A divisive, us-versus-them approach to debating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impedes progress, argued pro-Israel activist Chloé Valdary at a Nov. 28 discussion.

The U.S. conversation regarding the conflict, a decadeslong struggle between Israelis and Palestinians over the two sides’ competing claims to lands controlled by Israel, pits proponents of Israeli security and self-determination against advocates for the rights of Palestinians.

Valdary, who works as director of partnerships and a Shillman Fellow at the educational film production company Jerusalem U, said an oppressor-versus-oppressed framing misrepresents the conflict.

Pro-Israel activist Chloé Valdary argued against inter sectionalism as a lens to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In an oppressor-versus-oppressed mindset, Valdary said, morality only supports victims. She said Americans who supported Zionism out of a shared sense of oppression or intersectionality could no longer view Israel as relatable or even “moral” once it won statehood.

“If you see history through this very narrow framework, anything that falls out of these boxes, you can no longer fight for, you can no longer stand for. It’s a worldview, in my opinion, that doesn’t allow for complexity,” Valdary said. “Instead of having that paradigm, why don’t we just empower everyone?”

She criticized the concept of intersectionality for reinforcing categorical labels of the “us-versus-them” binary.

“Intersectionality is responding to categorization, but it is not, in my mind, challenging the categories,” Valdary said. “It is reinforcing the categories, in a sense, because it is making claims that I, as a person of color, have most assuredly experienced ‘x’ at the hands of someone who was white by virtue of being in the categories, in the skin colors that we have.”

Instead of intersectionality, Valdary proposed restorative justice, or repairing harm caused by misdeeds, and her “theory of enchantment,” which is the promotion of constructive discussions about differences to build compassion for a common humanity, as alternative paradigms through which to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Valdary said she hopes to transcend the “us-versus-them binary” through this approach.

“Restorative justice tries to transcend that [us-versus-them] and ask the question, ‘How can we heal both of our communities?’ That is something I’m very much attracted to,” Valdary said.

If Israelis and Palestinians could stop seeing their losses as the other group’s gains, they could move toward healing, Valdary said.

Georgetown Israel Alliance President Sean Lerner (SFS ’20) and Vice President Tanner Larkin (SFS ’20) organized the event, hosted by the GIA and the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, to bridge what Lerner called a “racialized” divide in the Israeli-Palestinian discussion on campus.

“I’ve known about Chloé for a while. She’s pretty popular in the young pro-Israel world, especially on social media,” Lerner said. “We also recognized that there was a sort of element around the discussion of Israel-Palestine on this campus that was racialized in a way; there was a divide in the community.”

Valdary encouraged students to analyze the dilemmas Israelis and Palestinians face while recognizing that some of them are currently irreconcilable and to engage with organizations that bring together contrasting perspectives.

“We, as students and educators, need to volunteer for those organizations, seek out those organizations that are bringing Israelis and Palestinians together and creating dialogue,” Valdary said. “Dialogue that might not have all the answers, but… is much more interested in saying, ‘Even though you and I disagree about x, y and z, our goal is to foster compassion and empathy in the midst of profound disagreement.’”

Ultimately, Valdary said she hopes to redefine how people conceptualize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are so much more than these weird, objectified terminologies. I think we have to enter the conversation with the desire to lean in toward the other, so that we can see ourselves in them and see them in ourselves,” Valdary said.


  1. Hasi Wagibigit says:

    What a wonderful oncept. Unfortunately, given the tribal stone-age mentality of one of the parties, it won’t work. The idea depends on an assumption of reasonableness by both parties to the conflict. History has shown time and again (we have such a penchant for ignoring the lessons of history) that one of the parties will enter the dialogue with a hidden agenda that assumes any ‘give’ by the other side is a sign of weakness (difficult to accept that an inhuman society that glorifies martyrdom and terrorism can be reasonable) and fall right back into the original paradigm of tribal conflict.

  2. This article is shallow and makes the situation in the Middle East sound so complex and conveys a purely emotional and unrealistic “lets understand each other over coffee” solution, while using such interstesting terms that sound so sophisticated, educated, and knowledgeable. Do people just make up words today?
    First, this is not about “Israelis & Palistinians”, but “muslims vs Jews”. Its that simple. For over 6 years I have lived in Israel as non-Jewish independent journalist and travelled the details of the country, know the the history, been on the front lines of war, infiltrated terror groups, and having shown first hand via interviews that young and old muslims, in and out of Israel, openly call for the destruction of the Jewish State. Might I also add that these everyday muslims are not islamic leadership or part of a militant group like hamas or hezbollah.
    Most Isrseli’s, especially Israeli born Jews, clearly understand the intent of their islamic enemies desire to destroy them from the river to the sea and historically speaking whenever there was a CALL for peace it was simply a muslim moment to build up to the next attack on the Jews. Whenever there was a treaty signed and historically owned Jewish land was given away it would be used as a platform for miltant activity to attack Israel.
    Hamas and Hezbollah hold no countries/people hostage. No military exists without the support of the civilain population. muslims encourage, cheer, and groom their children to join these 2 groups for the sake of allah as directed by the koran. As well, if not to join militant islam openly, but to act independtly to bring glory to the prophet and further global domination.
    I would venture to say, with great assurance, that the people involved in the article speak ONLY from a Western perspective and know nothing of islam, the koran, the intimate details of the culture, language, history, and mentality of the players involved. I do appreciate and respect advocacy for Israel, but when one continues to use “fake terms” that promote the lie of “palistinians”, when you have never attend the funeral of soldiers, or sat with vicitms of terror for 6 years then you bring nothing to the table realistically as far as a solution

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