Recently, I went to bed, hopeful that a possible Gaza ceasefire might be in the works, only to wake up to news that a bomb explosion on a civilian bus in Tel Aviv had injured 21 people. The attack, the first of its kind since 2006, indicated that tension was escalating and a full-scale war was in the cards, if a truce failed to materialize.
Thankfully, it did.
By the time I finished this column, I logged back on to the internet, only to find out that a tentative peace had been brokered. I decided to run this column anyways. Not because I’m lazy and refuse to write another one, but because I’m a realist. I know it will continue to remain relevant past today’s good news.
My Facebook page, just like my life, is populated with friends who seem to have taken clear sides on the conflict. I’ve seen volatile exchanges take place, people unfriending one another, hateful accusations tossed around like grenades. There seems to be no middle ground, no room for empathy, or discussion. If we, thousands of miles away, are unable to discuss the Middle East in an unruffled manner, one wonders what hope there is for the people who reside in the region; practically reared on one-sided propaganda.
Over the years, I’ve tried to read up on the conflict, listened to the laments of both sides, attempted to comprehend its convoluted complexities and intricacies, but mostly, I’ve cried for the innocent human casualties involved. The ones who always pay the ultimate price for the politics they have no control over.
I don’t pretend to have any answers (writers more eloquent and knowledgeable on the topic have tried and failed), but I’m appalled at the vitriol that continues to spew. It’s the kind of tribalism and extreme nationalism that leaves no room for unbiased and rational thought. Lost in the madness are these simple truths: Just because someone vehemently disagrees with the decisions taken by the Israeli government does not equate to them rejecting Israel’s right to exist, or anti-Semitism. Just because someone can empathize with the Palestinian people’s deplorable living conditions does not mean that they support Hamas’ terrorist activities.
Nelson Mandela once declared 'I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel, within secure borders.' I agree. How can a peaceful two-state existence be brokered if they continue to deny each other’s legitimacy? By the same token, Israel needs to understand that continuing to kill Palestinians and stripping them of everything provides Hamas with their power base and allows them justification for their actions.
Simply put, both sides have been using indiscriminate military measures – Hamas shooting rockets on Israeli civilians and Israel imposing different levels of siege. And while a lot of this is about politics, it’s about so much more. Something deeper that spills over into the hidden recesses of identity and belonging: what’s mine, and what’s yours? The types of emotions, which left unchecked and unquestioned, are always easiest to manipulate.
And while a lot of this is about politics, it’s about so much more. Something deeper that spills over into the hidden recesses of identity and belonging; what’s mine, and what’s yours? The types of emotions, which left unchecked and unquestioned, are always easiest to manipulate.
How does one understand and make sense of the undisputable fact that hatred and injustices (real, perceived, or otherwise) have a way of living and surviving from one generation to the next? How does one comprehend how fear, intolerance, resentment and grievances can spread like cancer and consume a person, a nation? Hatred is a river that runs deep.
"They just want us to disappear from the face of the earth," I once had a Jewish friend tell me. She spoke with the determined -- yet weary -- resolution of someone who had already decided they were moving there (she eventually did). I wondered how she could even contemplate leaving the peace and safety of Canada, to make a life in a country where shelters and sirens are a way of life.
“By law, you must have a bomb shelter in your home,” she explained to me. I heard 'bomb shelter,' and all she heard was 'home.' How sad is that?
Try negotiating co-existence in a small, overpopulated part of the world among people who have strong identities, strong beliefs, strong grievances and conflicting interests. How does one find a solution to appease and satisfy everyone vying for a region that is so sacred to three religions?
As one can expect, both parties continue to have their narratives of what constitutes “truth,” and each side is claiming it for themselves. The “truth” is easy to see, they say, if you just avoid the obvious media bias and slanted explanations and focus on the facts.
Which facts? Facts are often capricious, depending on the prism through which you choose to see them. Which truth? Wasn’t it Rush who penned the lyrics: 'Truth is, after all, a moving target/Hairs to split/And pieces that don't fit'? Perception is a fickle thing. It can quickly transform one person’s terrorist to another person’s freedom fighter.
Years ago, I wrote a similar column, citing Antoine Saint-Exupery’s line in The Little Prince.
'It is such a secret place, the land of tears.' Watching the bloodshed and the unrelenting pain in people’s faces - on both sides – continue to play out in public, nothing has changed.
Sadly, I continue to think the same today. The song remains the same.