A friend of mine from high school moved to Israel many years ago and married, had five children and spent his life as a professor at a university in Jerusalem. I asked him once to explain the Israel/Palestine conflict in a succinct way. He told me that it was impossible to do that. He did say that he had one child who built a house on the West Bank and he had refused to help pay for it. That was the extent of what clarity he could share with me.
I appreciated his candor when I read the book pictured above Can We Talk About Israel by Daniel Sokatch published in October of this year. He walks the reader through the whole history of the nation of Israel, the decisions that allowed its creation, the people who already lived there who weren’t consulted and the inevitable discord that has existed since then.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, promised to “solve” the conflict maintaining that it was “really just a real estate issue.” I knew at the time that his intervention was absurd, but the book clarifies just how much worse his involvement made the region, particularly promoting moving the American embassy.
Sokatch’s careful walk through all the Prime Ministers in Israel’s history was very clarifying. He is able to go beyond the “right wing” “left wing” labels so often used in the American press. I was able to see how radically differently the government at any one time attempted to work with or work against the Palestinians.
The book is easy to read, humorously illustrated and just detailed enough to allow any one of us to admit we know much less about Israel and Palestine than we thought we did. I welcomed the humbling and thought back to my friend’s true answer to my request for a simple explanation: “it is impossible to do that.”