Friday, November 28, 2008

Protest this

I remember the first Gulf War. I remember trudging around in a slow, slushy circle in front of the U.S. Consulate. We were all chanting, "hell no, we won't go, we won't die for Texaco". Even though we were Canadian and weren't likely to go. But anyhow, I was doing my part for peace. Then some dude with a megaphone started yelling, "Help defend Iraq from American imperialism! Fight American imperialism!!!!" I remember thinking, "Huh?"

Yes, not much thought at all. However, I did realize that this was no longer my type of peace march. In fact, it no longer seemed to be a peace march. It had become some sort of anti-American rally, which wasn't my goal. Besides, my feet were soaking wet and freezing. I left and have never been back to another anti-war rally.

I will join a pro-choice or pro-HIV rights march whatever the circumstances. Those are my two causes. I can argue with people who don't agree with them, but at the end of the day, my view is not going to be swayed. For example, I don't give a flying fig when life technically starts. I'm pro-woman. If a woman wants an abortion, for whatever reason, to me it's a valid reason. Still, you can tell me you think it's murder and I'll respect your view. For other causes, I pick and choose. I don't feel that I can fight everything. I can be convinced one way or another. I also believe in recognizing my own flaws and prejudices.

This is my unnecessarily long intro to what was a very tedious and disappointing group of protesters that I had today.

I was walking home when I passed a very small (about seven) group of protesters outside the Israeli Consulate demanding Palestinian rights. I will readily admit to the unpopular view that I am generally pro-Israel. That doesn't mean that I'm anti-Palestinian and I'm certainly not anti-Muslim, but it does mean that I like the fact that Israel exists. I like the moderate Jews in Israel. I like Israel's secular side. On the other hand, I can't stand the settlers. That should be stopped. Immediately. And settlements that were recently built in disputed territory should be torn down. To me, the uber religious Jews in Israel cause most of the internal problems and yet refuse to serve in the army. Morons.

Anyhow, normally I pass these protests without a second glance. Today, in my effort to be a better person (inspired by my friend D.) I felt that I should properly learn more about the Palestinian cause, from their perspective. So when one woman at the end was urging me to take her list of readings, I paused. I asked her if the readings were balanced, and if they were reputable sites. Again, in fairness to me, I would ask the same if this had been a protest in favour of Israel - I'm not going to take some extreme pamphlet that advocates further settlements. Just as last night I was in no mood to end up with a bunch of sites calling for the destruction of Israel.

Her response? "What do you mean?"

I explained what I meant. I explained that I don't like to hear the word apartheid all the time. I mean, and please enlighten me if I'm wrong - seriously, I don't mind- but under apartheid in South Africa blacks had no rights and 'coloureds' had limited rights compared to the white people. For Palestinians living in Israel, they have the right to vote, etc. The people who are limited and suffer tremendously are Palestinians in the occupied territory. Or am I wrong? I may be. Like I said, I admit to not being up on the topic as much as I should be. She was very annoyed at my question and didn't address it, but instead started to mention that Palestinians were suffering.

Again, to be clear, I wasn't disputing that. That's why I was willing to take the pamphlet. I had been asking about the quality of the web sites. She was completely ignoring that question. The I asked about why neighbouring Arab states weren't doing anything to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees.

Her response? "Why should they?"

What? Seriously? What the fuck sort of answer is that? Why is she protesting in Canada then? Anyhow, I then lost it. I said, "Well what about the apartheid in our own freaking country against the aboriginal people?"

She said, "Oh, so you don't care about our aboriginal people either?"


Then she told me that I was condemning her sister who lived in Palestine, and her future grandchildren. Again, what the fuck???? And let me be clear, this was an aging home-grown middle-class Canadian woman. Her sister must have married someone and moved to Palestine. Well hello, not my fault if your family chooses to move to a war zone. Most people in war zones are trying to get out. I don't know why middle-class white westerners always think they can move to some area of high conflict and live in peace or merit more right to do so - but that's a rant for another day.

Anyhow, by this point, I was so annoyed I looked at her and calmly said, "you know what? I really don't care. [and that part's true: I care about the Palestinian people but not this particular idiot's family] You aren't selling your cause at all. Keep your pamphlet." And handed it back to her.

On a positive note, I will do my own research and find a more balanced group where Palestinians and Israelis are trying to work together (and those groups do exist) and fund them. This woman left me so disgusted that I will take an active interest in Palestinian rights - but not in her way. But I'm through with wasting my time on any protester who can't defend their cause in an intelligent way. In general I am so tired of the inability of either side in a debate to have any sort of intelligent conversation. I managed to have a great talk with my father today about Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who I LOATHE) because we were able to find common ground and debate merits of various politicians. That's what I like. After all, isn't it all about accepting our differences and finding common ground?

Update: Here we go!

I like this group: Interfaith Peace Builders

And here's one from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship where women are working for peace.

ah. I feel much better now.


CoffeeDog said...

I am at a loss when it comes to understanding what the fuck is at the core of the Israel thing. Is it the fact that the Palestinians think that the Jews are un-rightfully squatting? Hello, the entire area is holy to everyone on the planet, why can't they share? God would want it that way, wouldn't he? Why can't we all just get along?

Tickersoid said...

It's pointless to look at the rights and wrongs of the conflict. One has to be pragmatic. The Israelies aren't going to go away and violent attacks on them won't produce any results other than more hate. If the Palestinians go down the violence route the Israelies will always win, because they're better at it. Palestinians have been trying that for over half a century with no significant gains and many severe set backs. Trouble is, they've never had any cohesive political leadership. Such a leader could be negotiated with.
What ever the rights and wrongs, the lives of ordinary Palestinians would be made hugely better by better relationships with their neighbours, both socially and economically.

tornwordo said...

(I LOATHE him too) I think you have a pretty healthy view of the israel-palestine conflict.

Roxrocks said...

I've never understood the whole Israeli-Palestinian thing either, but I watched a documentary called Gaza or something, about these poor souls on the Gaza Strip. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, it's those people I think about.

Snooze said...

CD: My feelings too but I was so frustrated with that woman because I was trying to learn more. I mean, if someone asked why I was pro-choice and mentioned that they weren't sure about abortion on demand, I wouldn't start telling them that they obviously hated women and wanted to see them enslaved. I'd try to start a discussion.

Tickers: Yeah, Ireland seems to be doing much better now that they adopted a more conciliatory approach and of course my people (the Scots!) even have their own parliament.

Torn: I don't get why a protester would be so closed to someone who actually wanted to learn about their cause.

Rox: A well-done documentary speaks volumes

eroswings said...

That is stupid when protesters have no clue about all sides of the issues and have the monkey see monkey do mentality.

It makes them look stupid. And it only hurts their cause.

Stewie said...

After all, isn't it all about accepting our differences and finding common ground?

So, so true. There is a woman I love talking to about politics that works in one of our satellite offices. She is very much a hardcore republican but, while we don't agree on most things politically, we have fantastic conversations because each of us is willing to listen to the other. And each is not afraid to admit when we agree with the other, even if it goes against what we thought we felt.

If you are going to go as far to protest something, at least know what the hell you are talking about.

Snooze said...

Eros: Exactly! How can you be protesting if you can't refute (rationally) arguments about your cause?

Stewie: We are having a complete mind meld.