EDITORIAL: Gaza and the perils of polarization


By the BP Editorial Board

Our school is full of passionate and spirited supporters of Israel. We celebrate Israeli culture, and recognize the religious importance of the nation. But we have gotten to a point where that same emotion bleeds into our discussions of the political side of Israel.

We live in time of great polarity among political opinions. If our favorite political leader or nation is not “winning” then it is “losing”. This attitude can be toxic when trying to have a political discussion, especially about Israel. Often, criticism of Israeli policy is seen as anti-semitic. In the past few weeks, with the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and concurrent bloodshed on the Gaza border, condemnation of Israel has been wide and deep. This can be scary for all who love and believe in the importance of a Jewish homeland.

But the response should not be to find ways to dismiss all forms of criticism. Many have said that the violence by the IDF is just since the protestors included Hamas operatives who were indeed violent; others say this is just a way to disqualify the goals of the protest. The actual message that many peaceful Palestinians are trying to spread is being overshadowed by violent radicals — this seems plain.  So instead of discussing the substance of the protest, we focus on the conflict over its conduct. And by shutting our ears to one another, we are cutting off any hope of eventually achieving peace.

BP Drawing by Sam Rubanowitz

Reasonable people — and reasonable Zionists — can disagree about whether Israel is using the right tactics in Gaza today.  Politics are not black and white. Decisions like those facing Israeli leaders today are difficult in the extreme.

But just because a people, a country or a government that you love does things that you may disagree with does not mean that you should give up on it. There are Americans who love their country yet strongly oppose its current leadership. Americans who loved their country equally opposed its predecessor. This is the only way that we can be real supporters, and supporters who remain true to our deepest values.

BP Drawing by Sam Rubanowitz

Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean he’s an anti-semite, or she’s a racist anti-Palestinian or Islamophobe. We should engage with those who have opinions unlike our own in the hope that we can find common ground. Instead of looking at someone who is critical of the Israeli government as a “self-hating Jew” or “anti-Israel,” try starting a conversation. You might find out that you have more that holds you together than sets you apart.

If we work hard at this, maybe by the time our generation is in charge, the search for common ground will make a comeback, and polarization will be a thing of the past.  At least for a while.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the members of the Editorial Board, which consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Web Editor-in-Chief, Community Editor and Faculty Advisor. We welcome submissions for signed editorials from members of the Shalhevet Community, and the final decision about printing them is made by the Editorial Board. Submissions should be emailed to [email protected].

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