History is important. And I don't think it's just my bias as a historian that compels me to affirm this. The past -- history -- is, however, little more than a collection of memories, of myths and stories. Everything is in the past. Everything. And yet, oddly enough, all we really have is the present, while our actions today are motivated by our recollection of the many yesterdays behind us. These memories, stories, and myths matter. We need to learn about them.
I'm frequently asked for my opinion on the crisis in Gaza and am asked a lot of questions about the mind-boggling escalation of violence in the past couple weeks. And although I probably shouldn't, I also read the cacophony of infuriating public comments at the bottom of news reports on the ongoing violence, many of which are woefully ignorant of the historical backdrop to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally and the recent Israeli bombing and ground incursion in Gaza by extension. Except they don't know that it's by extension. And that's the problem.
The past, present, and future converge in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict like no other on earth -- the past, because of the history that animates this conflict; the future, because of the predictive apocalyptic impulses especially in conservative Evangelical Christianity that myopically affirms and emboldens Israel's every move; and the present, because the decisions and actions today rest on both trajectories simultaneously.
French anthropological philosopher and originator of the Mimetic Theory, René Girard, wrote the following in his book, Battling to the End (2009):