Instructing peace in the Middle East
February 7, 2013
This is an article about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My editor warned me that I would receive hate mail after this article runs. That should tell you all you need to know about the level of hate and vitriol both sides spew.
Last semester, I was discussing the conflict in a seminar when one student made the claim: “Historically, there is no such thing as Palestinians.” The professor calmly responded that this was false, providing information on the expansion of Israel’s borders since 1948. I didn’t think much of it until the student later confided in me that he was considering reporting the professor for being an anti-Semite.
And here lies the root of the issue. Now, I am the first to admit that I do not know much about the conflict. I can’t summarize the important issues or find the West Bank easily on a map. Normally, I would educate myself on an issue I did not know enough about. However, when I tried to do so, I realized the problem was a distinct lack of unbiased sources. And if I — a person living in a country that is home to some of the most ardent supporters on either side — cannot find an unbiased history or explanation, how can we expect young people living in Israel and Palestine to?
We cannot. Each side teaches its children that the other is always the aggressor, that they have never done anything wrong, that anyone who disagrees is an anti-Semite or an Islamaphobe. In doing so, they dehumanize the other side. When these children grow up and get their turn to negotiate, who do they see across the table? They see the evil spawn of the bastards who have done horrible things to their family for thousands of years simply because they are Israeli or Palestinian.
As for the student who could not accept the existence of a historical Palestinian people — which, really, is ridiculous because they are here now and have just as much right to live in peace without being discriminated against as any other person on this earth — he was just doing what he had been taught. We live in such a politically correct culture that accusing someone of being a bigot is almost always the best way to win an argument.
I am not taking sides in this conflict. Both sides have indoctrinated their youth, which has led to the current state of affairs. According to a recent poll, seven percent of Palestinian teenagers believe Israel has a right to exist. Sounds bad, right? But this poll was conducted by a group led by Itamar Marcus, a Netanyahu appointee who lives in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, a fact that calls its validity into question. Both sides need to change the way they educate their children if they seriously hope to resolve this conflict.
Ian Mark is a staff columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org