I grew up in Southern California. I went to Catholic high school (All-girls. Moms, seriously consider it. I loved my experience). I didn’t meet a Jew outside my family til college. The closest I ever came to a “political discussion” was when Reem, whose parents had immigrated from some Arab country and, last time I searched for her on the internetz, was partying it up in (I believe..) the Emirates, turned around during Father O’Rourke’s lecture in The History of the Church, saying something about the “Protest-ants” (pronounced as two separate words), and Reem asked me if I was pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. Bianca helped me realize it was a serious question by smacking me, and I think I responded with “I didn’t realize they were mutually exclusive.”
When I made it to college, I was relatively non-political. I’d spent the previous two years working at a pet hospital and I was in the Bio major so I could go to veterinarian school. But I believed in equality and equal pay and baby animals, so I thought, being from California, that made me a Democrat, or at least a liberal. One day, in 2002 or 2003, a period of time when I knew my cousins were worrying about their buses and malls, and my parents sat at the kitchen table upset that the restaurant they used to take me, my older brother, and our dog to on Saturdays and have lunch with my family was blown up, killing the Arab co-owner and his eldest son, I was on the other side of campus. An imam was speaking from behind a podium in the center of the quad, or what passed for it at my university. He was yelling about something, and I caught this: “It’s okay to blow up Israeli buses. It’s not a war crime. Because that five-year-old who’s killed is only going to grow up to join the army and be taught to kill Arabs.”
Now, the only reason I responded to this was not because I was offended. You see, I knew Israelis weren’t raised to kill Arabs! But if Palestinian activists had such a misconception of Israelis, maybe I had a misconception of Palestinians (which I did. More of a lack of information. Working for the Israeli government in the West Bank a few years ago gave me the opportunity to work extensively with Palestinians and to travel throughout the area). And so, if we all just sat down and talked about it, it’d all be better. My brother who actually reads this blog is laughing or shaking his head, or both, because he remembers those conversations we used to have, and how stubborn I was in thinking things’d be alright.
So after launching a pro-Israel organization on campus and trying to talk the Presidents of the Muslim Student Union and the Society of Arab students into sitting down and talking, and explaining that we could to events together and show the campus that there isn’t a problem, I started running into walls. I still remember when the new president of Society of Arab Students initiated a meeting with the campus ombudsman and told me half the people from the group had dropped out because he was meeting with me in that moment.
As I initiated meetings with campus political organizations and watched the College Democrats endorse different anti-Israel events, where speakers would point out friends of mine and say things such as “that’s a Zionist! You must purge them from your campus!” I realized talking doesn’t work so well, or it at least takes an extraordinary person to be ready for it. And I still look, even today, for any honest conversation.
But I still get worked up when I see outright falsehood printed on paper, or on my computer screen, from anyone. Which was the real point of this post, but it’s likely I’m going to have to break it in two, so you actually read both instead of having to scroll for ages to get to my point. Suffice it to say that I’ve been watching the back-and-forth with Pillar of Defence, both on twitter and in the print media, and some stuff is just straight up false.