Thursday, July 31, 2008

Being Critical, but Always Hoping

There's an excellent blog posting by Daniel Pipes, titled "May An American Comment on Israel." A short excerpt: "Schweitzer [an Israeli counter-terrorism expert] does not spell out the logic behind his resentment, but it rings familiar: Unless a person lives in Israel, the argument goes, pays its taxes, puts himself at risk in its streets, and has children in its armed forces, he should not second-guess Israeli decision making. This approach, broadly speaking, stands behind the positions taken by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other prominent Jewish institutions."

Pipes logically points out that his job, as a foreign policy analyst, is to do exactly this. That he, and this Israeli counter-terrorism expert comment on multiple countries' policies all the time.

What about the rest of us who aren't foreign policy analysts and counter-terrorism experts, who live outside of Israel? Pipes state: "On a more profound level, I protest the whole concept of privileged information – that one's location, age, ethnicity, academic degrees, experience, or some other quality validates one's views."

I agree. While I do now live in Israel, I am very frequently told that because I didn't serve in the army, and don't have friends that died in terror attacks, that my opinion is not valid. While this holds some weight, I would suggest that for this very reason my opinion is extremely valid--I am often able to see things in Israel and the Middle East without the jaded eyes of many Israelis; I often say that because I haven't lived there all my life, perhaps I will have a new suggestion for peace, or see things in a slightly different light that is obviously needed for the current, seemingly hopeless situation.

On the flip side of being critical, there is maintaining optimism and hope. In many conversations on Middle East politics and the Situation (ha'matzav), I am told I don't know what I am talking about, as I said above. When the conversation gets to this point, I return to my refrain: how can we live without hope? We must have hope--after all, the Israeli national anthem is called "Ha'Tikva," or "The Hope." And then the conversation takes on a new tone; I'm often told, "I used to have hope, but since x or y happened, I don't anymore."

Maybe I'm naive. But the only way to live is with hope and a fresh vision.

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