So much dialogue stalls on political sensitivity. Right now, I'm facing quite a challenge on how to walk the fine line between empathy and distance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, and, to a much lesser extent, on the illegal immigration debate. To highlight the challenge in terms of the most familiar conflict: depending on who you ask, the West Bank and Gaza are alternately known as "Occupied Territories" "Occupied Palestine" "Judea and Samaria" "the Palestinian territories" or "Palestine". Each of these "names" actually presupposes a particular legal and political history, even a certain moral ascendency. By this, I mean that each of these names represents a different account of who comprise the true native nation of that land, and who has the right (both legal and moral) to settle and govern the land.
Now, I don't say that these debates are inherently wrong, but I think they set us up for failure to: 1. get to the real issue, 2. resolve the real issue. I think the real issue at the heart of these conflicts is how to shift from seeing collective identities as essentially predicated on conflict, defined in opposition, and dependent on animosity towards another collective identity. Where an individual identifies with one particular group, he usually sees himself as NOT belonging to another group. Any attempt to resolve a conflict based on group identity can therefore become existential to a people and to individuals.
I would say a right to settle and govern a land comes with another moral obligation to do right by the land's ecology and long-term stability, and this requires a serious commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict with all parties residing on the land. And I would even go so far as to say that true peace can only be achieved if parties in a conflict stop seeing one another in terms a conflict, in terms of an essential difference, and start believing that they want the same things. This means that the two groups become partners in peace and therefore become part of one group. Political parties illustrate this point well - in the U.S., both the Republican and Democratic parties comprise wildly diverse collections of individuals. Yet political identity is one of the most defining identity categories in the U.S.
I'd like to get past the political sensitivity issue and just get to the issue that interests me most - how can we bridge these differences (rather than catering to them or perpetuating them) through sympathy, love, and compassion? How can we be compassionate to both sides of a conflict? How can we strive for a shared, humane mission?