Over the past two weeks, we have seen both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One side celebrated Israel’s 60th birthday with hookah pipes, belly dancers and signs detailing where top-of-the-line technology and Victoria’s Secret lingerie is made. The other side invited serious academicians and erected a wall of facts about the ongoing violence and graphic displays about the destruction caused by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Although “Never Again? Palestinian Holocaust Week” is often labeled as pure “Anti-Semitism Week,” it is difficult to call the event a “lie,” “anti-Israel,” “anti-Jewish” or anti- anything but violence and violation of human rights. It may be difficult to call Jewish speakers Norman Finkelstein and Anna Baltzer anti-Semitic given their origins. It may be equally difficult to call statistics detailing the vast disparity between Palestinian children killed and Israeli children killed (a ratio of nine to one, respectively) anti-Semitic because facts cannot be anti-Semitic. These statistics were cited by Finkelstein and agreed upon by various humanitarian organizations.
Yet as Finkelstein prepared to appear before a UC Irvine audience last week, a congregation of UCI Jewish community members gathered outside the door with signs reading “Caution: Hate Speech Ahead” and detailing the numbers of Christian states, Muslim states and Jewish states (only one). Yet Finkelstein never mentioned the destruction of that single Jewish state. He merely stated that per the international standards of the Geneva Convention, the Israeli state should recede to the territories preceding the 1967 war.
After Finkelstein concluded his speech, he offered to take questions from dissenters first—and you could practically hear the crickets chirp. When the dissenters finally got around to challenging the speaker, instead of focusing on the content of his speech, they chose to try to discredit him. During one of the other speeches hosted by “Never Again? Palestinian Holocaust Week” at the flagpoles, iFest members attended—bearing signs that warned of hate speech and parading behind the speaker with an Israeli flag.
This ping-pong game of anti-Semitism versus Islamophobia raises the question, “Can’t we all just get along?” Instead of animosity, both sides should be open to listening to the speakers and absorbing the facts—it is not a passive approach, but rather a pacifist approach. Both Palestinians and Israelis have deep emotional ties to the same land. However, there are also international standards of action and norms of diplomacy that require both legitimate ruling parties to come together for reconciliation.
The behavior of the two sides on the UCI campus cannot give a hope for a future of compromise and peace when students, let alone politicians, cannot address each other as human beings. Since politicians cannot arrive at a resolution accepted by both sides, this solution can logically only be arrived at from the bottom up—that is, from an accepted compromise by the populations of both sides and a subsequent demand on the two official parties.
There can be no ignorance of Israel’s human rights record, nor can there be the widespread idea that the Israeli population is severely threatened by small factions in neighboring countries because it is a well-known fact that Israel receives substantial financial and military aid from the United States and also posseses nuclear weapons. It is also known that there is a disproportionately high use of force by the Israeli military.
Yet there is another issue, above the fray of military statistics, human rights records, a rising death toll and two dissatisfied populations. This issue is the right of individuals to speak the truth. It is also the right of people to hear the truth. There are stories of loss from both sides, and there is prolonged suffering because of a profoundly misunderstood and mistreated situation.
This communication gap can only be remedied through the prevalence of truth—a truth that is objective rather than subjective and that works through the conjoining of two differing groups in favor of reconciliation. It is a truth that is blind to superiority and open to the healing of wounds that have long made both Palestinians and Israelis suffer in different ways, for the same reason. It is a homeland that is slowly being swallowed into an unchecked political cycle of expanding borders that can only be saved through the unveiling of truth and the openness to such truth.
Frida Alim is a first-year political science major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.