Your Worst Enemy is Your Best Teacher
Tuesday 22/02/2022

by JIJ intern

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves two peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians. The two groups often have two competing narratives, two contrasting histories, two sets of terminologies and even two different maps (Ipfatid, 2021). This contributes to a zero-sum mindset in which voices on each side view the other groups’ perspective as an existential threat.

Unfortunately, the international community often takes advantage of both parties distress by sharing incomplete, inaccurate or outdated information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This usually accentuates the divide between Palestinians and Jews (Ipfatid, 2021).

In order to move past this divide, I believe that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, must find common ground between their respective narratives. Luckily, important peace-builders, such as Yossi Klein-Halevi, New York Times best-selling author of Letters to my Palestinian Neighbour, are actively working toward integrating each group’s national narrative in an effort to achieve a lasting, warm peace (Klein-Halevi, 2021).

In Klein-Halevi’s brilliant talk on YouTube titled Israeli and Palestinian Narratives, he breaks down the strengths and the weaknesses of each party’s narrative (JBS, 2015). For the Palestinians, there is the advantage of being the majority presence in Israel/Palestine prior to 19th century Zionist immigration. Meanwhile, for the Jews there is the advantage of identity: a consistent story linking the Jewish people to the land of Israel for 3,500 years.

The more the conflict between the two parties has intensified, the more each side has learned to compensate for deficits in their own story through the other group’s narrative (JBS, 2015). For instance, Zionist immigration to the Land of Israel starting in the 19th century allowed Jews to no longer be a minority within the Holy Land. Meanwhile, in the 19th century, the Palestinians did not have a distinct national identity. To compensate for this lack, Palestinians cultivated a national identity separate from the broader Arab and Muslim world (JBS, 2015).

That being said, the friction between Jewish presence in the Holy Land and a distinct Palestinian identity is often at the heart of the divide between the two parties. There are people on both sides of the conflict that declare the other group is an illegitimate, foreign interloper with no rights to live or self-determinate in this land (Behan, 2021).

Despite this sentiment, in some ways both parties have already succeeded in their national aspirations: there is now a large Jewish presence in the Land of Israel and there is also a distinct Palestinian national identity. Given that the Jews and the Palestinians, whether it was unintentionally or purposefully, learned from each other how to strengthen their own national movements, this may present a potential pathway to conflict resolution: recognizing similarities (JBS, 2015).

Bridging the gap between both parties’ national narratives may involve acknowledging the commonalities between Jewish and Palestinian aspirations. This includes recognizing the legitimacy of both peoples’ identities and recognizing the right for both peoples to live in this land (Behan, 2021).

Finally, this includes acknowledging that both sides have at times experienced the Israeli-Arab conflict as victims. Israelis often see themselves as a minority within the broader Arab and Muslim world, most of which has historically sought to destroy the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Palestinians usually perceive themselves as a marginalized population resisting a well-established country (Ipfatid, 2021). Ultimately, to move forward there must be a willingness from both Jews and Palestinians to humanize, empathize and integrate each other’s national narratives on the conflict (JBS, 2015).



Behan, Daniel (2021, March 16). Palestinians and Ashkenazi Jews: Co-Indigenous To The Same Land. Retrieved February 1, 2021, from https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ palestinians-and-ashkenazi-jews-co-indigenous-to-the-same-land/ [@ipfatid] (2021, June 2).

Why is Approaching the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict With Nuance So Difficult [infographic]. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/ipfatid/ [JBS] (2015, April 14).

Yossi Klein Halevi: Israeli and Palestinian Narratives [Video]. Youtube. YouTube.com/watch?v=_bLOfHov7IY&t=399s Klein-Halevi, Yossi (2021, November 23).

To The Students Who Walked Out on Palestinian Israeli Dialogue. Retrieved February 1, 2021, from israel.com/to-the-students-who-walkedout-on-palestinian-israeli-dialogue/?fbclid=IwAR1Ks61fQ8HhWDKnpwZ2ACVEhJ9eOxnCGfJE_mxkDUGGvvBMypUJ0KAqc




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