The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be solved if both parties take responsibility for the mistakes of the past. This is the message French author Sylvain Cypel delivered to a room of about 50 students and faculty members at the Politics Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Cypel has been Editor in chief of Paris’s famed newspaper Le Monde since 1998, and spent time in the West Bank during his first few years at the newspaper.
According to Cypel, the denial of responsibility is hindering the Middle East peace process.
Cypel recounted stories of his experiences in Israel as a young journalist, which is the subject of his new book.
Though all his stories differed in content, they all had a common theme – the truths of the Israeli and Palestinian people are conflicting.
“I believe the main problem is the inability of each side to deal with the myths of the other,” Cypel said, referring to the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives of how the conflict began.
To better illustrate this point, Cypel likened the conflict to a divorce. “In a divorce,” he said, “at first you place all the blame on the other person. Over time, you learn to accept some responsibility for what has happened. But when a new issue arises that causes conflict, you come back to a position where the other side is responsible for everything.”
According to Cypel, the Israelis and the Palestinians act similarly in their reaction to the conflict.
“In a time of war, people want to feel like they are right, always right,” he said. “But, in a peace process people can look at themselves and deal with the past and what was done.”
Students found Cypel’s remarks interesting and informative.
“It was very insightful,” Chris McDougal, sophomore business major, said.
Lisa Bernice, freshman deaf and hard of hearing/elementary education history major agreed. “The speech clarified each side’s position from back in the 1940s, and the involvement of the U.N.,” she said.
The forum also provided students with a perspective different from what is usually taught in American schools.
“I feel that the United States denies the rights of Palestinians in support of Israel,” Bernice said. “Because of this, most people in the United States who back Israel don’t see both perspectives or the historical side of the issue.”
When asked about an eventual end to the conflict, Cypel said something must change if a peace agreement is to ever develop between Israel and Palestine. “If one side is not willing from the beginning of negotiations to accept some responsibility, it is very difficult to negotiate,” he said.
“The real issue,” Cypel added, “is the way the Israelis see the Palestinians, the way the Palestinians see the Israelis, and the way both sides see themselves. These ideas are important to understanding the relationship between these two different groups.”