Salam, Shalom, Peace

Salam, Shalom, Peace

I am frustrated. I am disappointed. I am at a loss for what to do next because my hopes – for empathy, for compassion, for dialogue and understanding between divided peoples – are being stamped out by recent events on this campus. I am referring to the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has recently exploded across the pages of this paper, on the comments on its blog and through the conversations of students and faculty here at Colgate.

I have become a bridge between my friends on the right and perspectives from those on the left of this issue (I am defining ‘right’ as a perspective that is generally pro-Israel and ‘left’ as one that is generally supportive of Palestinian resistance within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I recognize the limitations and simplifications of these definitions, but please humor me, for brevity’s sake).

I have sat and listened and heard what my friends on the right have had to say. I have witnessed their hurt and indignation in response to the commentary, “Under the Boot,” published in last week’s paper.

And when they have asked for my opinion, I have been careful to cushion it with a layer of protective bubble wrap: I have watched my tone, I have wrung my hands, I have thought long and hard about my choice of words.

I have done all this in attempt to engage in open and respectful dialogue, because I believe in open and respectful dialogue and it’s potential to contribute to the conflict’s resolution. Despite the fact that my friends have assured me of their wholesome inten­tions and despite the fact that they probably believe that they are trying to engage in a dialogue, all I see is an interest in coming out on top, in having their version of the truth accepted rather than that of the opposition (which, to me, seems more akin to proselytiz­ing than to having a conversation). I have heard arguments about facts and figures, about libel and inaccurate sources, about misrepresentations and the misuse of metaphors, but no one has focused on the real issue at hand: that people feel hurt and personally attacked by that commentary.

Statistics and misrepresentation can be disputed, sources can be considered legitimate by some and not by others, the use of sensational analogies can be ascribed to differences in rhetorical style, but no one can illegitimize another person’s feelings, no one can negate them; they exist whether or not we want them to.We could argue for the rest of time over what is right or wrong, true or false, fair or inaccurate in regards to this incredibly com­plex and volatile issue; we will get nowhere. Alternatively, we could choose to say that we feel a certain way about a statement, a commentary, a response, and others can choose to give a care about those feelings, or not. If people choose not to care, if they choose not to try to understand where others are coming from, then we will get nowhere: there will be no dialogue and, just like in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, people will become trapped in cycles of hate, distrust and fear.

Hamilton children from the Oz Project recently performed their annual play on con­flict resolution; “when you do X, I feel Y!” they sang in their multicolored munchkin costumes, and I wish they were here now to help us through this.

Rather than focusing on “correcting” this recent commentary and its possible indis­cretions, rather than trying to end up on top, I wish there was more talk of addressing a much bigger issue (the issue, in my opinion): a lack of effort to engage respectfully, atten­tively and empathetically with those who hold different political opinions than our own, and we are all guilty of that.