Occupation is a dirty word. That is why it makes extremists happy. Like all obscenities, it distorts more than it describes. It inflames more than it informs. It obscures much more than it illuminates. And like all true obscenities, it poisons those who employ it as much as its intended targets.
The poison that is occupation is in all of us. It is everywhere around us, even for those of us who cannot see it. If you live here, it's inside of you, even if you can't feel it, or don't realize you're feeling it.
Can you learn to live with it? Not really. Because it poisons all of our lives. No antidote has tested safe. There is no cure. Only the extremist can live with it. In fact, the extremists on both sides positively thrive on the concept and its fallout, its mindset, its bloodshed. Occupation gives extremists on both sides their reason for being, their sense of empowerment, of superiority of intellect, of divine right, of knowing what the rabble do not, of feeling what the masses cannot.
It is the poison of occupation that pumps extremists full of themselves. It is the poison that puts that gleaming, terrifying smile on their faces. It is the poison that fuels their passion for the messianic, their belief in messianism as realism, their sense of being able to make perfect, symmetric, rational sense of a horrific world. It is the poison of occupation that kills any proposed solution to the conflict that threatens us all. Only the extremist is not threatened. The extremist will tell you he loves this place like no other. Believe him. For the extremist, a Holy Land in perpetual strife is heaven on earth.
By his actions, by his beliefs, the extremist will make certain there is no antidote for the poison of occupation, no cure for what ails us. On either side. Why should he? He already has what he wants.
Hamas is on its throne, and is not about to budge. No compromise, no recognition of Israel, not even if that would alleviate the suffering of the needy, not even if it would mean an eventual solution we could all live with. No flexibility over the right of return, even if that would mean never having a Palestinian state at all. Not even if it means Palestinians could have a modicum of well-being, and their children could have a future.
The radical settlers are on their land, and they're not about to budge. No compromise, no recognition of the Palestinians. Not even if that would mean the settlement blocs endorsed by our American ally could be part of a solution, internationally recognized as sovereign parts of the permanent borders of an internationally recognized state of Israel. Not even if that would mean we could have a modicum of well-being, and our children could have a future.
Why? Both sides will tell you: We can't let them have any more. They already have taken much too much by force. We've given up much too much. They're already occupying vast swaths of land that is rightfully ours. If we don't resist them, they'll want more. If we don't resist them by force, they'll take more by force.
They want it all. If we let them, they'll take it all. At this point, in our poisoned state, the moderates on both sides can barely bring themselves to function.
Envy the extremist. Envy him his freedom from ambiguity, his immunity from ambivalence. Only the extremist knows exactly why there is no moral equivalency between the sides, and that only his side is in the right. Only he knows what the world does not, what the world refuses to see. Only the extremist knows what many on his own side refuse to see, either because they lack his vision, or they lack his loyalty. Only he knows who's at fault for all our ills: the other side. Only the extremist knows who started all this suffering, who's entirely to blame, who are the transgressors, why they're the real villains.
What is this drug that allows them to thrive while the rest of us stew in the misery their actions and beliefs cause us? It is the drug that is compounded of old dreams. Dreams, rivers and mountains and bottomless reservoirs of dreams are the cultural birthright of our peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians both.
In the past, our dreams were all we could truly rely on as possessions. Little wonder that we cannot bring ourselves to part from them. It will take radical action to do so. It will take radical action on the part of people unaccustomed to viewing themselves as radicals. It will take a willingness to take the most radical step that anyone who loves and lives in this Holy Land of ours can take: To see the person on the other side not as the Other Side, but as a person.
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