Commentary | Hyde Park: Thinking against your bias

The longevity and complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict, along with the contention it arouses when discussed, have always interested me and made me to want to learn more about the issue. Prior to this semester, I never really challenged my beliefs about it. The way I viewed the events in Israel and Palestine was right to me, and frankly, that was all that mattered. I ascribed to the discourse I heard growing up, and when I began researching the situation, I turned to sources that confirmed what I already agreed with.

The Gaza crisis and the resulting renewed political debates brought me to reconsider this approach. Because every conflict is multidimensional, I realized that what was demanded of me, as someone who wanted to know more, was impartiality and a willingness to have my values challenged. So I chose to deepen my knowledge in a way that defied the beliefs I’d always held onto. I had great discussions with a number of people, many of whom disagreed with my positions. I turned to history to learn different narratives of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And I shared my findings and reflections with one of my professors, from whom I’ve learned tremendously.

I am Egyptian, but I no longer want this part of my identity to influence how I respond to this conflict. It is so easy to get caught up in the emotions surrounding this political situation, especially when you feel a certain religious or cultural connection to the events taking place in Israel and Palestine. I feel that this is a major reason why the Arab-Israeli conflict is so contentious; it inspires solidarity among the groups involved to the point that they label those who hold different views as the “other.” This labelling does nothing but distract us from the important elements that we should be focusing on, and ultimately hinders the prospect for any peaceful resolution.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has never been simple and most people readily acknowledge this – yet this doesn’t keep them from attempting to make sense of it by relying on reductive, black-and-white explanations. For many individuals, the line that separates who is right and who is wrong is clearly demarcated and those who stand on the “other side” become part of the problem, resulting in circular arguments about who is to blame rather than meaningful and progressive dialogue.

To fully understand this political situation, be prepared to have your beliefs challenged. As difficult as it is, do your best not to let your identity decide how you respond to this issue: your response should be affected solely by the facts, and not the propaganda. The complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict merits a holistic understanding, not simplicity and bias. I am no expert, and there is so much about this issue I have yet to learn. But there are many individuals who have taught me so much this semester, and for that, I am very grateful.

Sarah Ghabrial can be reached at sarah.ghabrial@mail.mcgill.ca.


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