Last night we had the pleasure of welcoming Ian Black, the Guardian's Middle East editor, European editor, diplomatic editor and foreign leader writer in 36 years on the paper. Last year, Black launched 'Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017’ and this was what he came to talk to us about.
Having chosen to write the book as part of the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, what, arguably, started the conflict in it’s present for, Black’s argument was that the region lacked an understanding of both sides of the narrative. It is important to remember, he seemed to argue, that Israel’s victory is Palestine’s catastrophe and this is what makes the conflict so problematic. Both narratives are authentic and, at their core, justified, even if the other side looks to dismiss them. This, he argues, is especially seen as almost a microcosm of the greater macrocosm in Jerusalem, a city which is divided and which both seem to ignore each other completely in. Looking to focus on the region itself, readers and listeners spent most of their time in Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, or close by.
Having established his view on the heart of the issue, he moved to resolving it. He touched on the international community’s typical conventional wisdom on the issue: the two state solution, and explained why he felt that this was no longer possible. The Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip has gone on too long, foreign powers have tried to involve themselves too much. The only real solution is for both sides to come to the table and recognize the other’s claims as being as justified from their own and attempting to work from there.
While his point about the book being out of date the second he sent it off the publishers was not incorrect, his even view of the situation and focus on the facts and two narratives meant that the conversation that followed with the students was a very civil, safe, one.