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Why Are We Silent?

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A call to young people to share and learn about difficult global issues.

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Personal musings on the conflict

I am becoming increasingly irritated each time I log onto Facebook. Scrolling down my newsfeed in the morning with a cup of tea, I am bombarded with statuses about the conflict. Of course people are entitled to their opinions irrespective of what they are, but it doesn’t stop me from getting irritated. I am irritated because all of these statuses I see are either expressing how evil the Israelis are, or how monstrous Hammas is. And at some point I just let out a sigh and think, “can we just stop with the blaming and the hatred. It’s not getting us any closer to a peaceful solution.”

However, it made my day to see the following status: “Who is right and wrong, who did what to whom does not matter- all that matters is Peace and Love. Sending strength, love and prayers to the Middle East. ♥” This is what I want to see posted by my friends, not messages of vitriol about yet another wrong-doing of either side.

I have sometimes been accused of sitting on the proverbial fence. In the discussion of the Middle East opinions are polarized. As a young Jewish woman I am positioned in certain ways; it is often expected that being a Jew I am wholly Zionist and have unwavering support for all of Israel’s actions. When I try to explain that I personally do not condone some of Israel’s choices it is automatically assumed that I am a Palestinian sympathizer and support the actions of Hammas.

But this is far from how I feel about the conflict. This is a conflict that has been going on for more years than I have been alive. I think it is terrible how Israel treats the Palestinians. I think it is equally as horrific as Hammas actively targeting civilians. I don’t want to play a game of “who has sinned the most?”; both sides have acted in less than desirable ways. This is a long-standing conflict and is unfortunately a part of the reality.

I feel that there is no allowance for nuance in our discourses surrounding this issue. Furthermore, it almost appears that there are enforced limitations on how we talk about the conflict. We have a limited lexicon available and this limits our discussions. As a result, it is almost deemed bizarre that I choose not to “take a side” in a discussion that is identified by the diametrically opposed views that are held by both parties.

I am not against any side, I am against conflict. I would not last a day in the army. I would never be able to learn how to use a gun; fully knowing that my explicit reason for doing so would be to harm another human being – even an enemy.

I was brought up to care about and value people regardless of their gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation. When I see a news report of 20 civilian casualties in the conflict, I am heartbroken. I am equally as heartbroken whether these civilians were Israelis or Palestinians. People are people. Any life lost is a tragedy to me.

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Candle Vigil

Candle Vigil

Ceasefire Declared

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The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just announced the ceasefire to the rocket firing that has plagued Israel and Gaza for the past 8 days. To date at least 160 people have died, at least 150 Palestinians and 8 Israelis have been killed by these 7 days of battle.

A link to the copy of the Ceasefire Agreement was found on BBC.com and The Jerusalem Post (here) was reported as follows:

Understanding Regarding Ceasefire in Gaza Strip

1.

a. Israel shall stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals

b. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks, and attacks along the border.

c. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents free movement, and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.

d. Other matters as maybe requested shall be addressed

2. Implementation Mechanism;

a. Setting up the zero hour for the Ceasefire Understanding to enter into effect

b. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon

c. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations, Egypt – as the sponsor of this understanding – shall be informed to follow-up.

This has been copied directly from the link above for ease of use.

With this cease-fire in effect, what are the motivations for each party involved to maintain and abide by the agreement and are these motivations enough?

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

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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