By Daniel Chejfec
When it comes to the Israeli Palestinian conflict passions always run high, and nowhere higher than in college campuses. How people manage those passions, however, is the mark of how serious people are about understanding the situation and finding solutions. Unbridled emotions produce by definition irrational behavior, closed to compromise and blind to the point of view of the other. But listening to the other and recognizing that one doesn't have all the answers nor is one right on all accounts, and recognizing that reality usually exist in between the stories of conflicting groups - THAT doesn't require passion but courage. Maybe that is why our sages said "Who is a real hero? The person who controls his (or her) emotions". Courage manifest itself in the willingness to confront reality not only when is in our favor, but especially when it does not favor us; because reality is reality and we can only base Justice on the Truth. Justice without truth becomes "Just Us"...so what is all this rambling about?
On February 8, 2010, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was invited to speak at the University of California in Irvine (UCI), and his presentation was interrupted many times by hecklers with yells and verbal abuse. College authorities removed the offenders every time (about 12) and the students escorted out of the hall left making the symbol of the "V" cheered by their sympathizers who would a few minutes later make another interruption. Each one of those students was reading their questions from pieces of paper (that is quite visible in the video) and delivered the interruption with as much venom as they could. The intention of the disrupter was to present themselves as protesters in the spirit of anti Vietnam activists in the 1960s and 1970s to gain sympathy, but the obvious staged character of their actions raises different questions...
Bullying is in, reasonable conversation is out. Name calling is in, articulate questions to gain information and/or prove your point are out. These are the messages we are getting from these staged aggressions to any pro Israel speaker in some campuses today. I still remember when Netanyahu was invited to speak in Montreal at the University a couple of weeks after Edward Said spoke there. At Said's presentation there were no disruptions, although in the Q&A period several students ask though questions. When Netanyahu was scheduled to speak, he was uninvited because the University was "afraid for his safety and for the disruption of Campus life". So being a rude bully apparently pays off, since people cower before you and prefer to bend to you rather than confronting you and forcing you to play by the rules. Of course this is not new --- it is the strategy used by the Nazis on their rise to power to silence the communists and everybody else who oppose them.
Why is it that civility can be ignored? Probably because of the triumph of the so called post-modern philosophy. In Post Modernism, you live in today without connecting it with yesterday nor thinking of tomorrow. For post-Modern thinkers the world is an eternal today. Life is not a movie but series of still photos, and you are suppose to focus on these images just one at a time as they come into view. From that point of view, Israel is a cruel oppressor of the Palestinians because of the limitation to their freedom under occupation, and occupation is unrelated to their prior attempts to exterminate the Jews in Israel in the same way that the harsh measures Israel takes (they are harsh) are unrelated to the terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. What matters in only all the news that serve the cause. Whatever questions the cause is magically erased from reality...a neat trick actually.
True peace and security can only come to both sides in a conflict when they engage in a dialog to understand the other's narrative, because that is the only way to correctly identify the areas where compromise is possible; to identify the ideas that nobody will like but everybody will be able to live with.
Name calling, rudely interrupting the other, twisting the other's words does not serve the cause of Peace nor does it create a working environment; it is designed to murk the waters and to make dialog impossible and those who use these tactics hope that at the end of the day they will everything they want at the expense of the other. I don't know about you, but that's not the way I was raised, and I'm not willing to play the game of these professional disrupters - I will stick with rational thinking and civilized behavior, because if I abandon them...how am I better than they are?