Monday, February 2, 2009

Reframing the Israeli- Arab conflict

When I read the news of the events in our region, I note that it is very easy to get carried away in the existential meaning of every occurrence. Every battle, attack, or diplomatic episode is seen as fateful, a victory or a loss, and in some way tipping the balance in favor of a resolution in some direction. At a psychological level, we all experience a gap between reality and what we wish would be. So we look for signs of that gap narrowing or widening, which in turn affects our anxieties. Yet we know that this conflict has been going on for almost 100 years, and it may go on for 100 more. Although this may be a painful reality, it is reality nonetheless. So not every blip on the screen has that much meaning in the scheme of things.

It is interesting to think about how insignificant this conflict would seem to the rest of the world, had it not been involving Jew and Arab. Arab- because he has oil. Without oil, the west wouldn't give a shit about what goes on here, and the Arabs would have zero influence. The Jew- because he is a Jew. The story of the Jewish people, from the Bible through the holocaust and creation of Israel, fascinates the Christian gentile world. The Bible is their narrative, too. They are intertwined with it, for good and bad. Note that for the Far East, Israel carries much less interest. The Jews are not part of their story, so they don't really care one way or another.

So every little event here is seen in cataclysmic terms.

But really, the earth couldn't care less. And evidently neither does god, who is claimed by both sides as their guide and inspiration.