The Conspiracy

Mavi Marmara and Productive Conversation

The Twitterizing of the news has reached a crisis point in the Israeli-Palestinian forum. For a long time, the Jewish community in the US has viewed the conflict in black-and-white: The elders have decided that Jewish solidarity necessitates categorical defense of Israel, and they treat any deviation from the institutional line as a threat. There is no gray area.

In that atmosphere, every opinion column from the New York Times to the Jerusalem Post becomes combative: in our latest “Gaza Flotilla Crisis,” the IDF is either ruthless or blameless; the Netanyahu government is either a confederacy of dunces or a band of courageous defenders; the crew of the Mavi Marara was either completely hostile or completely docile.

The stream of tweets, retweets, Facebook links, comments and “likes” exacerbates this problem, and any nuance or insight that survived in the opinion columns disappears in arguments contained in 140 characters. There are no more questions, only answers; no longer do we seek to understand what happened; we seek only to defend our position and our ideology.

I don’t know what happened off the coast of Gaza. I think it’s terrible that ten to twenty people died but I’m not sure whether to think that the IDF fired on innocent peace workers or that the army was acting in self-defense against violent instigators, as per the YouTube videos and Israeli government reports. Given the plethora of information that has invaded my inbox and Facebook news feed over the past 36 hours, I could make either case.

Instead, I’ve tried to follow the debates swirling around me: I’ve read or skimmed several news and opinion articles and scrolled down countless comment threads on news sites and Facebook. What I see is disconcerting. People are more interested in blaming, attacking and defending than they are in figuring out what happened and in listening to each other. We’re regurgitating the same points five times over, one tweet at a time. Instead of trying to figure out how to prevent more deaths like these, we’re busy delegitimizing one side or the other.

So I’m scared. I’m scared that we won’t get anywhere in these so-called debates that are really internet shouting matches. I’m scared that this will happen time and again, that more people will die and more buildings will burn, more people will starve and suffer and all we’ll be concerned with is who was right and who was wrong. But are the IDF’s defenders complacent with this happening time and again? Are Israel’s critics satisfied with their righteous indignation?

I have no solutions and I am at a loss for what to think or say. The only thing I think I know is that the way we’re talking now doesn’t work. I’m tired of stating positions and disproving my intellectual adversaries. How intellectual is it, really, to think that you have all the answers? Maybe if I were to read more about this incident I would have more concrete things to say, but I doubt it. I’ll probably become more frustrated, not because I have too little information but because the information I have doesn’t tell me anything I want to know.

I think it’s great that we’re all engaged in this debate, but I don’t think it has to be a debate. To disagree is much easier than to find common ground, and it’s much more tempting to stake out a position than it is to swallow your pride and compromise. In the end, however, what unites us will prove stronger than the divisions we create.

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2 Older Responses to “Mavi Marmara and Productive Conversation”

  1. Hailey
    June 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Well said, you read my thoughts.

  2. Alex
    June 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    thanks for that piece — i’ve been reading countless articles and each one holds a special bias about this situation. more information hasn’t come out of this debacle yet new articles keep popping up. much to my chagrin but certainly not my surprise, people are posting these polarizing articles on their walls and tweets from news sources that are in line with their political beliefs.

    why can’t anyone ask real questions?
    i’m most curious about the IDFs decision making process in the events leading up to the clash…was the decision to board/seige (whats the most appropriate word here…) the flotilla really the smartest option? were there any other options to begin with? at this point I suppose it would only matter in a criminal investigation.

    the better questions, as you mention, are about how this kind of situation could have been prevented. the more political/military blunders made by the IDF, the harder these peace talks become. With Turkey as one of the countries involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israel has thrown a big wrench in the gears.

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