The Jacob Perlow Event Series: “The Long Struggle for Israel-Palestine”
On Thursday Oct. 2, Jeremey Pressman, a guest lecturer from University of Connecticut, spoke on the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, in an attempt to be objective, he failed to deliver a new perspective on the topic.
Pressman started the lecture talking about the historical narrative in which Israel is conceived, giving an overview of the opposing sides of the conflict and how they have evolved over time. However, he spent the majority of the time discussing variants of the one-state and the two-state solution, focusing on the pros and cons of each.
While both solutions are equally complicated, the most interesting part of the lecture was the use of different maps of Jerusalem to illustrate the complication of the so called “two-state solution.” Often when discussing the conflict, many ignore the physical complications of land and population. There are certain consequences for two classes of people living side by side. In order for the two-state solution to work, Jerusalem must be split into eastern and western parts. How is that realistic concerning the lack of borders between both of the populations that are equally spread out across the city? The two-state solution assumes that these two populations can be separated in a convenient way while in reality this is far from achievable.
While the lecture had interesting elements such as discussing the perplexities created by geography, the lecture itself was not intriguing. In fact, it was heavily facts-based to the point that it felt more like an information session than a talk. Pressman maintained neutrality in order to speak about the conflict “objectively,” but his inability to endorse a solution made his remarks rather bland. In addition, the lecture heavily discussed the political aspects of the issue while ignoring other important factors, such as economics. He did not touch on this issue until asked by an audience member. The Israeli economy heavily depends on cheap Palestinian labor, and the relationship between labor and goods is key to further understanding the conflict.
There is also the cultural aspect of the issue. Both populations have a distinct sense of national identity: Zionism and Palestinian National Liberation Movement. Nationalism directly affects both the one-state and two-state solutions. If the one-state solution were to be implemented, it could increase equality for Palestinians, but it would also reshape the identity of Israel. Zionism plays a key role in hindering this vision because some Israeli Jews might not agree with the idea of reshaping Israel’s identity.
The lack of discussion of these key elements, which shape the Israel-Palestine conflict, made the premise of the talk rather narrow and ordinary.