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Israel and Palestine's game of twos

  • 22 January 2018


These are volatile days in Israel and Palestine — from Donald Trump's inflammatory statement on the state of Jerusalem, to the unjust arrest of the Nabi Saleh women, it seems every gesture, every breath, fuels tensions.

In Israel and Palestine, division is etched into land and geography — captured by the separation wall, that grey snake cutting through territory. My family lives on one side of that wall; on the other — The Other.

The night before I go to Nablus, I can't sleep. I think of the big red signs at the entrance to Palestinian territory, warning Israeli citizens not to enter, for risk of their life. My friend, who I plan on meeting there, asked me not to come visit on Thursday as he's going to Jordan that day. 'We should just meet in Jordan', I joke. 'It'll be easier for both of us'. Nablus is 30km closer to home, but the distance here isn't measured in kilometres. It's measured in time, in separation, in fear.

As the bus departs the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, I realise how binaries and paradoxes define our reality. Even this very framing — 'Palestine and Israel' — sets up any form of narrative in binary opposition: there are always 'two sides' to the conflict; the solution is of 'two states'. The separation wall slices the country into two. There is the occupier, and occupied. There are two legal systems. There is violence and non-violence, civilian and soldier, freedom fighter and terrorist — this is a game of twos.

The paradox is, of course, that there isn't truly a binary. A story lived by millions cannot have only two sides. To recognise plurality is to move away from dichotomies that merely serve to manufacture division and loyalty. The truth is, our shared reality binds us in more ways than we allow ourselves to recognise — blood, death, and hope — adding complexity to an already volatile landscape.

I identify another paradox on the bus shuttling settlers and soldiers to the West Bank settlement of Ariel — the driver is Palestinian (holding an Israeli ID).

I get off the bus at the entrance to Ariel, and walk down a road to meet the cab that will take me to Nablus — the second biggest Palestinian city in the West Bank. Nothing prepares me for the concrete jungle unfolding before us — waves of white sprawled on a