Getting "Squishy" (#israeluncovered Bus 1)

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Shikhar Gupta was born in India and grew up in Irvine, California. He currently is a junior double majoring in Computer Science and International Relations. Shikhar interned with the Democratic Party of Orange County, and worked for the Bureau of Counterterrorism at the Department of State. On campus, Shikhar is also involved with Model United Nations as the Secretary General of the high school conference and Director General of the intercollegiate conference, College Democrats as the Vice- President, Political Student Assembly as the Webmaster, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon as the Vice President of Establishment.

 

Too often we stay clear of complexity. We live in an era of #hashtagactivism and short, punchy slogans. Issues that require a plethora of words to understand often don't even get ten. We lump perspectives that differ from our own in as the “Other," developing a false binary of "us against them." The voices of the extremes are readily peddled, leaving the millions of shades of moderation in between unheard. This is what I had come to expect from people in the realm of thorny political and social issues, and I had anticipated the same of our speakers on Israel Uncovered. However, being exposed to Khaled Abu Toameh, a journalist for The Jerusalem Post and numerous other international media outlets, proved to be a breath of fresh air. Mr. Abu Toameh spent part of his time with us dishing out criticisms of "pro-Palestinian" groups across university campuses, particularly American ones. He talked about these groups, which were ostensibly founded to further the cause of the Palestinians, but are failing to actually spend time defending the Palestinian people and instead concentrate their efforts on attacking Israel. While I find fault in Mr. Abu Toameh's logic, as I'm sure pro-Palestinian groups believe the two don't have to be mutually exclusive, his criticism is warranted. The refusal of such groups to engage with their peers and their failure to view the broader perspective of Palestinian issues contributes to the neglect of said people.

Mr. Abu Toameh delved into Palestinian politics to prove his point, beginning with an assertion that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt, not moderate, and can't be negotiated with. He then transitioned to discussing a radicalized Palestinian people, and from there he spoke about issues pertaining to Israeli Arabs. While I knew of Israeli Arabs, Mr. Abu Toameh's way of discussing them, his own demographic, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict introduced a layer of complexity I was previously unaware of. There was far more that Mr. Abu Toameh discussed in the time he spent with us, but his importance as a speaker did not lie in his opinions outright (many of which I disagreed with). Rather, it was his willingness to embrace the complexities of the issues that was most impressive. It was his willingness to support his opinions and openly have an intelligent conversation about his beliefs with us. Conversations about difficult issues like these aren't meant to be comfortable, nor will they ever be. We must be willing to establish space for intelligent discussions, referred to by Bus 1 as "getting squishy," in order to continually comprehend these complex topics and challenge our preconceived understandings of the world.