It’s two a.m and I have nothing to do. That’s not exactly true-I could be one of those people who does laundry in the middle of the night. I firmly believe that those people are normal, by the way. They just like to use their waking hours well. Also, “Bethenny Getting Married?” is on Bravo. (Dear Bravo, we know Bethenny gets married. The jig is up. Lose the question mark. Love, Viewers.)
Tonight (fine, last night), I spoke with some people about Israel. Specifically, about how they feel like they aren’t entitled to speak about the conflict for various reasons, which included their affiliation with Judaism (“not Jewish enough”) and lack of knowledge about the conflict/region/history. At first, hearing this made me think of the dozens of brilliant women I know who think they’re bad feminists because they wear make up, sleep with men, shave their legs, haven’t read
The Second Sex or The Feminine Mystique. It’s nauseating to think about how we can make each other feel inferior. My feminist choices do not have to be your feminist choices, and we can all still be feminists, with some exceptions.
As American Jews, (and other Jews, surely, but I’m speaking from my context) the way we talk, or don’t talk, about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is intensely gendered. We must always argue to win, we must have facts, and they must be particular facts. If you don’t have those facts, no one wants to hear from you, and that’s true sadly on the right and the left. The idea that you’d talk to someone without trying to “fix” them is almost totally unheard of, which is why in some communities, dialogue remains taboo. We must form a united, impenetrable (pun intended) front. The message: I am entitled to be part of this conversation because I approach it in the way that leaves the least room for dissent or questions.
In case you haven’t figured out what I’m getting at: the way arguments around the conflict are structured and conducted is traditionally masculine-based on winning, strength, specificities, aggression, etc. The American Jewish community has bought this package, and tied it up tightly with a lovely, cloying little bow. You need nerves of steel, to have memorized the contents of Myths and Facts, and absolute conviction that you are right, have always been right, and will always be right.
I cannot think of a worse way to approach a situation as rife with pain, dynamics, confusion, passion and risk as the one involving Israel and Palestine. One thing is certain, though-if the goal of a particular portion of the American Jewish community is to make people who don’t agree with them in principle or strategy stay as far away from the conversation as possible, they’ve figured out a way to do it- convince them that they have nothing to bring to the table, make them afraid of the sound of their own voices. Fortunately, there are those who know that helping people to talk to each other, rather than at each other, is about more than just winning- it’s about our spiritual survival.