Sunday, April 08, 2018

Why Israel?

Yesterday, my mother told me in no uncertain terms that travelling to Israel “seems irresponsible unless one is forced to do it”. Already when I booked the tickets four months ago, I knew that going to Tel Aviv would not go down well with some people around me.

When I think of why I travel in the first place, it is to somehow demythologize fear of the unknown. In the very long run, it is about being part of the transition to a world where the “foreign” ceases to exist and we realize that each human being has a range of different (and often conflicting) identities and affiliations. This is not the same as turning the planet into a cinnamon bun. Just as Sweden, Denmark and Norway remain highly distinct societies in cultural terms, I imagine a global future where we can have a plurality of lifeworlds even as the notion of war is seen as completely ridiculous and anachronistic (remember that armed conflicts between the countries of Scandinavia were commonplace for many centuries).

Still, I get that Israel has a particularly complex and contradictory history. On a personal level, I do not even believe in the desirability of the cherished two-state solution. In the same way that the Dayton Agreement was an unsustainable answer to ethnic strife in Bosnia, I think that we must first realize that homogeneity itself is illusive and rather build new institutions that can transcend existing categories. Having said that, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is probably one of the most intractable conflicts on the whole planet so it seems better for politicians to focus their energy elsewhere.

So, why am I going? Like with Russia, I very much believe that more contact is better than less. Boycotts and moral absolutism only worsen polarization and monolithic thinking. As a teacher of international relations, I am willing to accept the shallow nature of any tourist trip as I have found that actually having been to countries is invaluable.

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