The Interesting Times
The Interesting Times podcast
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Pasts & Presents (Part I)

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Pasts & Presents (Part I)

conversations with Mike Hilkowitz

Given the recent dark turn in this long running conflict I am republishing two conversations (broken into four episodes) from the past that deal with many of the underlying issues driving present day events. They all feature my old friend Mike Hilkowitz.

These conversations were recorded in June 2021 and April 2023. The first grew out of what now seems to be relatively ‘small’ but quite intensive standoffs over the status of some residences in East Jerusalem. The second begins by focusing on the large-scale civil unrest in Israel in response to the massive power grabs on the part of the Benjamin Netanyahu-led government. However, both wind their way back to many of the core elements of the overall conflict as well as Mike and I’s varying understandings of them.

This is Part I of (first half of June 2021 conversation). Part II (second half of June 2021 conversation) can be found here. Part III of the (first half of April 2023 conversation) can be be found here. Part IV (second half of April 2023 conversation) is still in post-production and should be released in the next several days. (minor note: Part I and II were recorded under our former show title of ‘The Caves of Altamira’)

Rough Topic outline:
Part I: East Jerusalem and its place in the conflict
Part II: Hamas and Gaza
Part III: Civil Conflict in Israel, status of Israeli Arabs
Part IV: The cost of occupation. What does a solution look like? (to be released)

In some way, I would say the fact that these were recorded well before the recent, almost unspeakable, horrors perpetrated by Hamas and the growing horrors unfolding across the civilian population of Gaza is (somewhat counter-intuitively) a positive attribute of the dialogues. Similarly, as you will hear, while Mike and I’s views often strongly diverge in some areas, the trust and respect developed over decades of friendship provide us both with the space to speak forthrightly and, at a minimum, listen with care to what the other has to say.

Mike and I have been discussing and debating (at times quite ‘vigorously’) the conflict since we met in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia around 2004. Almost twenty years on, I have been living in East Asia for 15 years and Mike became an Israeli citizen and has been residing there for over a decade.

I would humbly submit that there is a trove of valuable information and insights here for those looking to bore a bit more deeply into the context shaping the ongoing crisis in the region.

I realize these are very sensitive matters that people hold an array of strong feelings about, particularly at this moment. I would not be so foolish as to believe that no one will take umbrage, or even offense, to things said by either myself or Mike.

All I can say is that these conversations represent genuine dialogues from two people who care deeply about these matters and use our knowledge to try to work through the many almost intractable issues at play. I’ll leave it to the listeners whether this constitutes ‘good’ analysis and observations, but I can assert that these discussion represent ‘good’ faith on both our parts.

Mike Hilkowitz is currently a graduate student in international relations and diplomacy at Tel Aviv University. He has held multiple posts in Israel including serving as the chief content officer for an organization dedicated to promoting Israeli goods. His writing and analysis has been featured in The Times of Israel and many other outlets.

The Interesting Times
The Interesting Times podcast
Mapping the intersections of politics, economics, technology, and ethics.