Blonde woman and woman in Arab attire, side by side
Jihan with Elizabeth MacBride

A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:

My friends have asked me what I think about the violence in Israel/Palestine. I spent three years covering the Middle East and a year on a UN writing fellowship designed to help people understand the Palestinian economy. About 25% of Palestinians live on less than $5.5 a day.

This week, I saw Trevor Noah take to the air with an approach that he likely believes could help Americans who sympathize with Israel understand how badly mismatched the Palestinians are. That’s true. The last time the Israeli military bombarded Gaza, in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, an estimated 2,100 Palestinians died, according to the BBC. 495 were children. Hamas rockets killed 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians.

As a journalist, I’ve always thought it was my job to find and tell the stories of the underdogs.

I grew up in America believing, because of the Holocaust and because we’ve been told, that Israel was the underdog. You get to Israel/Palestine and discover how much agony the Palestinians live in at the hands of the Israeli occupation. I saw an Israeli soldier torturing an elderly Gazan couple. The memory has haunted me for years.

Peace-loving Palestinians, of whom I met many, including these preschool teachers, are underdogs in many ways: They either live under an inept government, in Ramallah; a terror group, Hamas, functioning as a quasi-government in Gaza; or as second-class citizens in Israel.

Divide and conquer is a tool of the powerful.

But there is another side to the story. There is always another side. Individual Israelis feel genuinely betrayed by Palestinians – I experienced devastating betrayals in the Middle East, too. Tribal ties and intergenerational trauma make establishing trusting relationships nearly impossible. The United States doesn’t help: Our government needs Israel as a military and business ally, at the same time the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians challenges the values America likes to believe it stands for. In a diplomatic mismatch, weaker governments need a third party to stand with them, but the U.S. is inherently conflicted.

A young Israeli told me once, “We’ll change when you can promise us absolute security.”

No one gets absolute security in this world. Part of being human is being vulnerable.

Even those Israelis who want to live with Palestinians in one country fear that if they let their guard down, Hamas will throw its rockets; and knife and bomb attacks will escalate. The fear is rational. Terrorism all over the world means we all live with that fear every day, but in the close quarters of Israel/Palestine, it is magnified.

I came away from my time in the Holy Land believing the world won’t be at peace until there is peace there, the shared center of the world’s monotheistic religions. We want a clean and simple solution. But peace doesn’t come from reaching the right answer, only from endlessly reaching for fairness and justice for every individual, and accepting life in a state of uncertainty.

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This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit and connect with and

A business journalist for 20 years, am the founder of Times of Entrepreneurship and the co-author of The New Builders.