The situation in Gaza and the West Bank seems insurmountable. Peace is fleeting. War is almost constant. Thousands continue to die in a dispute that has, on and off, persisted for decades. Neither of the factions are prepared to even acknowledge that the other has the right to exist, at all, let alone in the region. That starting point is more than a little troubling.
Many suggestions appeal to our human nature, to attempt to find common ground. Commonality should, in theory, allow rivals to be more accepting of their neighbours.
In a region where suicide bombings are commonplace, perhaps this approach is wrong. The self is evidently not paramount to their mindset.
In our sadly divided world, bitter rivals adhere to David Merrick’s maxim , ‘It is not enough that I should succeed, my enemies should fail.’
However, such definitive outcomes are not always possible. At times the best hope is for one outcome or the other, not both.
It is my contention that this desire to see your enemy’s downfall actually outweighs the desire for self vindication.
While it is a complex issue with many contributing factors, it would be naive to deny the role of religion in this dispute. It goes to the very core of the dispute.
With that in mind, perhaps we can illuminate the problem with an example from our own state sponsored religion: football.
Do you really care if your team loses when you know Collingwood has just lost by 10 goals to a cellar-dweller and is likely to miss the finals?
Of course not.
The vindictive attitudes of the religious extend far beyond the rational concern for their own welfare. When pressed it is preferable to see our enemies lose than to see ourselves win.
Thus, the aim is not to find common ground which validates or unites both sides, but rather to highlight where both are wrong. It is one group’s established conviction is that their opponent is wrong and they know this to be true even in the absence of evidence. Evidence which confirms this preconception will be readily accepted. And if that very same evidence happens to conflict with their own world view, they will then be more receptive to conceding their own errors. Then progress can begin.
And for that I have two words: bacon festival.
Both Jews and Muslims share the delusion that we should not eat the tastiest food on the planet. Imagine parades in the street, vendors with bacon sandwiches, roast pork with crackling, so many variants of sausages and salamis. Soon they will see their scriptures, which provide the foundations of their differences, cannot be trusted. From there all kinds of progress becomes possible. We can win this war.