Intolerance for the other

A brief message to myself more than anyone else.

Recent events and communications have focused my attention on “the other” and the world’s intolerance for “the other”.

Some concrete examples might help.

ApeirogonA Palestinian-American author condemned an Irish-American author’s book about Palestine. Colum McCann‘s novel (Apeirogon) is about two families (a Palestinian family in the occupied West Bank and an Israeli family in Jerusalem) who each suffer the death of a child due to the violence perpetrated by the other side.  The Palestinian-American author criticizes the book:

Along comes a novelist, who is so moved by this unusual friendship, the story behind it, and what he feels it represents of hope for the future of the nation that he decides to write a book about them. It is a kind of amplifying-the-voice-of-peace endeavour (sic), born from the stubborn belief that anything can be solved by the benevolent enthusiasm of well-meaning folks.

I do not know McCann, though I suspect he wrote this book with a sense of solidarity and a desire to foster “dialogue”. But it is possible to do great harm with the noblest of intentions. The rhetoric of dialogue can be alluring – the idea that talking to find common humanity is all it takes to dismantle structural racism and notions of ethnocentric supremacy. It can make all kinds of people, even victims themselves, become purveyors of injustice. (emphasis added)

The second example is a Palestinian activist in Gaza (Rami Aman) who was recently arrested by Hamas for engaging in a Zoom chat with Israeli peace activists. Perhaps naively, it appears both sides were hoping to understand “the other” better. I’ve written about Rami and normalization here and here.

Both examples illustrate one of the biggest impediments to the future survival of the human species.

!*!*!*!*! Are you serious? !*!*!*!*!

Here’s my thesis in a nutshell. (I’m giving a lot of thought about how best to elaborate on the thesis, and hope to in the future. InshaAllah)

Humans face many challenges today, and they will continue to face many more which are arguably life-threatening. (Take a minute and think about the challenges —- from the small to the existential.) 

How have we made it this far? Those among us with a good dose of testosterone might conclude that it was the spear, sword, gun, and the individual’s strength that ensured “survival of the fittest“.  I disagree.

I believe it’s our ability to cooperate and empathize with “the other” that has allowed humans to achieve much, and ultimately to survive.

I can hear the howls of protest and derision even as I write.  I will summarize what I hear simply by saying that cooperation and empathy are not qualities of weakness or naivety, and they certainly don’t require anyone to ignore danger posed by “the other”.

However, survival requires that each one of us recognize our self in “the other” — and accept “the other” is a part of me.  (A LOT MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST)

Sadly, our human species seems to be evolving in the opposite direction, ultimately a dead end, and a path destined to bring much suffering along the way.

It’s far easier for me to conjure up “the other” than it is for me to conjure up “the larger family” … “we are one”.   I can see our differences and easily ignore our similarities.

So what does this thesis have to do with Israel – Palestine and the two examples I set out above? Don’t be fooled. It is

  • not to forget who is the occupier and who is the occupied
  • not to forget the past and current injustices
  • not to equate all voices and all perspectives as valid

It is simply to see “the other” as a member of “the larger family” … “we are one” … flaws and all.

We are losing that ability to see “the other” in this evolutionary way every time we dismiss “the other” — such as Colum McCann’s book and Rami Aman’s Zoom chat. we are one

McCann’s voice contributes a meaningful perspective about “the other” regardless of whether you are an Israeli considering your Palestinian neighbors, or a Palestinian considering your Israeli neighbors, or anyone else in the world considering the human suffering in the Middle East.

Aman’s voice on that Zoom chat contributed a meaningful perspective about “the other” too—as did the young Israelis on the other side of that chat.

When anyone attempts to shut down these examples of seeing “the other”, he or she is simply trying to redirect the human species down the dead end cul-de-sac.  It saddens me and I pray they don’t succeed.




Filed under Gaza, Hamas, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Intolerance for the other

  1. Linda Moscarella

    I agree with you Lora, that recognizing “the other” is a real part of the world we both share, and therefore, we are all connected on a higher level than all the conflicts we have. Getting above the conflicts is hard, hard, hard.

  2. Reblogged this on circusbuoy and commented:
    does the means justify the end?

  3. Isra

    I agree to how important it is to talk to “the other” and try to understand their perspective. But we need to know who “the other” is, what’s their objectives?!! In our case, “the other” is our enemy!
    Why we don’t like normalizing talks and relationships?
    – Normalizing talks and relationships resulted in turning some Palestinian traders and some other normal people to traitors- Israel using them to work for Israel under threat. I have seen this many times. “…it is possible to do great harm with the noblest of intentions”!!!

    – Normalizing is to many Palestinians ignoring/ disrespecting our and our families pain since the occupation began. You don’t talk and negotiate to that who kicked you out from your home forcefully, justifying that he’s also a human and we need to talk to save the human species in the future. We solve the problem and then we talk. We don’t solve it by uttering “anything can be solved by the benevolent enthusiasm of well-meaning folks.”

    – Normalizing talks is a way to solely humanize our issue when it’s all about rights, politics and land. You don’t treat the bully and the bullied the same, saying that it’s tolerance. Hamas as a government in Gaza knows too well what would normalizing relations with “the other” bring to the society. Nothing other than exploiting the Palestinians to be used to achieve Israeli national goals. As any other government else where in the world would do, it is trying to prevent the bad from the beginning.

    The biggest impediment to the future survival of the human species is not cutting the spoiled piece of the fruit. Israel and it’s doings are the true impediment of the future survival of human species. We shouldn’t skip solutions when they getting rid of the bad is a priority. Israel has killed thousands of innocent people and this is what we need to end, otherwise… “we decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land- it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one- it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” Quran 5:32.

    “Howls of protest and derision” against the opinion this blog holds, because to many Palestinians would mean discarding their family members who were killed brutally by Israel, these family members who wanted to live peacefully and never held a weapon. Some family members, and my journalist friend are examples here. Your opinion and our experiences are not on equal grounds.

    Prophet Mohammed’s peace be upon him methodology dealing with the enemy is unique (I recommend reading about it). Prophet Mohammed was just to his enemies. And Allah says in the Quran 5:8, “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.”
    There was a man, Wahshi, who killed Prophets Mohammed’s Uncle before he reverted to Islam. He wanted to visit the Prophet as a Muslim, Prophet Muhammad asked him how did he exactly kill his uncle. So Wahshi narrated the story of his killing to Prophet Mohammed uncle. These moments was very painful for prophet Mohammed peace be upon him, the human. Prophet Mohammed told Wahshi, ‘Can you hide your face from me?’ Prophet Mohammed didn’t want to see the killer of his beloved uncle although Islam erases all old bad deeds of those who reverts to Islam.
    Emotions here are important. Don’t tell people to talk to those who hurt them or their family members, and consider it normal!

    • Thank you Isra for sharing your strong feelings with me. I agree … emotions are very important. Please understand that I am not telling you or anyone else to talk with the Israelis or anyone who has hurt you.

      However, there ARE Palestinians who wish to talk with Israelis …. and I believe no one should tell them they cannot.

      I believe Palestinians need to consider carefully what “normalization” means …. and clearly define what is, and what is not, normalization. I understand your words of caution about normalization … and I respect your words. However, I do not believe Rami Aman’s zoom chat is normalization. If it is …. then there are many, many, many Palestinian business people, lawyers, doctors, students and others who are talking with Israelis. Are they ALL engaged in normalizing the relationship between Israel and Palestine?

      THANK YOU for sharing your strong feelings.

    • Isra ….. thank you very much for sharing your opinion. I agree with you, emotions are important. I want to be clear. I am NOT telling anyone to talk with anyone …. not Palestinians with Israelis, and not Israelis with Palestinians. That is a very personal decision each person should make.

      Rami Aman decided himself to speak with Israelis in a Zoom chat. A Palestinian woman in Gaza decided it was an example of normalization that she does not approve of, and she notified Hamas, and Hamas arrested Rami.

      I believe that decision to talk with Israelis was Rami’s decision to make, and not the young woman in Gaza.

      I hope you understand that we are speaking about different things. I don’t believe Rami should tell Isra to speak with Israelis. But I also don’t believe Isra should tell Rami he must not speak with Israelis.

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