November 4, 2015

POP CULTURE, POLITICS AND PERCEPTION | Importing Hate

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By SARAH PALMER

I do not pretend to be an expert in international politics. I’m writing for a college blog, not The New York Times. Yet as my blog has apparently taken on the tinge of an open-ended letter to the editor, I will follow the lead of fellow writers and act the expert. After mentioning senseless violence and the Syrian civil war, the next stop on our world tour is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A conflict that at its heart is about governance of the region. The conflict falls along religious and ethnic lines, and has accumulated many alienating acts of violence on both sides. The first obstacle facing the discussion of this issue is that to many, it is untouchable. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems almost impossible to take a moderate stance on the Palestine/Israel question. Many people avoid the topic altogether for fear of inciting some impassioned response. However, I don’t think there is any topic that is so taboo that it is above simple discourse. So, as one who was once afraid to talk about this conflict, as only a periphery person, I am going to give my two cents (adjust as necessary for inflation).

My stance on the conflict is that neither side can be victorious. If the cultural rift of these areas is ever going to close, both sides must make concessions. This may seem like an easy out. Yet at this time, it seems to be the only logical option left. Israel/Palestine is a land divided. Palestinians and Israelis have different areas that they are permitted to be in, certain buses they know to ride and all in all, an understanding that they live in two different, parallel spheres. There is nothing more dangerous than being obligated to live next to a person without having an understanding of their culture. Is it then surprising that this area is a hotbed of cultural, social and religious friction? However, what is worse is how America and other Western worlds have served as magnets, or even amplifiers, for this conflict. Israel/Palestine is a segregated state that is reaching beyond itself and segregating other nations. Importing their hate, other countries pick sides and become embittered defenders of their position. Claiming to be searching for a solution, they only propagate hatred. Especially in the wake of heightened violence in Jerusalem, finger pointing is in vogue. More than ever, people feel they have to take a stance on who is most justified in their actions.

So can nobody be correct? Or is everyone wrong? These are the discussions that need to take place, but are silenced because moderates are afraid to get embroiled in such an intense issue. As a result, people only talk with people of like minds or yell at opponents. Those on the periphery are also afraid to point a finger at Arabs in fear of being seen as racist or to point a finger at Israel and be called anti-Semitic. Every international discussion walks these lines of what is or is not acceptable; however, that fear of being wrong can’t silence the whole discussion.

The second obstacle of the discussion on constructing peace is the extremes found on both sides. Both demand ultimate sovereignty over the region. However, this resolution, besides being ineffective, is only possible through the total surrender of one side. Therefore, even though horrible injustices have occurred on the Israeli and Palestinian sides, both feel wronged and justified; one must be named absolutely correct, the other unequivocally wrong. Yet, with both sides committing acts of violence, this is no longer a feasible long-term solution. It is said, don’t ask me where, that the fate of post-WWI Europe was formed in the first year of the war. The death toll was so high that Wilson’s Fourteen Points had already failed. A peaceful, even-handed resolution had been lost on the field of Charleroi, where 27,000 Frenchmen lost their lives on one day alone. Or maybe it was every day after that in 1914, when the French army averaged around 2,200 deaths per day. After such bloodshed, nothing but punishment, a sense of retribution and blame could satiate the treaty’s writers. I’m not comparing the death toll of WWI to the current conflict, but there is something to be learned in this mindless need for retribution. Making a people the loser of history only fosters resentment and leads to new problems, like a Second World War.

Finally, if we accept that we are dealing with a conflict that demands a unilateral victory, then we can start treating the problem, not the symptoms. This violence is horrible, but it is representative of a deeper affliction that reaches the very foundation of this area. De-segregating and trying to foster understanding between these divided people has to be the priority. So instead of importing hate and making it ours, let’s convert it to compromise. That sounds a bit hokey, but we already know demanding that a country or people take full blame of an issue is not effective.

There is blame on both sides. Leaders have helped to sensationalize the violence by polarizing peoples who are forced to interact. This only produces more misunderstanding, resentment and violence. Even if one side is “more” right, even if one is the oppressor and the other the oppressed, these labels will give nothing but a momentary victory to the group that administers them. There is nothing long term in them. They are perishable, and all they leave behind is a festering mess and a nasty smell that infects everything.

Sarah Palmer is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her spirit animal is President William Henry Harrison, reminding her that even the biggest success can be dampened by the wrong outfit choice. She spends far too much time watching old movies, listening to jazz and trying not to do anything. Pop Culture, Politics and Perception appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. She can be reached at ssp222@cornell.edu.

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