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.