Commentary | Hyde Park: Shalom, Habibi!

How to fix the Middle East crisis in two words

Throughout the past few weeks, I have opened The Daily to be greeted by a wide variety of commentary regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Every week, the debate rages back and forth; some writers emphasize a more pro-Israeli perspective, others take on a decidedly pro-Palestinian tone. No column solves the problem, but many provide ammunition for the next week’s series of letters and commentary.

When discussing the conflict, if you call the situation in Israel “apartheid,” you can be sure someone will pounce on your back. Likewise, if you start talking about the “right of Israel to exist,” there’s no doubt in my mind that someone will note disproportionate civilian deaths in Gaza. And if you bring up the Palestinian women and children who have died as a result of recent Israeli military action, rest assured that others will reference Hamas’s shady history of using human shields. How did we get here?

For Israelis and Israel supporters, it may be a helpful to imagine living in Gaza: the poverty would likely overwhelm, the overcrowding nauseate, and the endless security checkpoints add insult to injury. Meanwhile, Palestinians and their sympathizers must understand how isolated the Israelis are. The nation has no real friends except for the U.S. – and it can be debated whether America’s staunch defense of Israel is heartfelt. Naturally, such an environment will breed Palestinians who feel insulted and oppressed by their neighbours and Israelis that compensate for their insecurities by holding overly aggressive attitudes.

Remember, defending one side in one instance and the other in another does not make you a hypocrite. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not a moral tennis match to see who has wronged more often, but a complicated clash stemming from a wide range of factors including Zionism, Anti-Arabism and Anti-Semitism, resource abundance, the military-industrial complex, and, let’s not forget, history. Though we can google our way to forming any argument our heart desires – and we do ––the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict is probably more intricate than anything a jumble of one-sided facts can tell us.

Yet there is no need for despair. The human desire for peace is a timeless one, a desire stronger than any government policy that has ever existed. People everywhere must establish that peace in the Middle East is not a luxury, but a necessity. Then all other progress will follow.

After all, the fates of Israel and Palestinian territories are inexorably intertwined. What Palestinians need more urgently than even food or doctors is long-term peace. What Israel needs more than its highly advanced weapons is, again, peace.

In conclusion, I have a suggestion. Maybe it’s a little cheesy, but if Barack Obama can cruise into the White House with “Yes We Can,” then I’ll take my shot at forging peace in the Middle East with my own slogan.

In Hebrew, the word for peace, shalom, serves as a greeting. In Arabic, habibi is an affectionate colloquial term meaning something along the lines of “my dear.” Let’s put an end to the charged rhetoric on both sides and christen a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations by welcoming one another and saying, “Shalom, Habibi.” It’s a step.

Jeff Bishku-Aykul is a U1 History student and long-time news writer, first time commentator. Send solutions to the conflict to