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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

One Side of Debate Hides Two Sides of Middle East Truth

Author: David Schwartz and Amichai Kilchevsky

For a year and a half, we have watched as Middlebury students have presented blatantly one-sided arguments about why Israel is oppressive, how the Palestinians are being slaughtered for no reason, and how American foreign policy continues to perpetrate these injustices. And for the most part we have not reacted, choosing to make no response our response to these half-truths. By acting, we felt that we would justify their falsehoods, and that Middlebury students are smart enough to realize for themselves when they see propaganda and when they see a balanced argument.

We have continued to stay quiet, though people have confronted us, asking us, both as Jews and as board members of Hillel, why we have yet to respond to these inaccuracies. And while we cannot speak for Hillel, we can speak for ourselves, and say that we have been quiet long enough.

If someone came up to you and told you that the Jews in Europe in the 1930s deserved to be destroyed, you would probably think that they were idiotic, anti-Semitic and racist, but you would not believe them. But what would you say if all his friends told you the same thing? And all their friends said the same thing as well, over and over and over again? Would you begin to be swayed by the sheer size of their argument? Would your children or your friends? And what would happen if no one ever told you anything different, since the counter-argument to what seems like such a horrible claim is so obvious that no response seems necessary? But as history has shown, keeping quiet is not always the best response. For this reason, we feel that to be quiet any longer is an injustice and we would simply repeat our ancestors' mistakes.

The claim that the Jews in the 1930s deserved to be massacred is as absurd as the blatant one-sided argument that Palestinians are killed for no reason, and that Israeli soldiers are simply cruel, inhuman monsters bent on destroying Palestinians and Muslims. From a bizarrely one-sided viewpoint, you could justify the Holocaust's necessity, and from that same standpoint, you could also justify Palestinian suicide bombers. But this is nothing less than an insult.

We are not sure which is a greater insult: to Israel, with the claim that it is oppressive and unjustifiably occupying Palestinian territory, or to Middlebury students' intelligences, with the idea that we would be dumb enough to accept this propaganda. We are here to insist that every story has two sides, that Middlebury students deserve to have both presented, that discussion is a necessity in this time of trouble, and that these one-sided falsehoods only harden people's hearts and cause more confusion to everyone.

For either side in this debate to insist that they are completely right or the other is completely wrong is absurd and reflects poorly on the ethics of the debaters. We acknowledge that leaders on both sides have made very poor decisions, however, to continue to hold one side completely guilty for the mistakes that both sides have made is ridiculous.

One of the most seemingly obvious things we could say is that both sides need to understand each other. This sounds like a trite cop-out, yet for some reason certain people fail to understand this basic truth. Every time a piece of propaganda comes out, it is just another shot below the belt, which solves nothing. Yet this continues to happen everyday on the Middlebury campus.

On Thursday night, this propaganda came to Middlebury in the form of a video entitled "The High Cost of Living in Jerusalem." Granted, this video held some valid points: that every casualty in this awful war has a story behind it, and that every life lost is more than just another statistic. But the bias and the propaganda were still there. The video only profiled the Palestinian side, insisting that Israeli soldiers were completely wrong in defending themselves, and that most Israeli youths believed that the Palestinians were animals.

Again, we see the deliberately selective viewpoint of the video and the harmful neglect of the other side of the story. We understand that students want to defend their side, but what we are asking for is for an intelligent defense, a defense that does not consist of propaganda and lies. No side is completely right, no side is completely wrong, and the sooner we all realize this, the better off we will be for it.

The time has come for students to start looking for the truth, for students to realize that the views forwarded by others on this campus and around the world are inherently biased and need to be questioned. Whether they choose to admit it or not, the people that front these one-sided ideas cause harm, not only to the Middlebury community, but to the world at large. We beseech members of the College to offer balanced arguments, to cease in their one-sided falsehoods, and to quit insulting our intelligence. This is not an argument that can be settled by who can shout the loudest, it can only be settled by understanding, and until we achieve that understanding, we can only look for more casualties. We have had enough of these lies; the time has come for the truth.