Kevin Medansky

Groups and Pronouns (a.k.a. Speak for Yourself)

אנחנו כאן, הם שם.
We are here; they are there.

Too often is the Israeli-Palestinian crisis simplified into an issue of a two-party conflict, simply due to language usage. For example, “Israel doesn’t want to hurt innocent civilians, while Hamas tells civilians to remain in mosques, hospitals and other sites targeted for military development, using death toll as a publicity strategy.” Regardless of how true that may be, the nouns “Israel” and “Hamas” lead to ambiguous and therefore frequently false conclusions.

Solely discussing religious diversity, the nation of Israel holds a population of Jews, Muslims and Christians, along with numerous other religious groups. Furthermore, exclusively among Jews, the continuum of religious observance is even more widespread, as most Jews from ultra-Orthodox to secular can be found just within a span of only a few blocks. Therefore, to discuss “Israel” as a single-faceted group is plainly inaccurate and unnecessarily simplified.

Nevertheless, the primary concern is whether ambiguity matters. After all, most parties using terms like “Israel” to discuss specific actions or opinions usually report information under the context of simplicity anyway. So, what’s the point?

While it may be easy to refer to specific groups as their country’s title, using terms like “she” to describe the Israeli Defense Forces fosters a sentiment of what George Orwell coined in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four as “Doublethink”: when a person’s ideas contradict his or her own statements. The problem comes in when the person’s statements become his or her ideas, after repetition. Discussing the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as a conflict among two nouns devolves mindsets from viewing the conflict as a multi-faceted event, taking every individual’s experience into consideration, to a binary experience.

My challenge to you, my readers, is to find elevated mindfulness in discussing the Israeli-Palestinian crisis (Extra-credit to whomever can come up with a less binary title; feel free to comment.) with precise wording. To no longer accept “they” as adequate. To consider the crisis as one of individual people, rather than a two-party conquest for revenge. I beg of you not to say “you” or “they” or “we” or “she” without any previous precise definition.

Perhaps, changing pronouns and group titles in discussing this conflict won’t cause a cease-fire. Perhaps, it won’t even matter on any sort of macro-level. But it can elevate conversations, and that’s a start.

About the Author
A current student at Haverford College, a liberal arts college just northwest of Philadelphia, and a graduate with honors of Glenbrook North High School of the northern suburbs of Chicago, Kevin Medansky has travelled to and lived in Israel, graduated as a Write On for Israel fellow, and published a dissertation detailing the many ingredients of an innovative society, using Israel as a case study.
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