The politics of fear has been something that has been constantly present within the Middle East and rarely does the politics of bridge building get a chance whether it is through the press that hungrily looks for the ‘negative angle’ or whether it is through politicians who want to keep the status quo in place.
It is this politics of fear that has played a role within the Middle East for centuries and whilst there is a legitimate basis for many of the historical crises, the ingrained response of fear now shapes the language, discourse, outlook and character of governments in the area. Some of the Arab Governments blame the militarism of Israel whilst Israel blames Arab states for the military positions that it takes. The politics of fear within this complex relationship merely feeds off each party, like a bad marriage where each partner cannot really do without each other, yet where there is some twisted comfort.
Like any bad marriage, (for it is a marriage of neighbours based on history, geographical location and resources), there are a few routes to take. These routes may involve complete separation. It may involve mediation towards separation or it could include the continuation of a relationship based on some guidelines and frameworks; a kind of learning process where each partner learns to take a step back and think of the implications before acting, thereby creating a cessation in the cycle of abuse.
For those on all sides who have lost loved ones, rationalism and bridge building are far from the mindsets of relatives. Anger, pain and depression beset many and there are many in Gaza and the West Bank who undergo these emotions. Then there are those within Sderot, Jerusalem and other towns who grieve, who feel the same elements of grief and pain. These people who grieve cannot be asked to look at the future. They alone know their grief and they alone know the loneliness of placing their loved ones into the earth. The graveyards of Gaza are full with the early bounty of the dead and those within the West Bank, Sderot, Jerusalem and other towns and cities slowly take up the dead, cut short in their lives. Yet there are those groups like Combatants for Peace who through grief have learnt that there is another way than the gun and an alternative to the politics of fear.
The history and the dialogues of each community in the Middle East, of Arabs and Jews, or Muslims, Christians and Jews will always be seen through lenses that look upon the same events at different angles. Mix that differentiation with the politics of fear and the future looks bleak. There is therefore only one way forward. A route emancipated from fear is the only way to respect the futures of all communities in the region. The politics of fear is not the domain of one community and politicians and spin doctors have seen the vast potential of it within the region. The public relations battles continue, waged with ferocity and where ultimately the truth suffers.
My wish is simple. That we do not get caught up in accepting fear since it is something that feels familiar in discussions around the Middle East. The best decisions are free of fear, free of pressure and internalised reactions. In the end, you and I have a duty to each other, a bond of common protection and a respect for basic human rights. That being the case, we owe it to ourselves to liberate our thoughts so that a genuine peace based on mutual respect and acceptance can take place. Without that, we are part of the cycle of hopelessness and despair which hang around discussions on peace within the Middle East and between Israel and Palestine.