Blame is an interesting phenomenon. Generally when we find ourselves pointing fingers, we can be sure that there’s something we’re not taking responsibility for ourselves. Some reality that we’re not happy with, for which we don’t want to be held accountable. And voicing that blame rarely gets us any closer to solving the problem – but rising above it can.
This is what I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks while reading statuses, comments and discourse on social media channels about the recent violence in and from Gaza. And my “real life” conversations have been much the same. With Israelis, Palestinians and a host of international characters. Everyone seems so sure about who’s to blame – but it’s not getting us any closer to understanding, or to ending this conflict once and for all.
Many of the predominant accusations seem contradictory, but they could all be right simultaneously: Hamas and their murderous charter are evil. Living in Sderot or other Gaza-border towns under constant rocket fire is truly unbearable. Many of the men, women and children in Gaza are but pawns in a horrible, bloody game. Various media outlets are biased this way or that. The Israeli army does its best to minimize civilian casualties. These statements may well all be true. But so what? Rather than proving anything, this Blame Game merely shines a light on the pervading feeling of helplessness on all sides of the conflict. Instead of helping, each accusation adds its own tiny brick to the wall that divides the sides, taking us further and further away from a reality in which a solution is even possible. In which there’s any chance of turning this country – and indeed this region – into the place where we want our kids to grow up.
This discourse among my immediate circles mirrors the Blame Game that’s being played in leadership realms – with Israel repeatedly blaming Hamas for “making” the IDF invade Gaza and reek damage, death and destruction, Hamas blaming the Zionist regime for provoking the firing of rockets which aim to terrorize and kill Israeli civilians, world leaders picking sides according to political affiliations and millions around the world blaming the media for failing to accurately report the conflict. Someone else is always to blame.
What good does any of this do? We’re just continuing the horrible, bloody loop that Israeli author David Grossman articulated so eloquently in his New York Times op-ed this week.
The alternative is potentially much more difficult than pointing out who’s the wrongest and who’s the rightest – but it’s the only way we’re going to solve this mess. We need to take a mature stance, to school our inner children on being the ‘bigger man.’ This is the only way we’re ever going to achieve peace in this region – and ultimately that’s what we all want. To be happy and healthy and free. By taking responsibility for what we can and accepting the unsatisfactory nature of what we don’t like, we can rise above blame, and start taking steps towards actually making things better. Swallow our egos and the desire to shout “but he said!” “but look what!” and start speaking like we want to end this thing – not keep it going forever.
A common sentiment in mulling the Israel-Palestinian conflict is that both sides will need strong enough leaders to guide the peace process. Someone to stand up and say “yes, [the other side] has hurt us, but this is the way forward – come with me.” This may well be true, but here’s a revolutionary thought – what if the change in mindset came from the grassroots up? What if the voice of the people rang out strong, loud and mature, saying, “We refuse to play this Blame Game any longer”? What if instead of trying to score points to our Facebook friends and anyone else that will listen, we spread messages of peace and of hope? I’m talking more hashtags like #JewsAnd ArabsRefuseToBeEnemies and less #HitlerWasRight and #IsraelUnderFire.
Ultimately, we’re not gonna make peace with war, with more violence and bloodshed. We need to find creative, innovative solutions which stand a chance of opening the door for a long-lasting agreement – not another useless, until-next-time ceasefire. Israel needs to open ports, to garner international support, to choose the non-violent options. The Palestinian leadership needs to follow suit, to show its people how good their lives can be. It’s only by doing something completely different, and swallowing a whole lot of “wrong” that we’ll ever stand a chance of making things right.
My hope is that the 72-hour cease-fire declared today can be used as a springboard to a solution. Imagine if rather than another halfhearted, “until-next-time” truce, the Israeli and Palestinian leadership (with significant international backing) made a 5-year plan. If Israel lifted the blockade and the PA rallied support for peaceful statehood.
You may say I’m a dreamer. But (I hope) I’m not the only one.