Keith Kahn-Harris, writer, sociologist, UK
It’s become very clear during the last few ‘rounds’ of violent conflict in which Israel has been involved, that this is a conflict in which much of the world feels they have a stake. Across the globe, supporters of Israel (who aren’t exclusively Jewish) and supporters of the Palestinians (who aren’t exclusively Muslim), feel that this is a conflict in which they are personally invested. In and of itself this isn’t necessarily a negative thing – after all, there are many conflicts around the world where people die in large numbers without anyone noticing outside the immediate region – but in the case of Israel-Palestine this external investment in the conflict is increasingly becoming an extension of the conflict itself.
I’m not just referring here to the anti-Jewish violence that has been seen in France and some other European countries. Terrible as that is, it is simply the most extreme manifestation of a wider phenomenon, one in which Diaspora Jews are active protagonists rather than simply victims. While Diaspora Jewish supporters of Israel do not, with a few exceptions, express their support for Israel in violent ways, they are certainly as responsible as anyone else for the wider conflagration being fought in online and offline debates and arguments. On social media, at public meetings and even in private conversations, the Israel-Palestine conflict extends across the world in an unending stream of invective and abuse. This doesn’t help the chances of the real conflict being solved, in fact it exacerbates it. Conflict resolution has the greatest chance of success when the conflict is localised to its main protagonists. When all the world is wrapped up in the conflict, there is no ‘outside’ from which mediation and resolution can come.
So one thing that Diaspora Jews can do is to begin the work of localising the conflict by refusing to exacerbate it outside the region.
That requires a commitment to civility and dialogue, in place of abuse and invective.
It means paying attention to how one communicates online and offline.
It requires being careful of how one speaks to and of the other.
Maybe the place to start is to pay particular attention to communication with other Jews with whom one disagrees about Israel. At the very least, if we can’t calm the wider conflict, we might be able to calm the conflict amongst Jews.