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With all the strife and death going on in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’m going a little crazy. It’s all over my newsfeed and tweets; it’s already a dizzying problem to get your head around without the bombardment of news by friends from both sides of the issue. What gets me crazier are the comments and discussion that follows, which devolves into name calling and anti-Semitism faster than you can blink. I know I’m gonna catch hell for this, but I’d like to throw out an idea for how to edge the conversation more towards rationality and civil discourse. I know that’s a tall order for the interwebs but it’s worth a shot.

  • Don’t bring Nazi Germany into this: Remember Godwin’s Law—as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches; the way I paraphrase it “the first comment to use ‘Hitler’ or ‘Nazi’ loses.” If you’re equating Israeli actions with Nazi Germany or the Holocaust before you start typing, you’re already done. So let’s get this straight off the bat: Israel DOES NOT equal Nazism. Seriously, it doesn’t. They are two separate things and only makes your argument anti-Semitic. This segues to the second point…
  • Don’t use Zionism when talking about Israel: It’s almost the same point as the first, because when you say “Zionist” or “Zionism” when talking about Israel you’re a keystroke away from anti-Semitic rhetoric that does the same for your argument as bringing up Nazis. No one’s going to listen to you after the first mention of it. Besides when the Israeli government counters with missile strikes, they aren’t doing it for the sake of Zionist philosophy.

On both these points, the whole reason is to take the racism/antisemitism out of the equation. The whole debate is frustrating enough without the vitriol of hating another person for their beliefs or who they are. Focus on actions.

  • It is NOT antisemitic to criticize Israel: The left in the US was called unpatriotic ANY time the left criticized the Bush Administration for what it did, when in fact it is part of democratic principles to be able to criticize our government. The same goes for Israel; we should be able to criticize them when they do something that we see is wrong and not be labeled antisemitic. We can argue about different values and points of view, but it is not antisemitic to do so. To take racism/antisemitism out of the equation, it has to work both ways.
  • It is NOT antisemitic to sympathize with the Palestinians: If a child is killed by a missile or artillery strike or explosives, be they Palestinian or Israeli or American or Afghan, it is a tragedy. As human beings, we sympathize or even empathize with the suffering of others and we have the right to do so without shame and without name calling. We can still hate the suffering of Palestinians without agreeing with Hamas and their terrorist rhetoric. That leads to the next point.
  • Being pro-Palestinian doesn’t equal pro-Hamas: To be clear: I DON’T like Hamas. I don’t like any organization/government that uses humanitarian aid to build underground tunnels to attack others, pays the best wages to the families of suicide bombers or indoctrinates schoolkids to hate Israel. That’s wrong even if I understand the why behind it. I will condemn and call out those actions when I hear them. But that doesn’t mean blowing up Palestinian homes, families and children is right either; that also needs to be called out (and that goes back to the point about criticizing Israel not being antisemitic).
  • It’s apartheid, not genocide: If it was true genocide, the Palestinian people would have been dead and gone long ago. What is true is that Palestinians are second class citizens in their own land. The use of power/force to keep a certain portion of population in line—often a disproportionate use of force to the actions retaliated against—is more akin to what was happening in apartheid South Africa. I can accept debate on these grounds because it focuses on right or wrong actions of a state onto a civilian population as opposed to “intent” or what the government is thinking and/or ideology.
  • Stop equating the governments with the people—both sides: My use of “government” in the last point is important. As an activist, I protest the government of Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people; simultaneously I denounce Hamas’ actions against innocent Israelis. We have been led to believe—through decades of media conditioning—that the government of a country and its people are one and the same. As an activist for nearly all my life, I know from experience that is not true. While the Israeli government tries to expand its settlements and Hamas tries to attack those targets, Israeli and Palestinian people/activists are connecting to each other through mutual hatred OVER THE CONFLICT. They are moved by the violence to try and work for peace. Not all Palestinians believe in death to Israel; not all Israelis approve of the killing of civilians in their name. If you really ask people on both sides what they want, many Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace and an end to the hostilities. These voices are out there and we are seeing more of them during this current crisis in the conflict thanks to social media. We need to listen to these voices more and try to amplify them. Denounce the actions of the ruling bodies of both populations, but affirm the humanity of the populations themselves.

This last point isn’t much of a point of argument as much as it is my personal views on how to move forward, and an urgent plea that people can mobilize in the same way.

  • Side with the peace activists: As a multiracial male, when I was once asked which side of the race war would I be on, my answer was “the multiracial, multi-ethnic coalition of peace activists that usually spring up during any war.” In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that is absolutely a necessity. They are out there in Israel, Palestine, the US, and other countries abroad. They need to be seen and heard more than ever. We need to hear the story of Palestinian refugees and survivors, as well as those Israelis who are growing more and more skeptical of their government. We need to hear of the Jews and Arabs working together to foster connections with each other to help a peace process take root. If we are going to feel any hope in this situation, it is with the young activists who may outlive a group of hardliners long enough to deliver their countries to peaceful relations. I am hopeful that this can happen, and I hope I will be around to see the fruits of their labor.

Please share this if you feel the vitriol has reached levels you can’t handle anymore and if you think we need to promote peaceful relations among the Israelis and Palestinians. #Iam4peace