Condescension won’t cultivate dialog

I attended a program meant to cultivate a dialog between a representative of Homeland Guards, a representative of Noble Energy, and the audience. The Leviathan natural gas field is located approximately 120 kilometers off the coast of Israel. Noble Energy won the contract to develop the field. The current plan positions a number of fixed gas platforms 10km from the coast of Israel. Homeland Guards is advocating for distancing the platform 120km from the coast and utilizing the floating platform technology known as FPSO.

What occurred was a classic demonstration of an interaction between an X and a Y – as in chromosomes. On my way out I found myself growing more and more angry (and uneasy) at what I had just witnessed, so much that I was shaking from frustration and rage as I conversed with a fellow attendee on our way out.

The male community relations manager from Noble Energy comported himself in a patronizing manner that conveyed arrogance and condescension. It was mansplaining in the most egregious and dismissive of manners. It was repulsive and revolting. It was disappointing.

In contrast, she reflected me – the everyday citizen who worries about the future health of my children, who values intellectual integrity and curiosity along with governmental transparency. She was me and he, well, he was all the men in the past (and no doubt still in my future) who think that they can talk down to women simply because we have two X chromosomes. And no, I’m not being hysterical or overreacting. I’m calling this like it is, like it was.

His disingenuous tone obliterated any opportunity for dialog. We desperately need to have a place for dialog on the subject – the solution is not clearly one side or the other. As long as one half of the population continues to talk to the other half in this manner, we’ll never cultivate the necessary dialog we need to move important matters like this one forward.

We need a national referendum on the subject of the natural gas fields and their development. This national, natural resource belongs to all of us.

The people of Israel should have a say, a clear and unhindered voice in this most important subject. Perhaps, we don’t want to sell off all the gas. Perhaps we don’t want to harvest it at all but would rather invest in harnessing solar and wind power that come with far fewer environmental and public health risks. Perhaps the security risk of developing the gas fields outweighs the economic benefit, in the eye of the public.

Until the government puts this question before the public, and in doing so, concedes some of its power, the natural gas will never be a national resource. We, the citizens, will pay the price – in every sense of the word.

If we can’t have a respectful dialog within Israel, how will we ever find our way with our neighbors?

About the Author
Rachel Gould made aliyah in 2010 to Haifa and now lives in Yokneam. She is a PhD Candidate in Public Policy at TAU focusing on environmental and population policies. She was a candidate for city council in Yokneam on the Mekomi list in 2018.
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