Several friends and acquaintances have asked my opinion on the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, in particular the current conflict between Palestine and Israel. I have been extremely reluctant to share my thoughts on this matter as the emotions and tensions that accompany this long history are so strong as to be often out of the realm of reason and sound logic (ironically both sides seem to want to break it down very simplistically); rather the positions of both sides are held with such a zealous, religious-like fervor it makes objective, critical thinking over the matter next to impossible for those involved, or so it would seem.
Having spent several weeks in Israel a little over a decade ago, I felt through first-hand experience the thick tension in the air -of course the armed military with machine guns on nearly every corner did not help this perception.
Like the situation itself, this blog has been one of the most frustrating and difficult ones I have ever written for reasons that will become clear as you read on.
Please know I am not out to change anyone’s mind (even if I could) or read “preachy” responses to this blog as both sides minds are as closed as a Sherman Oaks delicatessen on a Friday evening during Shabbat.
To begin, a few opening observations:
Many in this country have been taught that righteous people support Israel while unrighteous people support Palestine.
This troubles me greatly. By assigning religious connotations to political positions we are concocting a toxic elixir of rationalized and unrepentant hate mixed with staunch fervency topped off with a dangerous heaping of eternal justification.
I do not speak for God (FCBE) yet if I could I’m sure her sentiment would be something along the lines of, “Could you all please, please leave me out of this?”
Insofar as religion in general, I read somewhere that the common man believe religion to be true while the wise man considers it to be false. The rulers, however, find it to be useful…perhaps this is partly in play here.
I have no Jewish or gentile dog in this fight; I have no allegiance to a particular ideology that demands I take a position one way or the other. Of course I was raised with a Christian theology that says good people support Israel and bad people support Palestine; even threatened with eternal damnation if I didn’t. Yet, as I became older and realized I have my own reasoning brain -along with the fact that same book said to stone to death homosexuals and adulteresses while condoning the slaying of “heathens” – I am currently an independent Middle Eastern free-agent that is in no need to sign on with either side.
Finding objective, impartial information concerning this matter is nearly impossible.
I haven’t seen positions held this strong since practicing the The Kamasutra as a younger man in my 20’s (let’s see you think of a better one, Jews and gentiles).
Reasonable and informed opinions and arguments begin with some credible information and research. What I quickly came to find out is the concept of “credible information” on the internet concerning this conflict is rich with the latter and nearly non-existent with the former. In other words, there is no shortage of information and research, however there is a gaping shortage of information that is NOT rife with a prejudiced and immutable point of view, not to mention an agenda ridden with propaganda.
Each side vehemently argues they are not being properly portrayed in the media.
Well, since Jews have very little influence over the media in America (read sarcasm) I can understand this side of the argument. And since we have a pro-Palestinian socialist currently in the White house (again, read sarcasm) I can see this point of view as well. Just stop. If anyone is ever going to take a position on an issue over what they see in the mainstream media, that position is worth as much as, well, uh, something with little to no value anyway. Does misinformation exist? Of course. And it is equally dispersed on each side of the argument.
Now, this is the part of the blog where I have some important editorial decisions to make. If I start to get into the details of the conflict, I will be clearly shot down because I will not have my facts straight, as both sides have their own convenient set of facts. If I begin to explain what I believe to be fair and legitimate positions and concerns for both sides, I will open up a Pandora’s box of history and issues that centuries of discussion could not answer -thus this pathetic, pitiful thousand word blog stands no chance.
So what’s the point of blogging about this at all?
Through writing on this issue, I realized what my position is, and has been, all along. Often times through writing we realize what our soul has been trying to express all along.
Perhaps my occasional lighter tone is masking my deep and intense frustration with this entire conflict. Good, innocent people are dying. Not Israeli or Palestinian people. Just people. Good, innocent people. I know, I know, I know…these are all like the kids fighting on the playground who claim, “Well he hit me first.” My question, does it even matter at this point who hit who first? Should both sides just keep killing each other so both sides are completely wiped out?
It seems many of those individuals who are emotionally, and perhaps culturally, invested in this conflict are far more concerned about being right over being empathic. They seem to care about the why the bombs over the tragedy of bombs. They appear to care more about principle rather than the carnage.
I have never been about being on the right side of an issue, rather I have always been about being on the people side of the issue, which actually makes me the worst person in the world to have an opinion on this matter. As I started to write this blog, I realized it is not my place (and by my place I mean MY PLACE, Jimmy Urbanovich specifically) to have a position over the rights and wrongs, the heroes and the villains, or the morally more acceptable side. In the words of Johnny Cash, if you want someone to take a side, “it ain’t me babe.”
I realize this position of taking no position appears idealistic as I am on the side of peace. Do I realize that sometimes war is a necessary evil on earth that sometimes must take place? Yes, I do. Which explains why I am not in the military business nor desire any position which would force my hand on involvement in war.
Can’t we all just get along? No, apparently we can’t. But that sure as hell should not keep us all from trying.
A facebook friend of mine, Gizella, posted this meme the other day that really helped me put my own thoughts in perspective:
Ah. So Simple. So well stated. So completely captures my sentiment.
Perhaps surprisingly, I found this blog, written by an Evangelical Christian who hails from a Jewish heritage and, like myself, felt pressured to tow the Christian-Israeli line, to be very closely aligned with my conclusions and my thinking. I respect all people who can think for themselves and not believe all things influential people and books in their life tell them to believe.
So go ahead. Tell me how misguided and wrong I am. How ignorant and out of touch I am. I am certain both sides would tell me they are on the side of peace as well. But, hey, I’m not the one dropping the bombs now, am I?
I will stick with my side.
Peace to all.
Peace to the Palestinians.
Peace to the Israelis.
Peace on earth.
Hey Jimmy, glad you enjoyed my article man, I sure enjoyed yours. The more feedback and responses I’ve had, the more I realise that for those of us ‘outside’ the immediate conflict itself (as in not living in Israel or Palestine or not directly from either of these countries), perhaps our most helpful response is what you’ve articulated and what I tried to articulate as well, and that is, to mourn the loss of life, to advocate for a ‘de-escalation’ of violence and to not throw any more ‘fuel on the fire’ by taking sides based on information presented to us that is normal biased or with an agenda. Love your blog (especially your ‘go pro lesson’) and glad we could connect. All the best bro. Matt
Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so pleased I stumbled upon your blog – it is something for this blog to aspire to. As I mention in the article, I really do not care what anyone chooses to believe so long as there is critical reasoning and analysis behind it…regardless of whether I agree with you or not. Kudos to you for not just blindly following the Christian “party line” on this issue. Like you, I just find the whole thing just so damn sad and, as you mention, I suppose promoting peace is the best position to take for us “outsiders” of sorts to the conflict.
Often people rely on information and news that has been spoon fed to them by either relatives and media. And I have to say if anything that I learned in my classes with you Jimmy is 1) get the information yourself, 2) and be critical of the sources where you get your information. Many people want to look at this story from simply black and white points of view, and it cannot be. This is a complex situation. It is a perfect example of how victorious countries make decision for other regions without considering all the people involved in that area. Its the reason why there were problems in eastern Europe when the USSR fell, and its the reason why there is problems in Israel now.
Governments have created a unbalanced playing field, where in a land that traditionally was occupied by both groups of people, you now have 1 with all the power and 1 with none of it, and the leading nations of the world for the most part have supported it for the last 60 years. Some people want to make this issue about religion, but its as I said way to complex, and goes beyond religion, its political, economical.
So whether the view is a popular one or not, look into what its like for both groups of people, and by looking, I mean be critical of where your getting information look and see if they are using words to skew a point of view for their own personal agenda, and if they are… avoid it. Make informed decisions for yourself and don’t be afraid to express them.
Thank you Daniel for your very well stated reply. I know you are a history person and I greatly value your thoughts on the matter. I do believe religion plays at least a peripheral role, at least, in this matter. It is because the land is “sacred” -among other things- that is contributing emphasis for this conflict. As I said in the blog, I am not out to argue with anyone about any of this and I am quite certain if I were Palestinian or Jew I would very likely have a different take on the matter. Perhaps having the ability to be impartial is a luxury.
I love what you say about checking your sources. Neal Postman has a wonderful guideline for watching news. His book, “How To Watch TV News” is a great read. Though I have not read the entire book myself, so many snippets of this book are used in many texts that I feel like I have read it…or least most of it. I just cannot believe that people in this day and age can just sit back and watch the bullshitty news and actually believe it or take it seriously. Just the cadence of their show businessy voices drives me absolutely nuts.
Thanks again Mr. Stolp!
Thank you for the kind words, I can agree with your statement that religion does play a peripheral role, that said though it really shouldn’t. If we look back in antiquity, Jews, Zorastrians, and Christians were respected by Islam as people of the book, allowed to practice their religion and administrate themselves as long as they paid their Jizya. In Modernity, as far Jerusalem goes, Israel has maintain good relations in mediating control of the city with other Arab nations like Jordan when it comes to the concern of mutual Jewish and Muslim holy sites, and prior to WWI the Ottomans there was relative peace in the region. It wasn’t until after England came in where both Palestinian and Jewish nationalism began to grow.
I really think the only way we can have any means of resolving the issue, is the creation of the Palestinian state, what that will look like, and how its implemented is another matter, but I don’t think there can be any chance for peace without the dislocated Palestinians having the right to govern their people fairly religious differences aside, when your resources and food are dictated to you, people will riot, and thats for any society religious or not, it happened in Europe, it happened in South America. There was a reason why self determination was such a big goal in the early 20th century.
It is entirely possible for both sides to be functioning rectums. Like wise its possible for both sides to have valid points. The worst possible situation is for both sides to be both. And i think that is the case.
Odos you have always had a way with language. To the man who has forever changed my mind about bullshit.