I challenge you to name a more complicated and nuanced geopolitical debate than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A lifetime of work and study on the subject will still yield new stories, fresh traumas, and more debate. The problem is that in today’s polarized and soundbite-driven political atmosphere, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lost its nuanced conversation and debate in America. Like much in our society, we are forced to pick a side – even without knowing all of the facts. You must choose to be a Mac or a PC person; #blacklivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter, Hillary or Trump, Israel or Palestine.
What kind of political conversation can you have without any nuance? A conversation devoid of fact, substance, and reality. Americans love to complain about our ‘do-nothing congress,’ those bums in D.C. who refuse to compromise, leaving us in a political standstill. Meanwhile we unfriend people who post political opinions that differ from our own and we refuse to discuss compromises that will move our society forward. This trend can be seen throughout most politics and public opinion today, and it is the unfortunate reality the Israel-Palestine conversation now faces.
Organizations like BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) are prime examples of false advertising that bring in supporters who do not truly understand the issue. I have spoken with Jews, non-Jews, and Zionist alike that support a two-state solution but also support BDS “because there doesn’t seem to be a better option.” This is simply false, and there is actually a much better option – dialogue and discussion. The outcomes of BDS are right in their name; the organization will boycott events with any Israeli speakers, call for divestment from most Israeli companies, and call for international sanctions to be levied against Israel. BDS does not want a conversation – they want silence from Israelis and they want Israeli businesses and families to suffer economically. Rather than create a dialogue they seek to isolate and hurt Israel, creating an environment that seeks divisiveness rather than discussion and coexistence. This divisive environment is exactly what American politics faces today.
We in America are facing a political revolution. Bernie Sanders may not have won the Democratic nomination, but his success and the rise of Donald Trump are clear evidence of a movement mobilizing new voters that wish to change the status-quo. As a growing number of Americans are joining the political discussion it is more important than ever to promote debate and dialogue. This is particularly true for Israel, which is a talking point that often attracts lies and slander. Being active and joining conversations in our communities to make sure they are not devoid of the facts on Israel is an easy and effective way for activists to ensure a fair, nuanced conversation. Dialogue and discussion is the cornerstone of a future diplomatic and political solution in Israel.
As Americans refuse to engage, the legacy of our ‘do-nothing congress’ is becoming the reality of the nation’s political discourse. It starts with us, the people. If we are unwilling to talk to our friends across the aisle, why would our elected officials? If we want to create change then we have to engage, listen to others, and work together to move forward. Hiding in our twitter feeds of likeminded opinions may be comfortable, but without understanding the full argument we are doomed to more years of polarization, do-nothing politics, and entrenched idealism.