Talking to Our 'Enemies'

What are we going to do about Israel?

Complaining about it doesn't help. Shouting about it doesn't help. What is going to stop this madness? Really, what can be done?

Each side is pleading its case, appealing to some jury of international opinion to see the injustice they are suffering and come take up their cause. But few outsiders really care about either Jewish or Palestinian lives. Both sides are screaming that no one is paying attention, no one is stepping in and taking action. The few that do care are taking one side or the other, joining the din of angry voices, offering no viable solutions.

Does right and wrong even matter here? Is it going to help in any way? Does it help to be right and under assault? I know what I believe about this conflict, but I'm not sure it is at all relevant in ending the violence. What will actually make a difference? What will stop the bloodshed? On both sides, that is. I don't want to see anyone bleed and die. Yes, I'm angry that my people are being hacked with axes and meat cleavers, run over, shot. But my anger is not going to stop that from happening, is it?

Yelling to the world isn't going to stop it either. Hear O Nations, they're attacking our children and our women, civilians who are walking down the street unarmed! They don't care. Don't you realize these victims are good, kind people just like you and me! They don't care. And if they did care, what would they do about it? What would we have them do? What can they do?

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think there's only one thing we can do - talk to our 'enemies.' I don't mean lay down our arms and stop defending ourselves and sing kumbaya. We have to fight back against those whose only aim is to push us into the sea, and unfortunately there are far too many of those who have no interest in coexistence - they will not stop fighting until we are dead or they are.

But as we continue to defend ourselves, shouldn't we simultaneously reach out to find those who are willing to coexist and begin a dialogue with them? To show them that we are human just as they are, to counteract the poison they are fed which tells them we are devils who are interested only in oppressing them and depriving them of their rights and liberties. To admit to them that yes there are those on our side who are full of hate and bigotry, but they are the vast minority and they do not represent us. To convince them (though it will take a lot of de-programming) that we are people of peace, that we are fighting a defensive war against those who want our blood rather than our cooperation.

There are radicals and there are those who they try to radicalize. There are extremists and those who simply want to be left alone to live in peace. There are leaders who preach eternal hatred and holy war, and there are common folks who are subject to this incessant incitement and bigotry. Our task perhaps, the only thing that might actually make a difference, is to connect with those innocents who are the victims or their own perverse leaders, to show them that we are not what they are being told we are. To suggest to them that they are pawns being sacrificed by their leaders for an angry cause that they don't need to support.

We are not your enemy - those who will not allow either us or you to live peacefully, they are your enemies just as they are ours. We need to help those who are being used as human shields to stand up against those who fire at us from behind them. We need to rally around those who would be killed as collaborators if they voice disapproval or hint at empathy. We need to understand the courage it takes to support coexistence, and we need to embrace those brave souls who will risk standing up and saying "enough, let's try something else!"

We are not against Islam or the freedom of anyone to practice his/her religion as s/he sees fit. We are democratic and tolerant and would love nothing more than to live at peace with our neighbors, no matter their faith or ethnicity. They need to know that - we need to say it to them loud and clear.

Can we help to develop a groundswell of those people who are willing to coexist? Can we empower them, partner with them, chart a new course with them? I know, as I am about to click "post" that there will be plenty who call me a dreamer or an idiot, maybe a liar and an infidel. Those are not the people I am reaching out to, and if that's all I get in response, then maybe I'm wrong and there's just nothing to be done. But doing nothing and allowing this to continue to escalate does not seem like a viable option for either side. Do you have any other ideas? People are dying to hear them!