The other night I had a tiny little insight into how difficult the Middle East peace process must be when I had the following exchange with a friend in the car on the way to dinner. I’m paraphrasing, which should not in any way obscure the fact that I’m right and he’s wrong.
Me: I went to listen to [Egyptian writers] Ahdaf Soueif and Radwa Ashour speak about their books at the Habitat Centre the other day. Have you read Soueif’s Mezzaterra? It’s a collection of her journalism, which is largely focussed on Palestine and the Arab world. It’s not particularly non-partisan, but it’s got some interesting reporting.
Him: I have no wish to read another whining account of the poor Palestinians’ plight.
Me: Did you say whining?
Him: Israel has every right to defend themselves against those Hamas lunatics and their rockets. I’d like to see a little more media space given to their version of events.
Me: More media space to the oppressed, muzzled Jewish state? You must be joking. Besides, nobody is claiming that this book will change your mind, just that it’s interesting reading. And, by the way, the Palestinians are oppressed.
Him: The world is always willing to say that, but very few people will look at the other side of things. Israel can be a little rough, but there aren’t that many fatalities.
Me: That’s right. They considerately keep the Palestinians alive in a state of humiliation, intimidation, and dispossession.
Him: The Palestinians had a perfectly legitimate cause but they lost my respect when they elected Hamas, which won’t even recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Me: They’re willing to talk, plus, how about Palestine’s right to exist? Is it remotely possible, do you think, that Palestinians felt that Hamas was the only option left to them?
Him: You aren’t even open to the possibility that Israel may have a point. All you leftist liberal morons just grow up with one unchallenged point of view. You probably had the same view twenty years ago.
Me: Is it possible, you imbecile, that large parts of the world might sympathise with the Palestinians because they have considered the situation and reached that conclusion, rather than because they were force-fed that view along with their mother’s milk?
Him: You’re bone-headedly bringing up this book as if it’s going to change my mind. At the end of the day, it’s a belief gap.
Me: I have no interest in influencing your bird brain in any way. It just happens to be a good book. If you don’t want to read it, don’t. No skin off my nose.
Him: Oh the poor oppressed Palestinians! They have eighteen checkpoints!
Me: Oh the poor insecure Israelis! They’re armed to the teeth with the world’s superpower at their back!
Him: Okay, we can’t talk about this.
Me: No, because you’re not willing to listen.
Him: You’re the one who won’t listen because you’re too busy parroting the leftist view.
Me: All right, let’s not talk about this. I can’t bear it.
And we actually like to talk to each other.