This is probably happening to you as well.
I am lucky enough to live in a country of relative peace and stability. I have constant access to running water, food and shelter. Throughout the day when I am not with them, I have a general feeling that my kids and wife are ok. I don’t fear a bomb or missile will hit anywhere near my home and neither my immediate ancestors nor current relatives have been immersed in a history of war fueled by hatred, intolerance, mismanaged conflict and religious bigotry. I am lucky that way.
I see the current escalation of the Middle East conflict from afar. I read about it while I sip a cup of freshly brewed coffee in an air-conditioned office. I browse through the different news outlets unsuccessfully trying to get some sort of approximation of the facts because it is safe to say that international news media is biased one way or the other and has its own political agenda. Then, I go into Facebook.
What is normally a social media website where my friends gather to publish pictures of their kids’ latest accomplishments, share the results of trivia such as “Which European City I should live in” and the like, has changed.
For some reason, it seems that a lot of people just recently found out about this age-old conflict and escalation and of course, EVERYONE has an opinion they feel the need to share. A series of YouTube videos which summarize the history of the region since its inception in a couple of poorly constructed minutes of animation, have apparently given all of my friends the means to determine if they root for Israel or the Palestinians in this conflict, as if this horrible situation were a soccer match. Friends in Mexico, U.S., Canada and elsewhere keep sharing these videos saying “this explains it all” and I’m invaded by hashtags pro and anti-Israel. Every so often, a hopeful #PrayForGaza line pops up.
Even sadder to see are some my friends of Israeli, Arab and Muslim origin, who are usually peace-loving and tolerant people, turned into soapbox salespeople for “their cause.” I see Jewish friends talking about how “we are just defending ourselves” and grouping all Arabs and Muslims under the label of “terrorist”. On the other side of the spectrum, my Arab and Muslim friends from different nations talk about “we were here first” and the disproportionate use of force and possible war crimes of the current Israeli government attacking Gaza.
Their friends in turn comment on their posts. They tell them “We are with you” and “we support you,” which is an expected reaction from people who love them and see that behind their outbursts is an unequivocal truth: their people are hurting.
The problem with this dynamic is that it only heightens the blame game and draws conflicting sides even further away from a conception of conflict resolution or at the very least, conflict settlement. Do posturing and trying to establish that one of the warring parties is supposedly right or wrong, change the fact that innocent lives are being lost by the hundreds and have been suffering for too many years? Does it do anything else than by some twisted manner create a virtual reality of self-justification for killing others? Does posting these highly biased but supposedly educational videos make you sleep better at night?
To my Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian, Arab and Muslim friends from different countries: I AM WITH ALL OF YOU AND NOT WITH ANY OF YOU.
I am with you in empathy while from a distance I see you and/or people you hold dear in the way of immediate danger and suffering; when I see blood-splattered bodies of innocent men, women and children regardless of their color or creed. I am NOT with any of you when I see you seeking support or justification for violence from any of the parties involved in conflict. I am with you in the hope for steps forward and toward peace, such as cease-fires, peace talks, and a brokered process towards a reality in which all are allowed basic rights. I am not with you when you falter from the belief that this peace is attainable and when you corner yourselves to a reality where bullets are the only vehicle for getting your message across.
To my friends who are not directly or indirectly linked to this conflict, but who’ve succumbed to the temptation of expressing support or sponsorship of one of the warring sides, an invitation. I invite you to try to get the facts and do a little bit of research on the historical conflict that has brought the region to the crisis it faces today. I invite you to create your opinion based on an attempt to obtain objective and verifiable facts. I understand this means a lot of work but if you are not willing to do it, then I at least invite you to understand that by forming an opinion based solely on a biased YouTube video, you don’t look cool or intelligent or “in-the-know”. Moreover, by supporting and sharing these videos which only feed the blame game and promote positioning and posturing, you are actually worsening the conversation by skewing it away from the prospectus of a peaceful solution. Instead of trying to form an opinion about who is right or wrong, see this as an invitation to learn and understand complex conflict in human interaction, to identify its root causes and thus its possible solutions and to make sure you don’t bring hatred into your OWN realities.
So from my air-conditioned office half-way across the world, I say to all of you what John Lennon so brilliantly wrote once: All we are saying, is give peace a chance.