Complexity and nuance: the challenges of the Middle Eastern conflict for a diaspora Jewish artist

 

It's taken a while for me to explore this subject through work. I don't like to see myself as political, and some things just seem so politically fraught that you just want to run away from it. The Israel-Palestine conflict is the quintessential political nightmare: it's also a very real human nightmare with profoundly disturbing consequences on a day-to-day level for the lives of thousands of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. When I first starting travelling on both sides, I was struck forcefully by the surreal aspects of the occupation on the one hand, and on the other, the existential fear dominating much of Israeli society, and yet I was moved and inspired by the ordinary people I met for whom giving up on peace is not an option, and who actively demonstrate their abiding humanity in their encounters with all they meet from both sides of the conflict.

 

It's not been straightforward over the years for Jews in the diaspora to publicy ask questions about Israeli policy in the occupied territories. Yet taking an uncritical and uncompromising pro-Israel line does not serve the peace process in the long term because it fundamentally fails to encourage understanding of the Unknown Other: their neighbours and fellow citizen Palestinians. Peace movements within Israel and Palestine (too often overlooked by an inrentaional and domestic media intent on polarising the conflict) have long recognised this. 

 

There is at last though now a growing acknowledgment at grass roots level within the diaspora that for enduring peace and end to the conflict, there needs to be dialogue between both sides and that violence solves nothing. Increasingly, it's accepted there's a need for active moves to encourage reconciliation and getting to know the Unknown Other and to understand the Unknown Other's historical narrative and long-standing fears and needs.

 

Time though is running out. Increasingly, attempts to meet and sustain dialogue may be challenged as undesirable 'normalisation' of an abnormal and fraught day-to-day existence under occupation. People engaged in dialogue efforts remain undaunted. 

 

I don't know what, if any, difference my work can make. All I know is that I'm impelled to speak out in support of all reconciliation and dialogue efforts, and one expression of my voice is my work.

© 2017 Gillian Holding