Overcoming the Taboo of Middle East Politics

We are taught not to discuss contentious political issues in ‘polite company’.  We find it so easy to surround ourselves with people who share our political leanings, even as this leads to the further polarization of our political climate and our inability to view the Other Side as rational human beings deserving of our patient attention and full respect.  The sanctum sanctorum of political topics to be avoided, especially in the Jewish community, is the Israel-Palestine Conflict.  What is strange about this issue is that many in the Jewish community see their being Jewish to be the highest value, and so we are forced to learn to live with each other, overcoming our political differences on this issue.  While this, in theory, would be a wonderful experiment in tolerance and empathy, the reality on the ground is that most of us have taken the easy way out, either opting to build communities where political agreement is guaranteed from the start, or to stamp out any political comments that might arise, to the extent that criticism of Israel has been equated with anti-Semitism.

I strive to avoid either of those pitfalls, and instead to take advantage of the fact that I have been blessed to form relationships with Jews of many backgrounds and political leanings.  These are people whose thought I greatly admire, and who I hope to remain in relationship with.  I want to cultivate a rigorous debate with the underlying ethos being that this, of all issues, is one that we all share a deep connection to.  It does not matter to me whether that connection was created by a religious bond to a plot of land Jews have spoken of and prayed for for the last three-thousand years, or due to ‘propaganda’ (as some would phrase it) churned out by the young modern State of Israel, or because so many of us have family and loved ones who are in physical danger any time there is violence in the region.  We can come to the table as equals if we admit that we all have a real, felt connection to the complex situation that Israel is currently in, and has always been in since before her inception.

These concerns have been highlighted today due to the escalations of violence in Israel’s south, to the extent that a full-scale military operation (“Operation Pillar of Defense”) has been declared.  I will not presume to grasp the complexities well enough to offer a thoughtful analysis for an event that is still unfolding, but I want to offer a few different perspectives that I have come across today.  My goal is to read each of these reflections – and the many that are sure to follow in the coming days and weeks – and remember that they all wish for peace in a region that holds a special place in their hearts.  To believe otherwise is to close the door on learning from those we disagree with.

Dr. Jeremiah Haber: http://www.jeremiahhaber.com/2012/11/israels-pre-election-war.html

Jews for Justice for Palestinians: http://jfjfp.com/?p=36020

The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/14/politics-or-bad-decision-making.html

Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=291892


One thought on “Overcoming the Taboo of Middle East Politics

  1. Certainly, the quagmire which is Middle East politics makes any analysis exceedingly complex. I opt for looking at the very big picture which is that for the last 40 years or so, world leaders have had the resources to easily implement a solution, with or without the agreement of the parties. After all, they carved up the map of the Middle East after WWI and then threw in the state of Israel for good measure, didn’t they? In politics, there is always an agenda so that one must assume that since we don’t have peace, they(the world leaders)don’t want peace. Ergo: peace was never the objective of peace talks – chaos was.

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