If I don’t know something and I want to, I look it up, I ask questions, I make an effort. I work at not remain ignorant about the things I encounter in my life. Do I look everything up? No. There’s a whole bunch of things that I don’t know shit about and I’ve little interest in learning about. Now, if I’ve chosen not to learn about something then I’m not going to put forward an opinion or cast any kind of judgement on it. If I want to opinionated and judgmental then I’ll need to get me some facts.
This is something that I’m trying to teach my daughter and something that I encourage in the students that I work with (and sometimes my coworkers). It’s important.
If you haven’t made an effort to see all the sides of an issue and an effort to understand, then I’m sorry, but you don’t have an opinion. At the very least you don’t have an opinion that I’ll want to listen to.
This was the beginnings of a post that I wrote up yesterday. Canadian PM, Stephen Harper is in Israel and after listening to the news about his visit, there were comments made about what Harper did and didn’t say. Now, I’m pretty intelligent, well read and have even lived in the middle east and I know very little about the situation in Israel.
I decided, what better way to put my beliefs into practice than to look into the Israel/Palestine issue before I spit out any kind of opinion on the matter and certainly before I post about it. I have bitten off more than I can chew. From what I can tell, everyone else has too.
Throughout the day yesterday and into the evening, on and off, I’d try to find balanced articles and sources of information about the area and the conflict. I looked at things with a very critical eye and trusted no one source on it’s own. Guess what I found out…. You could fill a book with what I don’t know about the area, probably several books. I typed out several pages of notes and information and barely scratched the surface.
My first thought was to throw my hands up and announce to the world “Stay out of it, they’re fucked.” I’ve refined that thought though. Ready? Here’s what I’ve come up with….. I don’t know. Is there a solution? I don’t know. Who’s right? I don’t know. Can we help? I don’t know.
That’s not to say that I don’t know anything. I learned a great deal about the origins of the conflict in the area and the modern history of the conflict. I think that looking into something this deep and broad has confirmed for me that these situations can not become sound bites for politicians and the media. There is no way say anything meaningful about the conflict without first knowing something about it.
My solution? If a few of my students are arguing over a ball and can’t share it, then I take it away. If only it were that simple.
Here was the original bit that prompted this article. Harper had not said anything against Israeli settlements within the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The CBC reporters seemed to be surprised by this, but it wasn’t clear why. This is what I went looking for.
From the official Canadian Government website regarding foreign policy:
Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). The Fourth Geneva Convention applies in the occupied territories and establishes Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, in particular with respect to the humane treatment of the inhabitants of the occupied territories. As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.
Canada believes that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law which is key to ensuring the protection of civilians, and can contribute to the creation of a climate conducive to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.
According to UN resolution 446: ”that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”
So, now I know what people were expecting Harper to say. He was in Israel and speaking with it’s leaders and letting them know how much Canada supports them, yet he made no mention of Canada’s lack of support for Israel’s actions in the occupied territories. That’s some interesting shit and I’m really glad that I looked it up.
Here’s an interesting clip from CBC’s Q. An interesting bit on why this is such a hard conversation to have. Please give it a listen.