Palestinians, with each side blaming one another for starting, or dare it be said, restarting the strife.
The Israel Defense Forces responded to Hamas provocations originating from the Gaza Strip by launching airstrikes to take out their commanders and critical infrastructure. Among many other ferocious events, riots broke out in the multicultural city of Lod between Arabs and Jews.
A look back into the many decades of strife between the Jewish and Muslim peoples of the Holy Land reveal many deaths, injuries, and hurt egos found amongst all sides. The disagreements and the gulf between the factions remain so complex, in fact, that either side have valid arguments and even territorial as to their respective grievances with and historical injustices committed by their opponent. It is, I find, a cycle of madness that really ought to stop for the sake of stability and growth in the region.
A couple of years back, I mostly came down the side of the Israelis, vocalizing my support for them through social media pronouncements and visual methods. But as I began to think about the senselessness of insisting on one’s absolute point of view, I now hold the view that prolonged and acrimonious disharmony, particularly a disharmony that causes suffering, agony, and widespread death among innocents and ordinary people, proves inimical to the development and growth of nations.
What we are seeing in the Middle East and in the Holy Land currently is another instance of the combustion process arising from many deep-seated and historical variables that have served to foster a lingering animosity and separation between the Israeli and Palestinian polities. This are the fruits of identity politics playing out right before our eyes. The cycle remains oppressive, and the hopes of peace get dashed more often than not.
One of the most crucial aspects of this conflict which is overlooked sometimes has been a lack of representation and a feeling of discrimination among Israeli Arabs and minorities when contrasted with the Jewish-majority population, where living standards and other quality-of-life indicators including political representation continue to stay at a highly developed level. Concurrently, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank experience the same kind of non-inclusion, at some instances, even discrimination, within the sphere of decision-making, influence, and policy implementation of the currently-dominant and powerful Israeli state.
I do not claim to be an authority on this particular subject matter owing to the great sensitivities and nuances found in many arguments for or against this faction or another.
As to any future territorial settlement, I dare not comment unreservedly. What I will say is this: political, social, and economic inclusion, integration, and learning to accept differences in belief will come a long way in permanently alleviating the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A two-state or one-state solution is also something I will not mention here, but political reforms and diplomacy ought to be strongly considered going forward.
As to maximize its appeal to and accommodation for its minority and Arab stakeholders, the State of Israel may consider turning its system, which is even now arguably the most democratic and open in the entire Middle East, into something like Temasek on the Mediterranean, a Singapore-in-the-Levant, where widespread integration and good social relationships regardless of race, language, culture, and religion are prioritized, along with hefty minority participation per political constituency.
Any proposal to federalize, secularize, overhaul, or integrate the world’s only avowedly Jewish state will not come about easily and will be met certainly with fierce opposition from sectors who wish to protect their identity, and any future regime in the Holy Land ought to guarantee by law the right of all sectors to freely practice and sustain their beliefs free of any stigma or harassment.
The irony here lies in the possibility that in forsaking some of the most insistent aspects of identity politics, could some measure of peace be found one day?
I pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love Jerusalem shall prosper.