Roots of Conflict Examined

Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), an on-campus organization established in 2007 in response to tension on campus involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hosted a lecture by Dr. Scott Bollens on Wednesday, Feb. 12 to discuss the reasons why the conflict persists and the true roots for the nationalist and religious divisions.

Sanne Bergh | New University

Sanne Bergh | New University

According to the lecture, Jerusalem, being at the “center of the universe,” is a platform for violence, separation and exclusion. As a Palestinian sympathizer, he told students that one of the primary reasons why the conflict might have gone from bad to worse was due to a type of malicious urban planning facilitated in Israel’s favor.

The city is 62 percent Jewish, 35 percent Muslim, and about 2-3 percent Christian. With the Israeli Jewish population being the majority, Israelis held most of the power in urban planning policy. This allows them to plan according to ethnic and religious groups, which has separated residential developments based on certain groups of people. According to Bollens, the Israelis developed a strong presence and strategized residential growth and road placement.

Bollens discussed how housing development was organized in a way that would favor Israeli Jews. Major roads would be built through Palestinian neighborhoods, limiting development in areas where Palestinian populations were high. While the Israeli neighborhoods thrived, the Palestinian neighborhoods suffered as development was highly regulated and restricted.

According to Bollens, the issue at hand involves the majority with power versus the minority without. The Palestinians have suffered political and economic corruption and a slew of other issues that have kept them from thriving. The issue is not only religious but geographical and political. Being shunned to the outside of the borders of Jerusalem, Palestinians are shunned and kept from their holy city, Bollens explained.

Before the wall was put up dividing the Palestinians and Israelis, there were 132 attacks on Jerusalem killing about 502 people. Between 2005 and 2011, after the construction of the wall, there have been about 18 attacks killing only 59. The speaker explained that this might justify the construction of the wall, but it also excludes about 50,000 Palestinians from being able to enter their holy city of Jerusalem. He argued the reasons for the attacks are due to relative deprecation, a psychological term that refers to an individual or group that sees others with something better, but does not understand why they do not have the same. Bollens believed this deprecation was a trigger point for conflict and hostility.

He said that the construction of the wall is a symbol of the two parties never getting along and accepting their fate as enemies — it represents a sign that it will not get better anytime soon. Technically, constructing a wall on one’s own international lands to keep others out is not illegal. He said if the political situation in Palestine could be improved, it would be different. As it is now, it is a “decapitated state,” and that strong disagreements will continue to slow economic growth, which equates to a poor quality of living.

Bollens counted himself as a skeptic, but the conflict is currently being negotiated.