Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Desert of Civil Dialogue in the Midst of the Gaza Crisis

Currently, in the Israeli/Gaza crisis that is happening at the moment, I consider myself politically neutral. A few of things I do know and they are as follows:

+I do not believe in the death of civilians for any reason.
+I do believe the Jews have the right to a homeland, so therefore I am a Zionist in that respect. The word is often misused to mean West Bank settlers, but Zionist, in its purist form just means that Jews should have a homeland. Zionism doesn't even mean it has to be Israel.
+As a Jewish person, I am concerned for the rising anti-Semitism.

+I do not believe the Holocaust should be manipulated or misappropriated to describe this situation on "either side." I do not think survivors should be used as political leverage and they should be respected as individuals with their own opinions. 

What I don't know is basically...anything else. I do not have an opinion on who should "win" this war, whose side is most correct. And yet...

Engaging in debates in order to learn about the conflict has earned me many enemies just from the tenants I believe listed above--none of which are particularly political in my mind.

Here is a short list of the names I have been called and why:

Insult: "Zionist extremist."/ "Intolerant."
Circumstances: In the courses I teach about the Holocaust, I have a strict rule that discussions end at the year 1945. I am not interested in debate on the Gaza Crisis in a course that is structured to speak about 1933-1945. Plus, I do not feel qualified to moderate such a debate. 

Insult: "Neurotic who condones the killing of innocent children."
Circumstances: On social media, I was emphasizing the fear many Jews feel as anti-Semitism rises. With riots targeting Jews in Europe, I am concerned. Also, not all Jews are Israel. It is unfair to equate people thousands of miles away from Israel with their actions, right or wrong. However, I was told that I have no right to be concerned because what "we" are doing to people in Gaza is far worse than the destruction of personal property in Europe. 
Insult: "Self-hating anti-Zionist Jew looking to corrupt other Jews with her deep seeded hatred of her own people." / "Person with agenda." / "Disgusting human being."
Circumstances: Again on social media, I expressed concern that survivors were being shamed for having their own individual political opinions. Survivors, I said, are individual people with individual backgrounds and cannot all be expected to stand united on any issue. Their suffering cannot be used for political gain.
What Does All of This Mean?
 This is not a rundown of insults in order to show you what a victim I am.  This is to illustrate that even someone with a neutral point of view, like myself, is being alienated from discussion. There is no room for dialogue, no room for learning, even from people who want it. Dialogue, it seems, is completely unattainable and impossible. If we can't even talk in a civil manner about it, how are we to ever come to a solution? 
I am very interested in learning more about this issue. I am interested in neutral reporting, in articles that neither demand Holocaust survivors take a certain stand or liken Israel to the SS. I want to know, in a neutral manner, exactly what is happening in Gaza. And I hope for a peaceful solution where we all can live happily ever after (although that is a pipe dream, of course, which I recognize, but one can hope for the best).
But if even moderates or neutral people are pushed out of the conversation, how are we to constructively learn anything? If all that is posted on social media are articles where the poster generally expects everyone to agree with them on the issue and then become irate when people do not agree, what is the point?
And, more importantly, why is there so much blaming on either side when a genocide is occurring in Iraq and social media is totally devoid of any passionate argument against it? When I have posted things on this issue, it is though tumbleweeds are passing through my posts. Post anything vaguely related to Gaza/Israel that shows you have the slightest inclination of any kind of opinion and you can sit back and watch the post explode. 
In the end, it leaves many of us feeling uneducated, disempowered and slightly paralytic about the situation. How am I supposed to form an educated opinion when both "sides" have made it ultimately clear that the basic tenants that I believe in which I have mentioned earlier on this post are unacceptable. 
If screaming like toddlers until we are all red in the face if someone slightly disagrees with you is the way we are handling this issue and trying to bring about peace, then it is time to re-evaluate how we are stalling dialogue and thus, making peace completely impossible. 
Have you been able to have a civil dialogue on this issue? Do you feel your education on the issue is neutral or "colored" by one doctrine or feeling?

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  1. I really enjoyed this post- thanks for writing!

    It saddens me that people have manipulated the Holocaust, and indeed the persecution of Jews for political purpose on both sides. As a long lost descendant of a Jewish family, I find it truly upsetting that such shocking history should be misconstrued for any kind of purpose. I too, believe Jews have the right to a homeland which has also put me into the ‘radical’ basket. I recall having a conversation with a friend who was studying a module on the Israel/Palestine conflict and attempting to explain to her that my heart went out to both ‘sides’. Her reaction was one of shock and dismay, and went along the lines of “wow- that’s a really radical view and if you said that in my module everyone would be shocked. I’m completely on the side of the Palestinians, they’re the innocent ones in this”. My reaction to her was that I found her views rather simplistic, and that such black and white thinking I thought to be quite upsetting. Surely the issue itself demonstrates the need for open communication and a certain open-mindedness when it comes to hearing ‘the other side’? And not just the ‘other side’ but perhaps a view that slightly differed from your own.

    I (like I hope any humane and decent person would) feel totally saddened by the killing of so many people in the conflict. I, like you, feel if dialogue cannot even begin with such a recognition, find it a pessimistic outlook for any negotiations and peace. I also feel the same about the imbalance of concern for conflict around the world. Take a look at Syria- atrocious massacring, and the dismal outlook for so many Syrians and yet so little is documented apart from the focus on ‘jihadists’ and ‘terrorists’ that apparently threaten the West.

    Although you consider yourself politically neutral in regards to the conflict, I feel as a blogger just by talking about it you are breaking down the boundaries of posting about topics like this. So often I am shocked by the lack of knowledge (or knowledge simply based upon the biggest headlines, or the biggest media groups) about what is going on in the world. How is anyone supposed to learn if they refuse to communicate or listen to others, regardless of differing opinions?

    Nomad Notebook

    1. Also, i just realised you're at Leic Uni- awesome- i did my undergrad there :)

    2. Awesome! What did you do your undergrad in?

    3. It is so difficult to have any opinion as people are unable to even listen to one another without hurling insults. It is truly frustrating and terrible all at once. And I agree, that taking either "side" is, in a way, black and white and simplistic. Especially when you begin to attack anyone that does not align 100% with you.

      What I find obnoxious is that people are constantly trying to drag the Holocaust into it. The Palestinian "side" says that even teaching the Holocaust is an attempt to make people feel sorry for the Jews and it cannot happen. The Israeli "side" says that the Holocaust can be used as an excuse for their anger and that they are very sensitive about the issue of Israel because "the Jewish people are so traumatized." It is when arguments become overly heated that I can almost see both sides becoming genocidal. I kind of feel like this isn't going to be solved until an all out race war happens or one side actually follows through with genocide/a massive attack. And it makes me so incredibly sad.

    4. Yes, yes and yes to everything you said! It's so sad.

      I studied History and International Relations at Leicester. I'm currently doing a Masters in IR at York uni and wanting to do a PhD at some point (i actually got offered one in Australia but unfortunately it was unfunded, so i'm just in the process of hunting down scholarships etc), so it's nice to find a blog written by a PhD student!

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