Let's be different than the generations that preceded us.
For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has flowed through a cycle of violence. Wars and intifadas, peace negotiations and ceasefires have become part of the vocabulary for anyone interested enough to talk about it. Whenever a conflict arises, such as now between Israel and Hamas (or in 2010 and 2012), it seems the loudest voices are those that retreat to their corners to throw rhetorical barbs at the other side diluting trust and wedging a wider separation.
The conflict has become dehumanized. As Ethan Bronner, the former Jerusalem Bureau Chief for The New York Times, eloquently wrote this past weekend:
A generation ago, there were plenty of causes for tension and concern. But Palestinians building what they hoped would become their state, and Israelis working with them, had an often moving sense of shared purpose. Some discovered that they liked one another and looked forward to working together. Today, those feelings are virtually dead. And while mixing the populations in those years was no panacea, divorcing them has only made things worse.
We know that Hamas' radicalism and extremism does not represent the views of the majority of Gazans and of the Muslim world. We also know that a majority of Israelis don't support further settlement construction and other controversial steps taken by the Israeli government.
Israelis and Palestinians both support the peace process in great numbers. Both sides are human; they want to raise families, send their children to school, have a productive job, and know what it means to live in peace.
If we want to paint in broad strokes and resort to stereotypes, then let's be sure to include that the two populations want peace. It's politics that get in the way.
Facebook and Twitter can be equally as great places for progressive conversation about the issues as they are for posting Youtube videos explaining Israel's right to exist or the Palestinian right of return. Making arguments for moral clarity and pointing out disproportionate death tolls, while relevant, do more to make this conflict an emotional dead end than to bring about a just solution for both sides.
Calling Hamas' refusal to accept the latest cease-fire proposal brokered by the Egyptians "A Palestinian Blessing" misses the point. There are no blessings when more Israelis will spend their days in bomb shelters and Gazans will flee from their homes and lose family members. That just causes more hatred. Any event that causes levels of trust to decline and levels of hatred to go up helps nobody.
There are plenty of questions that our ambitious, educated, and analytical generation should work to answer or at least pose to larger audiences. Here's some to consider:
Should Israel look further into accepting the Arab Peace Initiative which would assure them political recognition from the 22 Arab states and 56 Muslim states? Hilik Bar, the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, posed that question in The Telegraph (UK).
How can the Palestinians assure their moderate voices are louder than the extremists?
What is Israel's long term strategy for reconciliation with the Palestinians? Does Benjamin Netanyahu actually believe in a two-state solution?
How does Hamas seek to bring about Palestinian self-determination by haphazardly launching rockets against at the major cities of a militarily superior opposition?
Can Hamas' isolation be exploited by other Palestinian factions?
If we start asking these questions and others, we can hope to trust one another down the road. Without trust, there isn't going to be a solution.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex. It is emotional. It is controversial. It is hard. The only things that are easy depend upon blaming the other side, resorting to the same divergent historical narratives, and writing passionate Facebook rants.
Let's acknowledge and condemn the loss of any innocent life, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian.
Let's encourage political leaders not to take sides but to help us find the middle ground.
Let's read and then make up our minds, rather than making up our minds then reading.
Neither side has been dealt a great hand, but in a region built upon a house of cards, you must play the cards your dealt.
Let's at least give this alternate approach a try.