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Unexcused Ignorance: Why Youth Must be Informed About Conflict in the West Bank and Gaza

June 25, 2013

I have never known a time in my life where there have not been vaguely violent happenings in Israel and Palestine.  Until recently, that’s precisely what the conflict had been diluted to in my mind: an ambiguous sense of hatred and pain that every so often flashed through my quick scan of the news. I recall my college hosting events about conflict resolutions and while I may have attended one, the reasoning and root of the “war” was far from my scope of understanding.

I cannot claim now that my expertise on the subject is sufficient. I would claim the opposite: that I am just attempting to scrape the surface of understanding. As I cusp the fringe of understanding however, I can take a strong stance on one subject: knowledge of injustice is a responsibility.

I can spend my time cramming this blog post with with statistics of inhumane offenses and quotes from reports about crimes against humanity. But there are others who spend their whole lives reporting on and advocating for peace in the region.    I cannot pretend that I am qualified enough to support the cause of either side. Rather, I feel that it is the responsibility of each individual to devote time to educating themselves.

“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”- Dalai Lama

On Friday, June 14, 2013 I attended an event at the United States Institute of Peace on Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt.  Dr. Ali Gomaa, the Former Grand Mufti of Egypt, was one of the panelists at the event. Although Dr. Gomaa was speaking his native tongue, Arabic, his message was a simple and powerful one.

“We all have to understand that we, Jews, Muslims and Christians, are all humans,” Gomaa began, “We humans, are all in one boat together. And violence and terrorism are trying to sink us all.” All across the world barriers of ethnic and religious conflict work to create violence and sink the vessel of peaceful humanity.

As Gomaa explained, one of the largest contributors to this ongoing violence occurs in Israel and Palestine. This 46 year old occupation has been the longest continuous violence in the history of the civilized world.  For authorities to even begin to put a number on the death toll for both Israeli and Palestinian civilizations since the conflict began in 1967  is almost impossible. Since 2011, the numbers have been on a steady increase. The 2011-2012 death tool is estimated to be 130 for the year. These statistics however, cannot just be represented as figures on a page because violence has been allowed on the West Bank on a day to day basis for almost 50 years.

“The issue of violence [in] Palestine has cast a shadow on the region of the Middle East,” Gomaa explained. “Every day there are children being denied health care, losing their families and being killed because of this violence. There is a holocaust happening now.”

Gomaa’s comments resonated deeply with my new knowledge of the conflict. He very strongly confronted the audience, “Which side will you stand on in this holocaust? I ask and plead with you we need to build a world on justice. We need justice for all people, including [the] Palestinians.” With those words, the conflict in Israel and Palestine was elevated from a segment of violence on a news clip to an unjust reality that I allowed myself to be ignorant of.

Gomaa closed his remarks at the United States Institute of Peace with a simple message: “All of us right now, we will die potentially in a world of violence. Our children however, we want them to be raised in peace. We cannot create this peace without calling for justice now.”

The road to justice must first start with knowledge.  It is easy to close one’s mind and eyes to violence occurring across the oceans. It is simple to live in the metonymy of the work day and not expand one’s consciousness to the uncomfortable and devastating realities facing humans a world away. “Ignorance,” as Plato says “is the root and stem of all evil.”

It is the responsibility of the youth to protect the soil of humanity from the roots of evil.

As Secretary of State John Kerry makes his fifth trip to the region in the last three months, right now is a vital time to recognize the urgency of the injustice occurring in the West Bank. We can no longer allow ourselves to be veiled by a curtain of ignorance.

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