We've heard first hand from Arabs and Jews and Christians while journeying around Jerusalem and its neighbouring towns and settlements. And the issues here aren't just about land. More fundamentally it's about power, and the classic "fear of the other".
As the issues about land are quite well known, I thought I'd dwell on a couple of others which I've become aware of only in the last few days or months. Sat looking out over a settlement here, you can normally tell whether it's a Jewish or Palestinian one from looking at the design of the houses, with Jewish areas having many red roofs pitched in European fashion. But the real give away that you're looking at Palestinian houses by the water tanks on the (flat) roofs. This isn't for solar hot water as I'd assumed. Instead it's more fundamental than heating water; it's whether they have a water supply at all. They need to store it, as their supply is often cut off for a week or two at a time, and with no notice. More worrying for the future is that the Israeli authorities have been quietly making sure that they control ever more of the natural water resources, through taking over land containing springs, or sinking boreholes into Palestinian springs which then leaves next to supply to the established farmers on the land, leaving them without crops.
Next we heard that (at least some) Israeli troops can summarily imprison people without trial for up to 6 months. Given the majority of the Israeli Defence Force members you see are the 18-20 year-olds on military service that man checkpoints, this is particularly worrying. We also heard of one Palestinian young man who had been detained for breaking curfew, and who 26 years later, is still in prison with no idea when he will be released. This use of imprisonment sounds like it flouts the most basic of human rights.
As does the issue of free movement. As a holder of EU member passport, I needed no visa to visit as a tourist for a few weeks. And I can pass through checkpoints and visit any part of the State of Israel, particularly the famous holy sites in Jerusalem. However, we met Palestinian Arab Muslims who live just a few miles from Jerusalem, but who live the wrong side of the dividing wall, and who can't visit the mosque there. That is, unless you are over 60 (or possibly 50) when you might be able to get a permit to visit, and even then only during the day on a Friday. So I can visit, but someone who has lived in the Jerusalem area for generations can't.
All these, and others such as intermittent electricity supply, reduced levels of rubbish clearance and road repairs, very few building permits being issued, all lead to it being an ever more unpleasant place to live. No wonder large numbers of Arab youngsters with better education emigrate to find a better life overseas. We heard the same happening in the much smaller Christian communities too. No wonder year by year the percentage of ethnic Jews goes up as percentage of the whole population of Israel-Palestine.
I felt Kester Brewin gets the right metaphor for this behaviour: bullying. (Read more in his post We’ve Been Here Before: Israel and the Cycle of Bullying.) And he, as a secondary school teacher, should know a thing or two about bullying.
Peace can come in a conflicted land, but the larger the imbalance of power between the two sides -- as there clearly is here -- the less likely it is that the two sides can come to an accommodation with each other. And isn't it just like a bully to pick on a victim smaller and less powerful than himself?