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How Do We Share Our Opinions: A response to addressing the current conflict in Israel and Gaza.

by on November 21, 2012

In light of the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, there has been a lot of discussion on social media platforms of people sharing their views on the current conflict. We are a group of young South Africans concerned about the manner and tone of these discussions. We come from various backgrounds and cultural traditions and have been involved in peaceful interfaith dialogue used to challenge youth to express their identities and what they believe in.

Some of the fears that people like us have of participating in these kinds of conversations are:

  • We are often susceptible to believing whatever we read, without looking at it critically.
  • We are not educated enough on the conflict to comment on it.
  • We feel our opinions seem irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things.
  • We often feel out of our depth because we are not directly affecting by the conflict.
  • We are afraid of letting ourselves become affected by the conflict

We want young people to:

  • Remain sceptical and question what one hears in the media.
  • View both sides of the story before formulating an opinion.
  • Discuss commonalities across opinions and beliefs.
  • Look at a conflict holistically and use it to help formulate the next step.

Respect

We believe that the outcome of a conversation is dependent on the way in which this conversation is held. As individuals we are responsible for how people perceive our comments. Comments made in an aggressive manner are not valued as much as those made in a respectful one. We are not asking that people withdraw the passion from their statements, but rather to remember that there is a continuum of opinions, of which each is entitled to their own.

Language

Conflicts that cross multi-linguistic regions pose the problem of added barriers to dialogue, creating opportunities for misinterpretation. We need to acknowledge that discussions are made difficult when not held in one’s home language.

Role of the media

With regards to current conflicts, the media plays the most important role because it is a major contributor used to formulate our opinions. Information is often taken out of context and sensationalized. Media may also be biased in terms of religion and geographical location. Some people turn to oral sources rather than the media. We would like to encourage behaviour that incorporates the use of a variety of sources to build concrete and justified opinions. We hope this is reflected in this space.

Responsibility of the global community

Our aim is not to come up with solutions, but rather to create a space where people can confront issues in a way which promotes equality and respect. Our goal is to come to terms with what is happening throughout the rest of the world.

We call on the global community to recognize the pressing need of dialogue in dealing with the conflict in Israel and Gaza, as well as to recognize the urgency of this situation.

What we want to stress is that the importance is perhaps not in what we are saying, but how we say. 

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