When violence against Jews occurs inside Israel, or on the West Bank, a consensus tends to be reached quickly by outside analysts and political leaders, one that holds that such violence represents the inevitable consequence of Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian territory. John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, said in an appearance earlier this week at Harvard that, “What’s happening is that unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody. And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years.” He went on to say, “Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement.”
(On Friday morning, speaking with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Kerry revised and extended his comments, criticizing Abbas—in a passive way — for the violence: “There's no excuse for the violence. ... And the Palestinians need to understand, and President Abbas has been committed to nonviolence. He needs to be condemning this, loudly and clearly. And he needs to not engage in some of the incitement that his voice has sometimes been heard to encourage.”)
It is sometimes difficult for policymakers such as Kerry, who has devoted so much time and energy to the search for a solution to the Israeli-Arab impasse, to acknowledge the power of a particular Palestinian narrative, one that obviates the possibility of a solution that allows Jews national and religious equality. Writing in Haaretz, the left-center political scientist Shlomo Avineri describes an important disconnect that often goes unnoticed, even in times like these: Many Palestinians believe that “this is not a conflict between two national movements but a conflict between one national movement (the Palestinian) and a colonial and imperialistic entity (Israel).” He goes on to write, “According to this view, Israel will end like all colonial phenomena—it will perish and disappear. Moreover, according to the Palestinian view, the Jews are not a nation but a religious community, and as such not entitled to national self-determination which is, after all, a universal imperative.”
Avineri, like most sensible analysts, understands the many and variegated reasons for the continued failure of the peace process:
[M]utual distrust between the two populations, internal pressures from the rejectionists on both sides, Yasser Arafat’s repeated deceptions, the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the electoral victories of Likud in Israeli elections, Palestinian terrorism, continuing Israeli settlement activities in the territories, the bloody rift between Fatah and Hamas, American presidents who did too little (George W. Bush) or too much and in a wrong way (Barack Obama), the political weakness of Mahmoud Abbas, governments headed by Netanyahu that did everything possible to undermine effective negotiations. All this is true, and everyone picks and chooses what fits their views and interests—but beyond all these lies a fundamental difference in the terms in which each side views the conflict, a difference many tend or choose to overlook.
The violence of the past two weeks, encouraged by purveyors of rumors who now have both Israeli and Palestinian blood on their hands, is rooted not in Israeli settlement policy, but in a worldview that dismisses the national and religious rights of Jews. There will not be peace between Israelis and Palestinians so long as parties on both sides of the conflict continue to deny the national and religious rights of the other.