Once more we return to where we once were.
“Israel has a right to defend itself” declare the supporters of Israel. “The Israelis are oppressing the Palestinian people” cry the supporters of the Palestinians. One side pointing fingers, the other pointing them right back. Over and over the same accusations and defenses are repeated. It’s getting more than a bit old.
A spark ignites in the region, people on both sides lose their lives, their homes, their sense of security – and immediately the cheerleading begins. Jews support Israel. Arabs support the Palestinians. And nothing ever changes.
What is most frustrating, and unfortunate, is how neither side ever changes their perspective. Year after year, decade after decade, the same problems arise and the same defensive postures are immediately taken. It’s as if neither party actually cares about solving the issue at hand, only that the other side is wrong.
So what is the purpose of their support? Why do they write letters and argue with friends and take to the streets? Do they actually care for the well-being of the people involved or do they simply wish to be on a team? To have somewhere to point a finger? This mix of moral outrage and self-centeredness is hypocritical and destructive.
If those involved – supporters and policy makers alike – truly cared about the safety and future of the innocent people in the region, then they would put aside prejudice and past transgressions and do their best to help move the discussion forward to a new stage. Because the obvious but apparently difficult-to-see reality is that nothing will get better if the same old circle is not broken. How can one negotiate productively with only their own interests in mind? Without considering what the other party needs or is feeling? Neither side will get respect until they can see that the other side deserves the same.
Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines empathy as the “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to…the feelings and experience of another”. Without such a characteristic taking its place at the forefront, negotiations and therefore solutions are doomed before they begin. A lack of empathy is the surest way to ensure a lack of progress. And without progress those you purport to care so deeply about will continue to suffer.
It is therefore the duty of all those involved, from the letter writer to the person on the ground, to relegate the base emotions of anger and pride to the back of the room. Put your personal allegiances and nearsightedness away, they do not belong at the table.