Given the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, virtually everyone I bump into feels obliged to say something to me about it. They either ask for my opinion as their official representative of anything Israeli (as far as they're aware), or they start telling me how bad the Arabs are and that Israel should really bash them.
There is the notable absence of people putting themselves on the Arab side and trying to contest me, probably because most Aussies are too polite to start an argument or because most Aussies are afraid of what the image of the armed Arab represents.
When I these people what my opinions on this conflict are, i.e., that Israel is far from pure and that both sides should seek a brain implant, they're quite surprised; how come the official ambassador of Israel utter such anti Israeli comments?
As I have explained in the past, I'm rather shy when it comes to mentioning my Israeli origins, and the above sort of explains why: When people think of an Israeli they tend to think of someone whose world views are manifested by the policies of the Israeli government and of someone who kicks Arab ass for breakfast. That is not the case with me; I have a lot to say against Israel's policy, I do not consider myself Jewish, and I have nothing against Arabs. I'm a weirdo Israeli: In my opinion, I do a better service to Israel (and to humanity in general, for that matter) through criticizing it rather than take the word of its very selfish leaders for what its worth.
For the record, though, I will state what I think of the current hostilities around Gaza.
To understand the conflict one has to look at its historical roots. Both sides have been wronged and both sides have a good reason to be hostile to one another: The Arabs didn't really like the concept of two states sharing the land which the UN chose to implement back in 1947; as a result they fought to wipe the Jewish side of things out. The Israelis, on their part, decided that their country would be much nicer without that many Arabs around, so they just kicked them out in order to ensure a Jewish majority for their democracy. A lot of those that were kicked out (or their descendants) are now living in very horrific conditions at the Gaza Strip, and one cannot expect them to love Israel as a result.
Life in the Gaza Strip is truly horrific, at a scale most of us (as in, well off Westerners) would fail to even imagine. They're poor, many do not have running water, sewage goes through the streets, people can't go in or out without others' permission (Israel or Egypt), and that's just the beginning. They are prisoners living a jail sentence they did not deserve.
As a result of the poverty in Gaza, most of the population there is not Harvard material; with Hamas providing most of the education, they are pretty ignorant. No wonder a political party such as Hamas, that gets its power through people's raw emotions, can come into power.
Israel is not much better when it comes to leadership. Virtually all potential candidates for Israeli leadership get there because of their promises to "take care" of the Arab threat (a rather sarcastic way for me to say they will use the force). All of them rely on fear to secure their power.
The result is that for both sides, hostility towards the other is the default course of action. The prospect of a leader coming along that would stray from the default is as unlikely as the sun failing to rise tomorrow morning. The prospect of two leaders on both sides simultaneously doing that is even more remote.
Now excuse me for being scientific for a moment, but mathematical models indicate the best course of action when two sides are involved is cooperation. The only way in which the Israeli - Arab conflict could be permanently solved is if both sides stop thinking of the other as their enemy and start thinking of it as their partner. With such an attitude, they can find ways for the Arabs to get something back for being evicted from their land (either through partial return or through financial compensation; after all, most of them are only the descendants of those that were evicted with no sense of belonging there other than the one their parents taught them). Israel, on the other hand, should not have much to fear, security wise, from a partner. And they could all live happily ever after.
What are the chances of that happening any time soon? I'll put it this way, I'm planning on spending the rest of my days in Australia. In peace.