No Monopoly On Suffering

Last week I opened the Phillipian to read a fiery article on the Israel-Palestine conflict. I logged onto Facebook to see my friends’ statuses updating the public on the fighting. I walked into GW to see posters plastered on the wall for Ambassador Ross’s lecture on peace in the Middle East. There is no doubt that the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip has been a hot issue on campus in the past week. But as the week wore on, our campus’s hypocrisy became more and more evident. As a student of a school that prides itself on equality and tolerance, I was stunned at how the student body reacted to the conflict. Put quite frankly: when an article refers to Palestinians as having, “a complete disregard for human life,” you know there is a serious problem. Where is this imbalance coming from? At first, I was at loss to answer my own question. Then, I attended Ambassador Ross’s lecture. His words, which reverberated in the Chapel that night, quieted the nagging uncertainty in my head. We have committed the grave error of allowing pride to interfere with our judgment. As Ross put it, we have chosen to rely on ideologically-driven rather than reality-based assessments. For example, in Kenny Gould’s article “The Real Israel,” he states that Israel “would not send its own children to war without careful consideration.” Although this is probably true, one has to keep in mind that Israel hardly tried to renew the Gaza cease-fire before sending in the Israel Defense Forces. They simply gave Palestine a 48-hour ultimatum and then launched a ground assault. In addition, he describes Israel as a country that values human life and was provoked by Palestinian rocket fire. However, as The Economist states, Israel stopped almost all humanitarian aid into Gaza, aid before the Hamas rocket attacks. Thus, a realistic assessment shows that both sides were equally provoked, as opposed to a pride-based assessment that favors Israel. I believe that we failed to acknowledge that neither side had a “monopoly on suffering,” as Ross put it. Both sides are suffering, and it is important to see this through an unbiased lens. For example, in his article, Gould decries the fact that his friends have to spend their nights in bomb shelters due to the threat of Palestinian rocket attacks. While there aren’t many of us that can even the horror of that, it is important to also see the suffering of the Palestinians. The Israeli air campaign has seriously harmed innocent Palestinians. This destruction can be seen in the recent bombing of a U.N. run school in the Gaza Strip. The BBC reported that 40 civilians were killed, a majority of them children. There was not a single militant in the building. However, just hearing about these grotesque casualties brings us to the final impediment that prevents us from seeing this fairly: belief. At the end of his lecture on Friday, Ross asked the audience a simple question. “Do you believe peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict is possible?” The majority said no. As if expecting this, Ross simply said, “If you haven’t tried something, you presume against it.” During the 50 years of this conflict, there has been almost no serious attempt at long lasting peace. This has resulted in people not believing in the possibility of peace. So what do they do? They look for someone to blame. Some will choose Palestine for its continued rocket strikes. Some will choose Israel because of its refusal to administer humanitarian aid. This finger-pointing causes intolerance towards the issue, as opposed to equal and fair judgment. In order to view this issue with tolerance and fairness, we must first believe that a solution is possible. I am not an advocate for one side or the other. I just want to see us be what we claim to be, tolerant, fair and accepting. I want to live in an environment where we can see all sides of an issue. I know Andover can be that environment. Chris Meyer is a two-year Lower from Darien, CT.