‘Me’ or ‘Him’ –
Thus begins the war.
But it Ends with an awkward encounter:
‘Me and him.’
Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet, ‘State of Siege’, translated by Fady Joudah, 2002
‘Who are the good guys? That’s what every well-meaning European, left-wing European, intellectual European, liberal European always wants to know, first and foremost. Who are the good guys in the film and who are the bad guys? In this respect Vietnam was easy: The Vietnamese people were the victims, and the Americans were the bad guys…
‘The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a Wild West movie. It is not a struggle between good and evil, rather it is a tragedy in the ancient and most precise sense of the word: a clash between right and right, a clash between one very powerful, deep, and convincing claim, and another very different but no less convincing, no less powerful, no less humane claim.’
Amos Oz, Israeli novelist, ‘How to Cure a Fanatic’
At UJIA we endeavour to educate towards a critical engagement with the multiple narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. We view this as a core part of our vision of UK Jewish community filled with informed, confident Jews who are inspired by Israel. As a Jewish organisation we spend our time heavily invested in supporting young people to develop their Jewish identities, understanding of Zionism and connection to the Land and State of Israel. We stand fundamentally in solidarity with Jewish people in Israel and pray for peace.
A narrative is a story a people tells about itself. It is an interpretative framework that allows that people to understand, construct and negotiate reality, by de/contesting core questions, ideas, conflicts. Narratives are ubiquitous, unavoidable, and not the same thing as biases! Narratives are at the core of ideology and are fundamentally about: History, identity, culture, memory, sociology, psychology, self-image, and self-projection, and meaning.
As educators we believe it is important to welcome a range of perspectives into any conversation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although many of our students and young people may have a clear answer about who is right and who is wrong, there may also be various perspectives in the room. Let us make sure all of our students feel comfortable asking questions, and that we explore the more difficult areas with them. As educators, youth workers and parents we must resist the temptation to prove that we are “right.” Some students might be most alarmed by the rare, albeit real, Jewish violence in the streets of Israel; some students might have cousins or friends in the IDF; some students might really want to support Israel, and also be alarmed by painful images of young Palestinians in Gaza who were injured or killed. There are a range of narratives that young people might see themselves a part of and engage with at times like this.
(See 9 other tips on discussing the current situation here)
The sources included below are a range of voices and perspectives to help you and your students wrestle with narratives – their own and other peoples. The resources below come from a range of political perspectives – right, left and centre and represent a broad gamut of conversation and debate within Israel and Diaspora communities. We know that we haven’t included everything we possibly could, we may also be missing voices that you or your students find important.
This resource is offered with no expectation that this should be the resource. Please read widely and from sources with a range of experiences and expertise. Above all aim for an approach that is nuanced, multi-vocal and come to your own conclusions
Additionally, we feel it is important to emphasise that, as a Diaspora Jewish organisation, rooted in a deep commitment to Zionism, we have chosen to include below a range of voices and perspectives specifically from Palestinians. We believe that engaging with these voices and perspectives is not only important to inform and develop our own narratives and beliefs, but also as a method for building empathy and reaching out across the social divisions between Jews and Palestinians.
The voices and perspectives below are offered with no specific endorsement of their viewpoints or opinions expressed.