It feels as if we’re teetering between universalist worldviews that recognize our common humanity and tribal worldviews in which others are just animals to be annihilated. What Israel does next will influence what worldview prevails in the 21st century.
The third conceptual paradigm under threat is the one I have generally used to organize how I see the Middle East conflict — the two-state paradigm. This paradigm is based on the notion that this conflict will end when there are two states with two peoples living side by side. People like me see events in the Middle East as tactical moves each side is taking to secure the best eventual outcome for themselves.After this month’s events, several assumptions underlying this worldview seem shaky: that most people on each side will eventually come to accept the legitimacy of the other’s existence; that Palestinian leaders would rather devote their budgets to economic development than perpetual genocidal holy war; that the cause of peace is advanced when Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories; that Hamas can be contained until a negotiated settlement is achieved; that extremists on both sides will eventually be marginalized so that peacemakers can do their work.Those of us who see the conflict through this two-state framing may be relying on lenses that distort our vision, so we see the sort of Middle East that existed two decades ago, not the one that exists today.