Commentary | Put some depth into the conversation

Campus Israel-Palestine debate is lacking

McGill has served as quite the weathered battleground for Middle East-related discourse. Catty, one-sided, and disrespectful, the debate is simultaneously both frustrating and boring to hear: the same recycled arguments, the same finger pointing and accusations. The on-campus skirmishes stretch way back – from the heated GA resolution last year to this month’s protest against the presence of IDF soldiers on campus. Each new controversy is characterized by a strict divide between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine camps, while everything in between is unexpressed and irrelevant.

Here’s a news flash: there is absolutely nothing black and white about the Middle East conflict.

There is violence from both sides, accountability from both sides – and massive loss on both sides. To boil such a huge issue down to a statement categorizing all of the Israeli army as the perpetrators of genocide and apartheid, or a similar statement categorizing all residents of Gaza and the West Bank as part of a group of Islamic terrorists whose sole aim is to eradicate the Jewish population, is insulting after so many years of turmoil. The only thing that is certain is how complex the conflict is.

But the last couple of Daily issues have briefly uncovered glimpses of people who are unsatisfied with this kind of discussion. The October 21 “Fuck This!” (“How to write a Hyde Park about the Arab-Israeli Conflict for The Daily”) gave a biting look into the proper way to write an article about the conflict – “1. Before writing, inculcate yourself with the belief that your perspective or argument is distinct, profound, and – most importantly – true.” In the November 8 issue (“Shame and confrontation,” Commentary), Matthew Kassel confided that, “I don’t like to talk about Israel or Palestine because I can only deal with so much cliché, so much posturing.”

The call for complexity and dialogue is not a minority voice: it is simply one that stands on uncertain ground, drowned out by the demand to choose one side or the other. There must be room for nuance, and there must be space for students to express themselves without completely alienating others.

I’m part of a new group on campus called Omeq. It stems from the Hebrew and Arabic root “o-m-q,” which means “depth.” We aim to change the landscape of dialogue regarding the Middle East, and to open the conversation to what a university should provide – a multitude of opinions. We want everyone in this discussion, from Jews to Arabs, from left-wing to right, from people who fall in none of these categories but want to learn more to those who feel overwhelmed by how much it has impacted their lives. We create this discussion through a variety of events: multi-opinionated speakers and public debates, informal bi-weekly discussion sessions, and alternative ways of expression on the conflict through art and creative writing.

If you have identified with the frustration of this article, you’re entitled to express it. In a university of educated students, where there are undoubtedly thousands of perspectives, backgrounds, and educations, don’t you think we can admit even the smallest level of complexity in this debate? And maybe it might be possible to discuss these issues in a way that is respectful and productive?


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