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A Moment of Clarity

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There's been a lot of ink spilled this week about the crisis in the Middle East, and I'm not about to write an impassioned polemic trying to intellectualise the situation there. I'm not informed enough - in fact I'm not convinced that anyone is - to accurately represent the years of devastating animosity between Israel and Palestine in a blog post, or newspaper column, or worse - a tweet.

But something I have found particularly interesting about being a born and bred Brit living in the United States is the huge disparity in reportage of the situation between the two countries. Having never lived anywhere outside of England, I had become used to the pro-Palestine stance taken by the vast majority of the press in my home country, to the point where I thought any kind of commentary on the relations there would unquestionably come from the same viewpoint.

During my last three years at university, even, when some level of truce was in place, pro-Palestinian ideologies kept sneaking into my subconscious. There were impassioned proclamations about the Palestinian death toll written across the campus grounds in chalk, screenings of pro-Palestinian films a frequent occurrence - that mentality became so universally accepted that at times, it was hard to even remember that the story still had two sides. In England, one of those sides seems silenced, and the same is true in America. Except this time, it's the pro-Israel voice that shouts louder here than anyone else.

I read this post yesterday and it instantly threw me off - who were these impassioned anti-Palestine writers, and what were they thinking? Wasn't it a truth universally acknowledged that Israel was the bad guy, and Palestine the good? These weren't opinions I necessarily held myself, but I had spent so long in environments where that seemed to be the only viewpoint, clarity had got all but lost. My shock - and it was genuinely shock - at reading something so contrary to anything I had read before (from a Western news source, at least) soon faded, as I realised that there was a valid argument to be found in the piece. It reminded me that just as the reams of fervent pieces I read in the British media supporting Palestine make wholly worthwhile points, so too does the American press make the same justifications for the opposing side, and perhaps a wider cross referencing of reading on the matter might encourage people to look at the situation anew. When surrounded by one idea constantly, it is unsurprising that we accept such an opinion as the norm, even if it is one we do not hold ourselves.

I don't want to be speculative, but I assume that the pro-Israel stance taken in the US, or New York, more specifically, is a result of the higher Jewish population this side of the pond. This, again, is something I have found myself conflicted by. My family takes what I call the bacon-and-Christmas approach to Judaism - we don't observe any of the rules or holidays, know collectively little about the religion itself and set foot in a synagogue roughly every five years or so when someone is born/dies. Essentially, our behaviour isn't very Jewish at all.

But there is that inevitable assumed link between Judaism and Israel; one that, if anything, silenced some of my reasoning when hearing arguments pro the two warring countries. I automatically attributed any kind of Israel sympathy to the fact I was probably guilty for being such a shitty Jew, and that it was some kind of subconscious telepathic tie to the motherland that was obscuring my ability to conform to the mainstream political opinion at home. I see now, though, that all the times I veered away from the pro-Palestinian profferings of my contemporaries, it was not the result of my religion, but because sometimes, in a totally senseless situation, what they said was no more senseless than anything else.

Don't get me wrong - this whole situation is senseless, and I remain on the fence, strictly refusing to pretend that either side is less abhorrent in their actions, because they aren't. What I have learnt, though, is that accepting the voice of the majority in the absence of a strong enough one to the contrary clouds, not clears, judgement. It might seem painfully naïve that I am only fully coming to realise this now, but if he who shouts the loudest is the only one who gets heard, this can only be to the detriment of us all.