My interest in the Israel/Palestine conflict began in an International Relations class in which we briefly touched on the debacle that is the Middle East. I was both fascinated and frustrated with the complexity of the issue. The human rights violations committed by both parties were infuriating.
There have been six unsuccessful attempts at a peace agreement in my lifetime, and I was baffled by why so many quests for peace had failed on a political level.
The topic of Israel and Palestine provokes controversy and tension regardless of where it is discussed and who is discussing. Emotions surrounding the topic vary, including anger, aggression, frustration, indifference, interest, sadness, despair and humiliation. With the current Middle East peace talks going on, Israel/Palestine is once again a topic that no one can escape.
During my career at Ithaca College, I’ve noticed ebbs and flows in the discussion and action around Israel/Palestine. One semester, everyone is talking. The next semester, there is activism and retaliation. The next semester, there is silence. There should never be silence — silence is just as dangerous as aggression. Silence means people are too scared, indifferent or angry to discuss the issue, and this reinforces the cycle of a seemingly unsolvable conflict. What the college lacks is a healthy, continuous dialogue about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Students need to have a healthy dialogue, even though it’s such a loaded subject. For starters, students shouldn’t talk about Israel and Palestine if they don’t know anything about it.
It’s OK not to know very much about the conflict or nothing at all. It takes self-restraint and confidence to admit that we don’t know everything about today’s hottest topic. In situations where students are asked an opinion, they shouldn’t make one up. They shouldn’t be afraid to admit that they don’t know and that they want to learn more. The way to fix this is to do research. Watch the news and read newspapers and books about the issue. Using independent media and alternative news sources is ideal because we all know how American media is sometimes skewed.
A healthy dialogue continues when we ask questions about the situation, instead of asserting our opinions. Everyone has their own opinion, and it can be interesting and beneficial to hear what other people have to say. But opinions are not fact. Knowing what people think can be important in expanding knowledge and personal opinion, but always take other views with a grain of salt.
There seems to be a lack of panels and speakers brought to the college. And when there are lectures, only a handful of students show up to the events. For more dialogue, students need to attend these to be exposed to different viewpoints.
Students also need to not react so quickly or irrationally when discussing Israel and Palestine. It’s easy to get personally and emotionally invested in the issue but this detracts from having a healthy dialogue about the conflict and possible solutions. We need to be open-minded and excited to hear what others have to say. We need to do just as much listening as we do talking.
Talking and being active about this conflict is important, but it is necessary that these actions and dialogue are healthy. Educate yourself, stay open-minded and have a good debate.
Katie Zimmerman is a senior planned studies major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org