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Gil Mildar
As the song says, a Latin American with no money in his pocket.

Are all opinions respectable?

In the vast sea of opinions, I navigate a vast and sometimes turbulent ocean, where each voice, including mine, seeks to find its own island of truth. I deeply believe in freedom of expression, but often face the question: do all opinions deserve the same respect?

In an ideal world, all voices, including mine, would be heard with equal consideration, but reality is more complex. Opinions based on misinformation, prejudice, or hate cannot be placed on the same level as those based on reason and empathy. Thus, I find there is a delicate balance between respecting the right to express an opinion and endorsing the opinion itself.

This distinction becomes even more critical when I consider the terrain of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a scenario where stories and pains intertwine, creating a tangle of narratives, each carrying its own weight of truth and trauma. Amidst this labyrinth of emotions and stories, emerges the rhetoric of a “Palestine from the River to the Sea,” a phrase that for many symbolizes the aspiration for a sovereign Palestinian state, but for me, it sounds an alarm for the elimination of the state of Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people.

When addressing such rhetoric, I face the complexity of distinguishing between the freedom to express a national aspiration and the potential of such expression to incite hate or violence. It’s a fine line separating the legitimate desire for self-determination of a people and the denial of another’s right to exist.

Here, the history of my people, the Jewish people, becomes relevant. Jewish history is marked by persecutions and attempts at annihilation, and the creation of the State of Israel was a response to centuries of exile and suffering. Therefore, any rhetoric that can be interpreted as a threat to the existence of Israel is not just a political opinion; it’s a trigger for a deeply rooted collective trauma.

However, it is vital for me to recognize the complexity and legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations. The Palestinian people, with their own history of displacement and struggle, also long for self-determination and recognition. The issue, therefore, is not to deny the legitimacy of their aspirations but to seek a path that does not negate the existence of the other.

In this dialogue, empathy emerges as an indispensable tool. Empathy to recognize the pain and history of the other, even when that history is intricately intertwined with my own. It is an exercise of seeing the world through eyes not my own, of feeling pain not directly mine.

So I return to the initial question: are all opinions respectable? The answer is a complex echo. I respect the right to express opinions, but this does not obligate me to respect all opinions. Respect is earned through compassion, reason, and the ability to recognize the humanity in the other.

In this context, education plays a crucial role. Educating for empathy, for critical thinking, for understanding that history is multifaceted, and that each narrative carries its own value and truth. It’s a long and sometimes painful path but necessary for building a fairer and more understanding society.

My quest for peace in the Middle East reflects this larger challenge: how to reconcile conflicting narratives without invalidating the existence and aspirations of either side? How to build a future where the voices of both peoples can coexist in mutual respect, recognizing that the freedom and security of one should not be built at the expense of the other?

Facing these questions is not simple, and the answers are even more complex. But the first step is to recognize that while some opinions are based on hate and misinformation, others emerge from a place of pain and hope. It’s my duty to discern between them, respecting the right to expression, but also upholding the values of empathy, justice, and peaceful coexistence.

In the end, perhaps my true wisdom lies in understanding that respect is not a blank check given to all opinions, but a recognition of the shared humanity that unites us, despite our differences. And it is in this recognition that I find the key to more constructive dialogue and, perhaps one day, to peace.

About the Author
Gil Mildar is a 60-year-old Brazilian who made Aliyah a few years ago. He holds a Law degree from the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos in Brazil and a postgraduate degree in Marketing from the Universidad de Belgrano in Argentina. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to work in Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and now Israel. For the past 30 years, his focus has been on marketing projects in Latin America.
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