Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Walking and chewing gum

The kids are at it again. I heard them this morning.

Recep [Tayyip Erdoğan] called Ben [Netanyahu] “Hitler” and so Ben called him a “genocidal maniac”, or something like that. I couldn’t hear them properly for the sound of blood pounding in my ears.

That could be the covid talking [yes, my Boxing Day gift was a dose of SARS-CoV-2].

Or it’s a physical manifestation of the rage I felt hearing a summary on the morning news of these two man-toddlers sounding off at each other while unfathomable pain and suffering persist – on all sides – in the Middle East.

As ‘rock godmother’ Joan Jett once said, “It’s hard to have a dialogue when you are name-calling. It’s hard to have respect.”

Sing it, Joan!

I’ve been trying to work out how I can contribute to a dialogue on the current war in Gaza. Dialogue – defined as a conversation between two or more people, or an exchange of ideas and opinions – sometimes feels in short supply in these super-charged times in which we live.

To think about how I feel about the Israel-Hamas conflict, even privately in my mind, is a fraught, difficult, and unnerving exercise. How do I find a ‘way in’ to this geopolitical maze?

“Start with what you know”, a former boss once told me, when I was a fulltime resource management policy planner.

It’s an excellent rule, not just when trying to find solutions to gnarly problems like the fair and equitable distribution of freshwater, or managing the effects of land use, but to life in general. [Turns out it’s a really good one for my new adventure as a journalist.]

It helps bring into sharper focus what you don’t know and need to know to move forward in your thinking and understanding.

And when I applied it to the topic of the Israel-Hamas war, I realised how shockingly little I knew.

Not only that, but every fact I thought I knew about today’s war is nestled within a context so politically, socially, religiously, and historically charged and complex that this ‘maze’ feels riddled with ethical and moral landmines.

From my reading on the topic so far, the complexity and multiplicity of mentally navigating this terrible war is part of the shared human experience. In short, if you are struggling to make sense of it, if you are finding it hard to talk or think about, you are not alone.

This is where I have got so far with my journey into this maze, which turns out to be a little circular:

I am horrified by Hamas militants’ terrorist attack on Israel and its people. We are witnessing an intense retaliation by Israel inside the densely populated Palestinian territory of Gaza. I am horrified by the scale, duration, and effects of that retaliation.

Can I walk this maze and chew gum at the same time? Can I express my opposition to the Israeli state’s policy of total war against Hamas because it involves the relentless loss of ordinary Palestinian lives [which amounts to 300 a day on average, according to the BBC], and not be considered ‘anti-Semetic’ – that is, hostile or prejudiced against Jewish people?

To paraphrase Joan Jett, can we talk?

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