You might want to just unfriend me on Facebook now. That is, if you are one of my friends who’s so far to the left or so far to the right to listen to different opinions or narratives.
I have been a reporter for 20 years and in that time I have written hundreds of articles about Israel. Hundreds. I have a master’s degree in Jewish civilization and a bachelor’s in Jewish and Near Eastern Studies. No one can accuse me of not knowing or understanding the facts.
There was also the nearly six years I lived in Israel, during the height of the second intifada; my apartment building was the one above the bakery at the corner of Jerusalem’s open air market that was scorched by a Palestinian suicide bombing.
I am pro the Jewish state of Israel.
But I am also pro people, pro peace.
And, as a journalist, I am pro the full story.
I recently penned an article about Muslim and Jewish siblings, friends and lovers who posted photos of themselves under the hashtag #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies. One of the young women I interviewed, the daughter of an Egyptian father and Jewish mother, reported her Facebook feed is like a seesaw. Her Arab friends post anti-Semitic antics while her Jewish friends de-humanize the residents of Gaza, cheering for every missile that strikes a blow against Hamas, regardless of the innocent casualties.
While I am not “pro intermarriage,” I envy her that she was almost forced to reconcile the fact that there are two sides to every story and that somewhere in the middle is the truth. I envy her that she was taught it’s not only OK, but encouraged, to see beyond skin color, religion and nationality to similarities in values and faith. She was taught to listen and to love.
If people came to their conversations about the Israeli-Arab conflict with the assumption that we refuse to be enemies, maybe we would listen more. When we listen more, we find out we agree on more than we think.
My sadness – as a reporter and a person – comes from the fact that little listening and a lot of ranting is going on. Before this war ever started, most people already knew whose side they were one. Almost all of the reports coming out of Israel and Gaza reflect one perspective. Either the Palestinians are suffering or the Israelis are suffering. I think they are both suffering and I think largely they share a common enemy: radicalism.
Radical Islam is responsible for the rockets that have terrorized and traumatized Israeli citizens for a decade, causing anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder at best, injury and death at worst. Radical Islam is responsible for paralyzing the Palestinians in Gaza, taking concrete and other necessary supplies and using them to build weapons and terror tunnels instead of basic infrastructure.
Terrorists use intimidation and scare tactics to control society. I cry for the Israelis. My son is an Israeli citizen and if he chooses to live there, he will be in the army one day, too. Any of those more than 50 soldiers killed in this war could then be my son. I cry for the Palestinians, too.
I cry because it doesn’t matter how humanitarian the IDF is, how many flyers it drops or how many text messages it sends, when F-16s fire into Gaza, there is nowhere to seek protection. There are no bomb shelters in Gaza.
When I turned in an article about the challenges of raising children under fire, I included a quote by Gazan Mahfouz Kadariti, a father of five children, who said it is very difficult to explain this ongoing situation to his kids.
“The children are crying themselves to sleep. The more shooting you hear, the more crying. … Most nights, they lie in their beds awake. They cannot fall asleep until 6 or 7 in the morning. They won’t got to the bathroom alone; they are afraid to be a target, that something will happen when they are alone,” he said.
The editor removed the graph, worried it could upset some Jewish investors and readers.
About a year ago, I was having drinks with a friend who also works in the Jewish community. He told me he was pro-peace, that he thought there were two relevant narratives. Then he quipped that his sentiments better not become a headline in the next week’s newspaper I was working for; he wouldn’t want to lose his job.
Does the suffering not exist if we don’t talk about it?
This war is not about the Israelis or the Palestinians. It is about Hamas. It is a war on terrorism — one of many wars on terrorism. The same or similar wars are being fought between the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi government forces, between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani Army, the Afghan Taliban and would-be Afghan democratic leaders, Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists and the Nigerian government, and between Jama’at Al-Nursa rebels and the Syrian regime.
If you care about human rights — if you care about humans – pause before you post.
Encourage the media to write more stories about and to empower moderate voices – they do exist!
Fight terrorism. Fight extremism.
Stop fighting each other.