Lately, I’ve been getting frustrated with nearly everyone I speak to about the Israel/Palestine issue. And the reason is not so much because I disagree with others’ opinions (though I often do), but because I resent their perspective. So much is oversimplified. So much is ignored or rationalized or justified or assumed. There seems to be a tremendous amount of misplaced conviction. I can respect the positions of both a passionate Zionist, and a staunch anti-Zionist – if only those positions are tempered by an empathetic, candid perspective.
So I wanted to try and share that perspective with you. I have tried as much as possible to stay away from my personal opinions, though I am sure they must have crept in here somewhere. In any case, whether you are pro/anti Israel, Palestine, or both, I think this is significant.
“You got that article from Al-Jazeera?! Dude, that’s biased! Here, watch this Fox News clip instead….”
Let’s be honest: You’re not going to get an honest opinion from the media. It’s just not happening. Everyone is terrifically biased, and everyone has an agenda. The best thing we can do is get the information from a range of sources and build up our own perspective.
And be honest about it.
How many posts in your news feed advocate views that you don’t already agree with? How many of your friends actually post articles that represent a position that you diametrically oppose? And how many of those articles do you actually read with an open mind instead of an ever-growing, disdainful grimace?
How many posts on your feed are regurgitated information and arguments that you have already heard being reinforced again and again in a never-ending cycle of obscene confirmation bias?
And how many of your own thoughts have actually changed?
“Yes, I know it’s tragic, but…”
No. No. No. No. No. No. NO! Enough with the “buts” already! It’s almost like we have a mantra: Recite the obligatory empathetic phrase as some sort of demonstration of our supposed humanity, and then make our arguments so that that humanity can somehow vouch for the integrity of our opinions.
Why is the “but” always relayed in the same breath? I know there are “buts”, and I know they are significant. But, every once in a while, can’t we just internalize the tragedy? Can’t we allow ourselves to feel before we justify?
Why not: “It’s so tragic. It’s horrifying, and heart-wrenching, and cruel, and awful, and it hurts.
Nevertheless, I think we need to acknowledge that….”
If we can waste our words with frivolous chatter or pompously eloquent excoriations, then we can certainly spare a few to reflect on the lives we have lost.
Does anyone actually think that Israel wants civilian casualties? Really? Let’s look at what that does for Israel:
(a) Inspires massive world-wide protests against Israel.
(b) Motivates and perpetuates the BDS movement against Israel.
(c) Lowers international sympathy and support for Israel.
(d) Lowers domestic sympathy and support for Israel.
But on the plus side it…..does absolutely nothing. Still not convinced? Okay, I’ll try and say it this way: I served in the IDF as an infantry soldier. The clear instructions that every soldier gets is to kill as little as possible, and only when absolutely necessary. And that’s referring to enemies, not civilians. An entire week of training is spent discussing the ethics of war and the importance of human life and dignity. I cannot claim that the soldiers always act in line with these instructions, but the IDF, as a whole, does. And if you’re still not convinced then, well, you’re probably either brainwashed or biased.
On the flip side: Does anyone really believe that “all the Arabs want the Jews dead”? What? Where are people getting this from? So I guess that those Palestinians who saved the lives of three Jewish West Bank inhabitants (“settlers” is too polarized a term for this post) a few weeks ago were actually Jews in disguise. And I guess that the Arab Muslims who invited Jews to break the Ramadan fast which coincided with the Seventeenth of Tamuz (a Jewish fast day) were really just trying to buddy-up to the enemy so that they could better learn how to annihilate them.
The fact that the news is filled with Arabs who actually do want to kill the Jews isn’t relevant in terms of percentages – What? You want them to talk about Arabs who aren’t genocidal? How boring.
It should not be difficult to empathize with a child who watches in horror as his father is blindfolded and taken away in the middle of the night by men in green carrying heavy guns and determined expressions. It should not be difficult to understand the fear and the hatred. And it should not be difficult to understand the rage.
It should not be difficult to empathize with children who have grown up with the sound of sirens and bombs instead of laughter and music. Children who have slept in bomb shelters nearly as often as their beds, and who associate the color red with frantic scurrying rather than fire trucks.
It should not be difficult to empathize with an entire mass of people that have been scrutinized, subjugated, and otherwise burdened by the authority of a people not their own. Who are regularly checked, and checked, and rechecked, and then checked again. Who are watched and observed and suspected and rejected. Who live in a world where the grass truly is greener on the other side.
It should not be difficult to empathize with the desperate plea of a nation that has been trampled and beaten more than any other throughout history. A nation that, after two-thousand years of exile, has returned to the Land that it has prayed for consistently during that entire span of time. A nation that was very nearly driven to horrible, brutal extinction, and that many in the world still wish to exterminate. A nation that has been taught by History that it can only feel safe in its own home.
When Palestinian politicians celebrate the success of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, it scares Israelis. When Israeli politicians call for a mass deportation of all Arabs, it scares Palestinians.
When Palestinians riot violently while chanting “Death to Israel!”, it scares Israelis. When Israelis consistently move into lands being discussed as potential components of a future Palestinian state, it scares Palestinians.
And that fear turns into anger very, very quickly.
This is a conflict that has been going on for the better part of a century. It is a conflict that has claimed roughly 23,000 lives. Nearly every single Israeli has lost someone whom they love to it, and I would presume that the same is true for the Palestinians.
This is a conflict that has been at the center of the entire planet’s attention for decades, and that commands and evokes the deepest passions of people the world over.
And yet, somehow, it is a conflict that nearly everyone seems to know how to solve.
“Well, if the Israelis would just…”
“Well, if the Palestinians would just…”
Nobody is going to “just” anything. Instead of constantly pointing fingers at spectacularly wide audiences while simultaneously and impulsively denying the culpability of equally large contingents, perhaps we should focus on what we can do within ourselves, and among our own community.
Where is our Honesty? Where is our Compassion? Where is our Reason? Where is our Empathy? Where is our Understanding?
Where is our Truth?