My Facebook feed, which I cultivate carefully, is usually smart, funny, progressive and fairly consistent in its political views. Over the past few weeks, however, it’s grown seriously discordant:
Israel is committing crimes against humanity!
but Israel has a right to defend itself!
but children are being murdered!
but Hamas has entrenched itself among the children!
but Israel acts like an arrogant adolescent who disregards world opinion and acts however it pleases!
but the world ignores that Israel’s existence is in danger from neighbors bent on Jewish genocide!
but Israelis gather on hilltops to cheer the bombing of Gaza!
but Hamas gives out candy to celebrate the killing of Jews!
but the press is biased; it supports the Palestinians!
but the press is biased; it supports the Israelis!
but Jews in France are leaving in droves because of the anti-Semitism that this conflict has unleashed!
but Jews deflect legitimate criticism by calling all criticism of Israel anti-Semitism!
but Rihanna tweeted #FreePalestine!
but Mike Bloomberg wants us all to visit Israel!
but Israel is dropping bombs into a tightly packed cage!
but Israel backed out of Gaza in 2005, and all it got in return was a volley of rocket attacks!
but the Israelis are colonizers!
but Hamas hates gays and oppresses women!
Gaza is an Israeli concentration camp!
Gaza is a bastion of Jew-hatred and brutality!
Don’t you remember the Holocaust! We need a safe haven for Jews!
Don’t you remember the Holocaust! We mustn’t terrorize a people!
Boycott these diapers; they’re produced in Israel!
Donate today to the IDF!
As a kid, I watched the 1982 Lebanon War, the first Intifada, and the Oslo Accords on the CBS Evening News. In those days, truth came straight from Dan Rather’s mouth, and picking apart right from wrong seemed a far simpler task.
Today, I find myself increasingly confused. The only fact I’m clear on is that innocent people, many of them children, are dying, and I’m terrified of finding myself on the wrong side of this debate. Despite this, or maybe because of it, I check Facebook more compulsively than ever before. I pore through articles from across the world and political spectrum with a thirst for clarity, clicking through from one piece to another with the hope that maybe this next one will be the one. The one that sets me straight. Lets me sleep. Gives me permission, finally, to pick a side, to put order to the world: this one, the victim; that, the villain.
But all that happens is my mind fills with contradictory truths — for there is truth, truth and tragedy — in every story I read. While pundits paint the conflict in black and white, what filters down to me are gradations of gray. How can I argue for Israel’s right to defend itself without admitting that Israel itself created the unlivable conditions that led to extremist violence? How can I talk of boycotting Israel without allowing that it struggles for its very existence, that its enemies in the region want not only freedom for the Palestinians but the annihilation of Israel? It’s difficult and painful to juggle contradictions as we imagine a way forward in the Middle East. And yet as we cling to our comfortable, one-sided arguments, as we continue to alienate those we consider villains, the innocent continue to die.
I read the closing lines of piece after piece written by political thinker far more sophisticated than I am, and all I can think is, “Yes, but …”