Lyor Cohen on the Palestinian–Israeli Conflict: ‘It’s Extremism on Both Sides That’s the True Villain'

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The former Def Jam and Warner Music chief and curent owner of 300 Entertainment says peace between the citizens of Israel and Gaza comes down to one principle: patience.

It’s interesting that the Hebrew word for suffering,  (sevel), would share the same letters as the word for patience,  (savlanut) -- the former seems in abundance when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has been escalating in Gaza during the summer months, while the other is sorely lacking. Instead, we’re left with reactions and emotional radicalism, all of which stand to derail a fragile coexistence, never mind the possibility of peace.

My heart goes out to those Palestinian and Israeli families that have lost loved ones, and have had their lives altered forever by grief and sadness I couldn’t even imagine. But it’s extremism on both sides that’s the true villain in the peace process. On the Palestinian side, the extremists are terrorist groups like Hamas with its mission to eradicate all Israelis. On the Israeli side, the extremists are the ultraconservative religious right who believe Israelis should reside in all parts of Israel including the West Bank. Both sides are unwilling to compromise.

But even more troubling is that the silent majority living amid the violence has failed to act. There will be no peace if the masses remain passive and fail to take an active role in thwarting extremism. The silent majority needs to develop a formidable voice and deter the radicals from further deteriorating the peace process. Before any external forces can help, an enormous internal effort is required to clear the way for peace.

We live in a connected world, and what happens in other parts of the world affects us. It is our responsibility to support nations trying to build stable, thriving societies. I am concerned that media coverage is obstructing today’s fragile foundations of support. Photographs and videos say a thousand words, but they fail to tell the underlying story. Footage of destruction shared without full context has created a global backlash against Israel.

It is frightening that more than 3,000 rockets have been launched into Israel. Israel has a duty to defend its citizens, and in doing so, the media has isolated Israel by portraying it as the sole aggressor. We are witnessing a surge in anti-Semitism around the world. How will this bring peace to the Middle East?

We are first members of the human race, and only second members of a tribe or religious group. Many of you know me as an Israeli-American, but being Israeli, being Jewish or being American has less to do with this conflict than simply being human.

We will need love, strength, discipline and a clear understanding of the problems in order to start the process of healing and uniting the Palestinians and Israelis. And we will need patience. This is a multigenerational effort and there is no quick fix. In fact, any quick fix would impede the end goal of a long-term, sustainable, peaceful resolution. Trust has been broken for decades, and rebuilding that trust will take just as long.

This article first appeared in the Sept. 13th issue of Billboard.