September 7, 2014

BHOWMICK | Israel-Palestine: This Is not What You Think This Is

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Every semester, at least 20 percent of my academic concentration as a government major revolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Will it then be outrageous to assume that the Middle East is at the forefront of the “our world is crumbling to pieces” debate? It is surprising to me because in the 1930s, collective political consciousness refused to believe the Holocaust was a tangible reality — it was dismissed as a war crime instead of a barbaric genocide. Today, political observers are obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and views it as an aftermath of heinous crimes that took place in Europe in the years of Anti-Semitism. However, does the conflict necessarily have to be viewed through the lens of what happened during the years which led to World War II?

I believe that linking the two conflicts makes it difficult to arrive at objective opinions for the rest of the world because our judgement is biased by guilt. We feel collectively guilty for the six million Jews who died in body and the millions of others who died in spirit during the Holocaust without any justification. This guilt makes it impossible for us to empathize with the multitude of Palestinian children, women and men who are either dead or have been living in fear of death in refugee camps since 1948. It is true that both sides can come up with horrendous facts of violence which are unfortunately very real. I write this column in fear because I am aware that if I come across as pro-Palestinian, I may be branded as an avid supporter of suicide terror and fundamentalism and it will not help that I happen to be from Asia — a potential non-Western influence. On the other hand, if I come across as empathetic towards Israel because I truly believe that Jews have suffered way too many times and peace has eluded their identity for the longest time, I will be branded as just another person who subscribes to the privileged Western perspective of the world protected by ivory towers. This is the first among several predicaments of this conflict — it is either black or white and both sides have dehumanized the other. It is true that the conflict has a prolonged history, but if we harbor any hope of arriving at a solution, we need to de-link what is happening now from everything that has happened since 587 B.C.

The second complication I would say is the extent to which political media, all forms of social networks and uninformed public opinion is obsessed with the conflict in Israel. It is the cornerstone of politics in the Middle East and does have far-reaching repercussions, but there are a number of other contentions across the world which have been underrepresented and ignored. I could write out an everlasting list spanning every region from turbulent Venezuela, where a person is murdered every 20 minutes, to the Rohingya Muslim genocide in Myanmar, to an entire list devoted just to the extent to which the entire continent of Africa has been ignored in Breaking News. It is important to remember that obsession with one perspective of the world and subscribing to a rigid, unshakeable opinion and then advocating it only exacerbates the issue at hand. The last thing we need is more hostility. The day we realize the transparent fact that the death of an innocent person is a tragedy irrespective of whether he or she was Israeli, a Palestinian, a Jew, an Arab, Christian, Muslim, Black, White, multi-colored, your loved one, mine or anyone else’s, will be the first and most imperative step towards peace. So end the battle of facts on social network, listen more and care for a genuine reason and not just to sound worldly.

Aditi Bhowmick is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at [email protected]. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester.