If you’re talking about Israel among activists on any side of the issue, there’s a good chance few people are listening beyond searching for a scintilla of evidence to support positions they’re quick to announce and eager to defend.
From afar, we collectively mourn the dead and bemoan the tragedy of shattered lives within Israel’s borders and beyond that are cast away within blackened embers of a potentially never-ending nightmare.
Narratives imprinted across an increasingly wired planet are typically painted in the broadest strokes of black and white.
For many, the temptation to interpret, analyze and critique the Middle East of the 21st century through a western paradigm becomes a powerful seduction subtly, yet horrifically, packaged in endless images of strife, suffering and despair.
Very few are prepared to respond to being called baby killers when journalists consider it fair and balanced to simply report that you denied the accusation.
Those once expected to provide depth reporting and perspective too often leave a void quickly filled through the unchecked, raging flood of animosity carried in endless social media posts that more often sow anger, confusion, apathy and resignation instead of inspiring activism on behalf of a future that looks and feels very different than the past.
It’s not just the bright lights and explosions of thousands of missiles that trumpet the harsh realities of that future. As TOI reports, Lt. General Michael Flynn, outgoing head of America’s Defense Intelligence Agency, said this week: “Is there going to be a peace in the Middle East? Not in my lifetime.”
Within hours of posting “Talking about Israel” on TOI yesterday, comments that offered ample support for General Flynn’s pessimistic outlook surged into TalkingIsrael Facebook moderators .
Of all the comments, Bill Anderson’s was most to the point: “Bullshit.”
Nathan Ledoux quickly pointed out the correct name for Israel is “occupied Palestine.”
Hamed Hawa simply wanted everyone to know, “Israel killed children of Gaza.”
Franklin Dancing Eagle said there was nothing to worry about. “God has it in control,” he wrote, immediately before asking, “Have you accepted Christ in your life?”
Perhaps ironically, Kristofer Jesus Castellar probably wanted to ask that question too. Unrestrained by any thoughts of political correctness, he wrote: “My country [America] has been invaded by the ‘Eternal Jew’ … my religion perverted by the ‘Eternal Jew’ … wish all the Jews would just pack up and leave to Israel …”
Phil Stein (catchy nom de guerre) asked for a moment “while I vomit” in response to another commenter’s assertion that Palestinians were no different than other Arabs.
Syed Imran Shaukat’s words came right from the rejectionist playbook: “The apartheid and occupation needs to end … shame on us … all inhabitants of this planet.”
Omar Shaaban connected the Palestinians to the Romans, while also confirming, “Palestinians aren’t actually Romans, but the term ‘Palestine’ is derived from Philistine” from “Roman days and if I’m not mistaken, has biblical roots.” He went on to point out that Christians, Muslims and Jews “lived on that land for centuries in peace. It wasn’t until western countries started interfering in their affairs that conflicts started.”
Dashi Danny Miftari was one of very few to express even a remote sense of concern for another perspective, writing, “no doubt in my mind that the Jewish people were oppressed … what troubles me today is that the oppressed became the oppressor.” Miftari went on to compare posts that didn’t bash Israel to what a “German sympathizer would’ve wrote … in the 40s my friend.”
Yes, he really wrote, “my friend.”
Danny Abdelqader blamed it all on Arab leaders and the West: “Arab leaders are paid to sit back and watch, while the world sides with the oppressed.” He didn’t hide from saying, “ISIS are terrorists that do not represent Islam,” before claiming, “Just as the Nazis put Jews in ghettos, Israel put Palestine in prison ghettos.”
The strategy of throwing everything against the wall with the expectation that something will stick is an epidemic not just spreading within social media, but also schools, houses of worship, investment advisors, offices and communities where very few are prepared to respond to being called baby killers and ethnic cleansers in a world in which journalists consider it fair and balanced to simply report that you denied the accusation.
Creating a safer, saner future has to begin with taking every opportunity to talk about it. Beyond the work of courts and historians, little good comes from debating who was right or wrong yesterday, decades or generations ago. Yes, it’s important to educate and inform family, friends, colleagues and the neighborhoods in which we live, but most meaningful is shifting the focus to what could be possible.
When those so eager to deepen pools of hatred are invited to address questions such as, “Where do we go from here,” “How do we create a future in which all of our children live in peace, dignity and freedom,” “How do make sure the very real massacres and horrors taking place in Iraq and Syria don’t become the future for the people of Israel and Gaza,” the very meaningful work of building bridges across generations of anger, pain and mistrust will become more important than talking about a past that is forever gone.