THE BLOG
08/05/2014 11:45 am ET Updated Oct 04, 2014

Arguing About the Middle East - Are we Feeding the Fire?

Discussion, debate, idea exchanges -- even when they're packin' heat -- can absolutely be a good thing! However, that's not what I've been seeing lately. I've been hearing Israel demonized and people saying Israel can do no wrong, and no room to consider other perspectives. Like most conflicts, I think no side is entirely at fault or without blame. More importantly, I think the dynamics of the region are incredibly complex and not easily understood. I took historical notes vigorously for two weeks on a guided tour of Israel and reviewed them many times afterward. I frequently listen to first-hand experiences of everyday Palestinians and Israelis. I've also researched the region's history and modern politics extensively. With all this bopping around in my brain, my thoughts still oscillate about what is right, what is wrong, and what should or could be done to best help the region, so I try to stay open minded.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a way many people would describe themselves in regard to how they think about the region. Much more commonly, it seems the majority of voices are CERTAIN their side is the one in the right. I can't help but wonder.... these people who are so clear, have they adequately explored the "other side of the fence?" I know the stakes are high, folks. The loss of innocent life is tragic, no matter what the person's belief system or where they were born. But the intensity with which we argue is not helping to create peace. What we've been doing up to this point hasn't been working, neither in the Middle East, nor here in the States.

Not to be elitist, but the fact is: here in the United States of America, a lot of people and nations take their cues on how to be and what to do, from us. If I were another person or nation looking to our public and leaders right now, I'd be VERY confused on where we stand and more importantly, how we choose to engage each other. From what I see, people here are spewing as much or more propaganda and hateful words, than the people in the actual region we're fighting about.

We have the incredible gift of living in a relatively peaceful society. We don't have to worry about being bombed in our sleep. I encourage us to use that gift to help tether our thinking to level ground. Let's let our gratitude help shift the dialogue that's taking place here. Wherever your allegiances in the region may be, if you care (and I know by the intensity with which we're fighting that most of you care) why not do something with that heat which might truly help the world? Keep an open mind! Start a respectful dialogue with someone of a different viewpoint! If we can't be peaceful just in discussion, what the hell kind of example are we setting? How can we show our support for their region and their struggle, if we can't agree to disagree and try to understand each other, here at home?

Here's the bottom line, folks. This region's fighting started long, long ago. People who have devoted their lives to studying the region, its politics, and peace possibilities have not been successful yet. That should tell us something about the complexity and gravity of the situation. Can we all "get along?" In my hippie-dippie dream land, absolutely! In real life? I'm not so sure. But, can we who are lucky enough to leisurely post links on our social media accounts take a little more time in how we phrase things when discussing the conflict? That seems like a pretty reasonable goal to me. Think globally, act locally, guys. What we do here matters.

Here are a few websites that I gathered today to help provide a variety of perspectives. Some are neutral, some are not, all good to consider.

A neutral, extensive, and plain-language history of the the region's conflict:
http://www.infoplease.com/world/countries/israel-palestine-conflict/

Palestinian-leaning articles for your consideration
http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/ref-halsell.html
http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/25328-us-jewish-leader-henry-siegman-to-israel-stop-killing-palestinians-and-end-the-occupation
http://mic.com/articles/89443/to-understand-what-life-is-really-like-in-israel-and-palestine-follow-this-chart
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-31/hamass-khaled-meshaal-on-gaza-bloodshed-israels-blockade
http://www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/11009393/Gaza-school-attacked-as-children-queue-for-sweets.html

Israeli-leaning articles for your consideration
http://jcpa.org/article/hamas-israel-confrontation-legal-points/
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/middleeast/tunnels-lead-right-to-heart-of-israeli-fear.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/10979467/Gaza-conflict-Israelis-living-in-fear-of-Palestinian-tunnel-attacks.html
http://www.smh.com.au/comment/how-gaza-became-one-big-suicide-bomb-20140803-zzxgn.html
http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/31/hamas-launches-rockets-civilians-gaza/
http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/terrorism/palestinian/pages/suicide%20and%20other%20bombing%20attacks%20in%20israel%20since.aspx