Why many Israelis and Palestinians are chillingly indifferent to the other side’s suffering

Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip outside a morgue in Khan Younis. Credit: AP

Indifference. Many Israelis and Palestinians are chillingly indifferent to the other side’s suffering.

They both possess a sense of exclusive victimhood, when the conflict so obviously inflicts shared pain.

It’s a common blind spot that prevents anyone finding a way out of this bloody mess.

"The Perils of Indifference," was the title Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel gave to an important speech he delivered at the White House in 1999.

"Of course, indifference can be tempting - more than that, seductive.

"It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes.

"It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair."

Israelis light candles at a vigil paying tribute to the victims of the deadly Hamas attack on October 7. Credit: AP

Indifference is also a product of the extremism that prevails on both sides.

Sadly, Hamas have become the voice of the Palestinian people. Wiping out their ideology is something that not even Israel has a missile a for.

On the other side, the most right-wing government in Israel’s history is also the most strongly opposed there has ever been to a two-state solution to the conflict.

President Biden is touting a re-vitalised Palestinian Authority as his preferred option when it comes to the governance of Gaza "the day after."

Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected this as an option because to give the Palestinian Authority any sort of leg up risks destroying his coalition government.

It includes some cabinet ministers who do a good impression of being racist thugs.

Mr Netanyahu may conclude that his best option is to make sure "the day after" never comes.

He could swap full-on war for more targeted strikes that constitute a war-lite perpetuity that rumbles on deep enough into a US presidential election year for Mr Biden to forget about any solutions.

Such an outcome would also delay any sort of reckoning for Mr Netanyahu when it comes to Israel’s apportioning of blame for what happened on October 7.

I lived in Jerusalem from 2000 until 2003, and imagined that the hatred exposed by the second intifada couldn’t get any worse.

Well, today the divisions are deeper and the hatred even more acute.

When working in the Middle East it’s important to remember that no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse.

The peacemakers have never faced such strong head winds.

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