Even more than I love conflict, I love conflict resolution.
Over on slate.com, Jeffrey Goldberg and Shmuel Rosner discuss Goldberg’s recent book, Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide, framed as a series of letters. (Although slightly contrived, I find that Slate’s format of “entries” allows each party to fully express his or her view and the other party to respond in detail to each nuance of the argument, raising the level of dialogue and increasing the chances of an actual, thought-provoking discussion, instead of the devolution into rhetoric and ad hominem attacks that these exchanges often engender.) The question at the heart of this discussion is the most basic question of reconciliation: is it possible? Goldberg extrapolates from his relationship with Rafiq, a Palestinian who was once a prisoner under Goldberg’s guard, that reconciliation is possible. Rosner is (respectfully) less optimistic about its potential in the present (although he reserves judgment on its future). Rosner raises two basic problems with Goldberg’s optimism:
First, the conflict is not personal, it is national, and we need to make sure there's enough support for the details of a possible peace agreement, rather than the general idea of peace, before it can really materialize. That's one thing you know in theory but sometimes forget as you sit and talk to Rafiq.
Second, I do sort of connect to your being "the naive American," as you put it. It's important to recognize that not every problem has a solution; that not every solution is available at the time of our choosing; and that some things can't be solved, not even by well-trained American lawyers and diplomats ready to make a deal. I think this is something that is very hard for hopelessly optimistic Americans to accept, because it contradicts one of the more entrenched strengths of your society.
So is an imperfect solution feasible? Let’s look into academia (you knew I was going to go there) for a possible solution. Natasha Gill, a professor at the
On a lighter note, several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Sarah Silverman perform at the Comedy Cellar, who noted that the difference between Israelis and Palestinians was like the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. Rolling Stone recorded her comment for posterity:
"I love how Palestinians and Jews hate each other… It's so cute. Honestly, what's the difference? They're brown. They have an odor. It's like sweet potatoes hating yams. It's like how coyotes eat dogs -- they are dogs! And they eat them. There's no joke there, but it's a good point. It's like how birds eat eggs. You can't blame them, because eggs are awesome, but they're all -- " she pantomimes eating an egg -- "'Yum, mmm, this came out of my pussy.'"
I laughed so hard that I almost cracked a rib. And I was the only one laughing. Was I the only one to get the joke or is the subject so painful that not even Sarah Silverman can make it funny?