Actually, Palestinians and Israelis don’t ask questions in order to get answers. The questions are more like the statements my wife makes under the guise of a question, like “Honey. Will you hold my purse?”
I don’t have a choice. I had better take that purse or I am in for it.
And I am always in for it when I talk about the word “moderate” to Palestinians and Israelis, who happen to be among the most emotional people on earth.
They’re not asking. They’re making a declaration that they hate the term “moderate” as much as they hate the term “extremist.”
But I hold my ground, unlike with my wife and the issue of holding her purse. And I won’t budge.
There are moderates in the Palestine-Israel conflict. More importantly, there are extremists, too, on both sides. Both extremist sides use violence to achieve their parallel but different goals, seeking to block peace.
And this is where the challenge arises.
Peace only thing worth fighting for
You don’t have to ask an extremist to get up early in the morning to wreak havoc. They do it out of habit. It’s their mission. Extremists believe that if they can keep the conflict going long enough, one day they will win and the other side will lose.
A moderate views things differently. They believe that we have to keep pushing for peace and even more so when the times become more violent. The more violence there is, the more we must commit ourselves to fighting for peace.
I think peace is the only thing worth fighting for. But as a moderate, I know that I am somewhat alone, compared to the extremists.
Moderates rarely wake up early to change the world. In fact, their very nature of peacefulness works against them and rather than energizing themselves to take on the world’s challenges, often they rarely speak out.
The majority of Palestinians and Israelis, in my opinion, are moderate. Some are exploited by the extremists who use emotions, feelings, and frustrations to make it appear as if the larger community is extreme like them.
Extremists bring people down in order to elevate themselves.
Moderates bring themselves down in order to reach the people who need the most help.
As a longtime journalist and radio talk show host in Chicago on WLS Radio, I remember getting loads of hate calls and mail. These days the postal mail has been replaced by email, but it is all the same.
Arabs, Jews are emotional people
Editors at the newspapers and the radio station all said the same thing, which is why the hate emails today don’t really bother me, even though they outnumber the pro-peace emails and encouragement I get probably 10 to 1.
The fact is, extremists always find the time to complain. They don’t have solutions. They are good only at defining and even exaggerating the challenges to make them look worse in the hopes of preventing the majority of the public from finding hope.
My editors said moderates are basically happy people. Not driven by extreme swings of emotion. So they rarely take the time to say, “Good job.”
Emotion. It’s like gasoline to a car. Fill people up with emotion and their anger runs forever.
Arabs and Jews are very emotional people, as I noted earlier. We need to recognize that. We need to recognize that we often go from one extreme to the other. Being emotional doesn’t make us extremists. It just makes as short-tempered, Rash. Despondent. And, susceptible to the exploitation of the extremists.
Arabic and Hebrew are languages that technically are not spoken. They are sung, like songs and poetry. That’s why there is so much more poetry in the Arab World, and I suspect in the Jewish world, too.
It takes a lot of emotion to speak Arabic and Hebrew. You put a lot of energy into it. Even the most innocent phrases sound like anger. Confrontational. Uncompromising.
The true leader in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict is the leader who recognizes that the public will often seem to be extremist because its emotions move it in that direction. Good leaders also recognize that the emotional masses are also always pulled toward extremism by the extremists.
Need to give peace a chance
I don’t believe the polls that say Palestinians support suicide bombings. I don’t believe the polls that say Israelis don’t want to compromise.
I believe that at times of great tragedy, conflict and suffering, emotions prevail and are exploited by extremists. We have to take that into consideration before we judge or act.
We need to always give peace a chance, and the greater public the benefit of the doubt. We need to recognize that extremists live by the sword of metal and rhetoric.
So what is he answer to the presumed question? Well, a moderate is someone who reasons, not hates. A moderate is someone who believes in peace more as the cries of conflict and violence increase. A moderate is someone who recognizes that the only answer to conflict is peace, and that peace, as I said before, is the only thing worth fighting for.
It takes courage to be a moderate.
It’s easy to be an extremist.
But in the end, moderates must recognize that their greatest challenge is reasoning with their people and reminding them that deep down, Palestinians and Israelis are both good people who share the same values and beliefs in the same God.
There’s always going to be conflict and violence. We cannot completely get rid of it. What we need is more peace.
Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com