Being a moderate in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is much like being a husband who is asked the frightening question by his wife: “Honey … how do I look?”
The extremist will lie and tell the wife what she wants to hear. “You look lovely.”
The moderate is the foolish husband who thinks his wife really wants to hear the truth.
Being a moderate is a dangerous profession in everyday life. But it is particularly dangerous in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which consumes our attentions every day.
Moderates stand in the middle and criticize both sides. Extremists, on the other hand, have it easy. They criticize only one.
What makes matters worse, of course, is that Palestinians and Israelis are both very emotional people. And with the emotional throttle always pushed to full power, it’s hard to believe they are anything but extremists.
You have to be in order to make a sound like “khaaa” when you talk. Neither Arabic nor Hebrew are really languages. They are just slow melodic songs. You don’t speak either language. You basically sing them.
Emotion drives normal human beings to over-react. In the Palestine-Israeli conflict, emotion drives people to the point of insanity.
How else do you explain suicide bombers? The use of terms like “extra-judicial killings,” policies like “collective punishment,” or “land confiscation?”
Emotions at play
They don’t make sense. Suicide means taking one’s own life, not murdering others. Extra judicial means “illegal.” Collective punishment means “oppression.”
Moderates are tasked with that very challenge, making sense out of the senseless, even when the emotion-driven masses see senselessness as sense.
Extremists have human nature on their side, too. Moderates oftentimes find themselves arguing all alone. People who are happy never speak up. Only those that are upset call radio talk shows, write emails or scream at protests.
One of the most human of all human natures is to be emotional, and extremists know how to exploit it. How can any human being, Palestinian or Israeli, not get emotional when they see one of their own suffer or be killed, or their possessions stolen?
While moderates avoid assessing blame, extremists are masters at the blame game. Both sides also often complain about the use of the word “extremist.” Extremely.
Neither side likes it. And worse, when you have two very intelligent people like Palestinians and Israelis arguing over such issues, you find that the battle also encompasses the very use of words themselves.
Some obvious examples include: Extremist versus moderate. Terrorist versus freedom fighter.
Occupied versus disputed.
In the “Wall” versus the “Fence” debate, for example, the moderate will always say “barrier,” which only tends to make everyone angry.
Palestinians must condemn suicide bombings
It’s the moderate’s job to come up with terms of compromise that neither side will like.
Moderation, by default, requires one to employ “the art of compromise,” to recognize something that the other side might be doing right.
What the moderate sees as making a concession in compromise, the extremist complains is an act of surrender.
You can begin to see that extremism is illogical by nature. But all that means is that in order to be an extremist, you don’t need any logic, which is also an all too common human trait.
Palestinians and Israelis also always speak about the need for peace. Extremists create different meanings for peace, which is what keeps both sides from coming together.
As a moderate, I recognize that Palestinians and Israelis both have things they must do that are unequal and different.
Palestinians must end their violent resistance and recognize Israel. They must condemn suicide bombings and accept Israel as a Jewish State. It also means that they must accept that while the Palestinian Right of Return may be a legal and a just demand, the reality of peace based on two-states makes their return improbable.
Israelis must recognize that in order to achieve a genuine peace, they must be ready to make real concessions and return the land it occupied in 1967, including dismantling all of the illegal settlements and accepting a shared Jerusalem.
Of course, these are just moderate views. But that’s why some might call me an extremist.