Lately in the Daily Nexus opinion section I’ve noticed a trend in the Israeli-Palestinian debate. While the assortment of articles varies slightly in tone and content, it seems both sides have reached an impasse. Both sides have settled into a rhetorical laze and seem to resort to the same tactics. On the one hand, there are those who decry the actions of the Israeli government, continually portraying it as oppressive, racist and terrorist and justify the actions of Hamas and Fatah as “desperate acts.” In response, the pro-Israel constituents reply simply with the argument that the Palestinians have been offered peace on many occasions, and that they simply do not want peace. The problem with this dialogue is that it is being oversimplified to the point that true discussion cannot take place. If the two sides continue to rebut one another with the same tried and true language, nothing can be accomplished. Both sides surely need to take the time to listen, before instantly counterattacking.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has raged for decades and has recently been inflamed in the past three years of this Intifada, is certainly a passionate issue. It is an issue that impassions Israelis, Arabs, Americans and millions of others around the world. It is difficult, if not impossible, not to feel passionate about a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives, both Israeli and Palestinian. How can one not feel sorrow or rage at a conflict which evokes images of young children throwing rocks at faceless tanks, people standing helplessly by as their house is demolished or beside empty shells of restaurants and cafes – nearby streets strewn with glass, blood and body parts? It is difficult, but we must rise above the idea that one side holds the monopoly on pain. Compassionate listening has allowed hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis to escape the bonds of dehumanization to see their enemies not as faceless occupiers or indiscriminate anti-Semitic killers, but rather as fellow people, desperate to escape a vicious cycle that has claimed too many lives.
It is clear that the Middle East needs new leadership on both sides. The Middle East needs leaders who are not constrained by the ideologies of the past that rely on iron-fist diplomacy or terrorism as means of negotiation. The Middle East needs this leadership soon, before it is too late. Perhaps this new leadership, one that believes in security and freedom for all, will have to come, not from Gaza or Jerusalem, but from a generation of young people who can lead the way in dialogue. I hope the cynics amongst us won’t dismiss my words as overly idealistic, because I firmly believe in the words of early Zionist Theodor Herzl: “If you will it, it is not a dream.” In 1990, an organization called the Compassionate Listening Project began as the MidEast Citizen Diplomacy[[ok]], a project of the Earth Stewards[[Earthstewards]] Network. The goal of this project, as it has developed over the past 14 years, has been to promote reconciliation between two hurt peoples through exposure to each side and dialogue. The idea behind the project is that ordinary people can eventually affect true and lasting change on a regional level. Its goal is to bridge between people in conflict, so that, unlike the recent debate within the pages of this newspaper, non-judgmental listening can occur.
Some of the most poignant words ever spoken on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were spoken by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin at the signing of the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn in September 1993: “Enough of blood and tears, enough. The time for peace has come.” The time for peace is long overdue; both sides have suffered more than enough blood and tears.
Ruben Brosbe is an undeclared freshman.