President Obama’s keynote speech in Egypt at the beginning of the month, saw him make comment on Israeli settlement in the West Bank, where many are arguing that the continued construction of Israeli settlements are posing barriers to the ongoing struggle for peace in the region.
I myself attended a rather less auspicious occasion on the political calendar at the beginning of the month as well.
An important meeting of a local London organisation and some invited speakers, it aimed to, amongst other things: Promote understanding of issues in the Gaza strip, help secure the human rights and civil liberties of Gaza refugees and support the activities in specific refugee camps in the area.
My particular interest in attending such an event lies purely in an interest to see just what sort of debate is being offered on what always has been a touchy subject. In this particular case (as with many world issues) I am certainly not one to take sides, more so interested in gaining knowledge and mental stimulation. Unfortunately, the meeting failed and succeeded where many have suffered similar fates in the past.
Call it what you will, but I saw what they presented as nothing but propaganda. – Yet again, there was one massively important element missing, and that was the construction of dialogue on a solution. Until the public and its governments around the world can strongly encourage regular, guided and constructive debate on a solution to this sensitive issue, it will continue to be nothing but a tit-for-tat argument, with little progress being made towards peace, and each side pointing fingers and providing evidence as to why their way is the way, or contrarily, how they’ve been oppressed.
Still, my attitude in general was quashed when one of the meeting’s attendants came to whisper in my ear “you’ve got the moustache right, but if you want to support Islam, you need to wear long sleeves.” I half shrugged the remark off, but the other half that was left sitting on my shoulder was a niggling whisper that said he was completely ignorant to the fact that their were two sides in this conflict.
Tarnished by this experience, I then sat as I listened to stories and watched footage intended to build a case for one side, against the other. The fairly sizable group tutted and shook their heads, as though – just for being there – they had some self-righteous claim on awards for compassion.
Unfortunately, until we start talking about the real issues – rather than constantly highlighting the issues to incense, provoke and conjure compassion – both sides continue to suffer for and erase the very things they are fighting for. It’s time to accept the pain, start focusing on viable solutions, and encourage continued dialogue on such things.