The answer is 42: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Middle East Conflict.
In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an alien species build a massive computer in order to find the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything only to be told that the answer is the rather mundane figure, "42". It then emerges that they never understood the question and a far bigger computer is required to understand it.
It struck me the other day that this was like the Israeli-Arab conflict: While everybody seems to think they know the answer - basically that Israel should withdraw - very few people actually understand the question, that is the nature and origins and whatever-else of the conflict.
Of course it is easier to understand something that hasn't yet happened: Withdrawal sounds easy, but as the withdrawal from Gaza showed, its a lot more complex once it actually happens and could lead to more rather than less conflict.
I always thought we should unilaterally pull-back from Gaza - and still do - but it was also clear to me that if we did and the Gazans attacked us, then the response had to be a massive, don't-fuck-with-me blow. Which is exactly what happened in both Gaza and South Lebanon.
Now I think we should pull back to the "separation barrier" (like most Israelis I just call it "The Wall" ) with the same provisor.
So here I am doing it too... telling you the answer without explaining the problem. So here's my short effort at defining the problem:
I think the conflict is mutli-faceted and combines elements of an array of different conflicts/prejudices/discriminations simulatenously interwoven: historic, survivalist, class, religion, ethnicity, external-meddling, national resource issues, nationalist conflict, majority-minority, immigrant-native, colonial-settler, antisemitism, racism... you name it, we have it and to confuse matters more, its bi-directional: Jews are a majority in Israel but a minority outside it. And it isn't just Israelis versus Palestinians, there are ever wider circles of conflict.
Soon we'll have aliens from out space taking sides and supporting... someone (probably the Israelis because because Jews are often called aliens).
As for how bad it is... how do you compare prejudices? or discriminations? Is the status of Arabs in Israel worse then say, Moslems in the UK? Is that a valid comparison in the first place?
The conflict is riddled with paradoxes: Europeans using anti-racism to justify antisemitism, Israelis using antisemitism to justify racism, Palestinians rejecting Israeli human-rights while claiming human-rights etc. Its so involved and intertwined that it is totally impossible that anyone who reads this (hopefully some one will), can possibly regard me as a "neutral observer" (no you're not one either).
Anyway that's enough. I want to keep this short. Thanks for reading this far.