Discussing Israel over beer

By Chelsea Clark

The Big Rock lecture series kicked off on a positive note Wed., Oct. 6. Professor Alan Dowty, Kahanoff Chair in Israeli Studies, looked for the bright side in his presentation, “Israel and the Palestinians: The Unlikely Case for Optimism.” He briefly touched on the general background of the issue, but his main focus was to look for the good in a subject that is generally seen in a negative light.

“[I want to] find rays of hope in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said.

Both sides have been fighting over the same piece of land spanning only 60 kilometres for much of Israel’s history. Dowty summed up this conflict with a quote by David Ben-Gurion, former Israeli Prime Minister.

“We and they want the same thing: we both want Palestine,” said Gurion.

Both sides are very pessimistic in regards to finding a solution since they both believe they are the victims in this conflict. Dowty illustrated this with cartoons from both camps. Each side blames the other for the lack of peace by representing them with dead doves in hand.

A common adage is that this is an age old conflict ingrained with hate, and no solution. According to Dowty this thought is “bullshit.” He pointed out that Jews and Muslims respect each other as monotheistic religions and they have lived next to each other tolerantly in the past. He also pointed to other bloodier battles who have found peace, as inspiration for this one.

Many experts had predicted that this conflict would come to an end in 2000, but were mistaken when the intifada began.

“Fours years ago we thought that we saw a light at the end of the tunnel but then the roof fell in,” said Dowty.

Public opinion in support of a settlement had dropped for both sides when this happened. However, Dowty again looked to the positive and showed that it spiked back up with time. This would have allowed Bill Clinton to make one last ditch effort at Taba, Egypt in Jan., 2001. Yet, the two sides could not come to an agreement. They evaded peace over a three per cent territorial difference of the west bank. However, these talks may not have been for nothing.

“I suspect that on day they will look back to Taba for a point of reference,” Dowty pointed out.

Sticking with his positive theme, Dowty did not rule out the possibility that a solution in the Middle East will never happen.

“We can predict the final settlement, but we haven’t the slightest idea when it will happen,” he said. “It is up to God.”