Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “March 9, 2012”

Israel Apartheid Week – Rhetorics of Hate

It came and went. Israel Apartheid Week on our university campus. They waved their flags, we waved ours. They chanted, we chanted. They held their signs up and we tried to hold ours higher.

It was so depressing.

Been there, done that, year after year. And as I stood watching, I realized that the language is becoming more extreme with each passing year. A woman recited an emotional poem shouting into the microphone: “I hate you. I hate you, I hate you.”

Why is the language and tactics becoming more extreme?

I would like to tell you that the hard-liners (from both sides) are entrenching themselves as a last throw against the onslaught of the peace process. You would then like to tell me that I am delusional, while subtly putting that almost-empty whiskey bottle away.

Perhaps, on the other hand, it is frustration at the intransigence of the leaders involved and the lack of any kind of serious peace talks.

But the reality is sadly that many no longer believe that a peaceful, negotiated settlement is possible. It is frustrating and dis-empowering. Time passes, another war looms. More people will die and, when the smoke clears, well we will be back where we started, having learned nothing.

So maybe it is just easier to brandish our signs and our flags at each other. We know what to expect. We know it won’t matter. A little chanting can even be therapeutic. And maybe it will help us forget that people are suffering, living in fear, and waiting for a better future.

Except that with each day passing, we move that much closer to war.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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