Gav Apfel

Discussing the Current Conflict in the Workplace – Do Facts Matter Anymore?

It happened twice this week. Twice more than it should ever happen by those that pride themselves as the providers of non-discriminating and all inclusive care to all in need.

“But they are not one of those crazy Orthodox families, right?” asked the attending physician after I had told her my family resides in Israel. “I very much disagree with their politics,” she continued. Our previously polite formal introductions cut short by these words, I laughed awkwardly and turned back to my computer.

Later in the week after similarly revealing the origins of my home to a different doctor in the clinic, I was asked what my family thinks about “the land stealing.” “I hope they don’t rely solely on their emotions – we see a lot of children do that in our practice – I hope they are able to take a step back and think logically about the situation and hold the appropriate people responsible.”

The euphemisms were hardly lost in translation. Unfortunately, this is not the first time an otherwise wholly liberal and understanding coworker would take the liberty to educate me on the ‘extremism’ of Orthodox Jews or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The flippant nature of these comments are deeply troubling. Would any of my colleagues ever dream of publicly lecturing *insert any other ethnicity or racial group* on their perceived wrongdoing of that community? In what world would we ever consider asking a patient from a religious background if their family is “one of the crazies?” The answer is obvious.

In medical school, we are taught that cultural and intellectual humility is a fundamental cornerstone of all our interactions in the hospital. Open-mindedness and tolerance are considered indispensable in our medical practice. But the blatant disregard for any investigation with regards to the current conflict betrays a dangerous complacency. A complacency which should never single out only one group.

Will it even be considered that after the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas canceled highly anticipated elections last week, Hamas – an internationally recognized terrorist organization – chose to exploit the contested Sheikh Jarrah land dispute during the holy day of Leylat Al Qadr and Jerusalem Day to incite riots? Does it matter that the widely spread video recording of “Zionist Jews dancing at the sight of the Al Aksa Mosque burning” was actually that of the Jerusalem Day parade, which has occurred annually since 1967, and the fire in question was set by Hamas led rioters on the Temple Mount.

Do any of these facts matter, or is the only news deemed relevant enough to be shared that of Instagram posts made by celebrities and politicians from the comfort of their homes in America?

That news is easily digestible. There is a clear protagonist and antagonist. There is no nuance, but it feels right and we buy it. As physicians, do we not decry “anchoring” on a preconceived diagnosis? Are we not taught to discern and distill the entire clinical picture?

Memes have substituted morality; 180 character posts in the place of principles. This is a great disservice to the Israeli and Palestinian people who actually have to live through the terrors of the regional conflict on a daily basis. They deserve better.

In any event, our daily routine will not change. Undisturbed by distant conflicts in far flung lands we will continue to see patients in the hospital, continue to enjoy the comfort of our apartments and restaurants and bars, and continue indulging in the luxuries of our city. That is fine. But do not forget to remain humble and informed, and definitely do not rely solely on your emotion.

About the Author
Gav is a physician in New York and uncle to twelve nieces and nephews living in Israel.
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