Two hours to a new perspective


Throughout the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each side has succeeded in casting the other in the worst possible light. Pro-Palestinian groups show Israel as a cruel occupying power that randomly attacks innocent civilians who merely want to live on their own land. Israel portrays Palestinians as rock-throwing, hate-mongering terrorists, whose sole ambition is to stomp out every last vestige of the State of Israel. The mutual achievement of successfully bashing the other side has only deepened the rift between the two groups. Neither side should take much satisfaction in this dubious achievement.

A conspicuously absent aspect, at least for me, was the alternative view of Palestinian people. No rational person could honestly believe that every Palestinian is a terrorist, or evil in some way. It is simply impossible that an entire people could be completely devoid of goodness, much the same way that it is impossible that an entire people could be completely untouched by evil. Still, I had never been presented with the “good” side o f the Palestinians, although logically I knew it was there. The primacy and saliency of terrorist attacks had succeeded in pushing the desire to find this view far to the back of my mind.Last week, while returning from writing my open memo — an assignment that actually is utterly riddled with evil — I noticed an advertisement for a film at the Kennedy School of Government entitled A Wedding in Ramallah.

It seemed that I had finally come across an opportunity to see that “other view” of Palestinians which previously had so eluded me. After seeing the film on Tuesday, I walked away with one of the more rewarding two viewing hours I’d had in recent memory.The most striking feature of the film was its human element. Within the first ten minutes, nearly every preconception I held regarding Palestinians came under visual attack. Watching the family members interact and engage in hilarious dialogue, I found it difficult to associate them with the terrorists of whom I so often read. The true irony of the Arafat-led “resistance” efforts is that it obscures the image of Palestinians as people. Every bomb that goes off in a crowded square, every family that is murdered by terrorists further diminishes the desire to look beyond the terrorists and see the Palestinian people as a whole.

Unquestionably, the reverse is true for the Israelis. The effort to demonize each group has yielded precisely what was sought, and at great expense. The conflict in the Middle East shows no signs of ending any time soon. Hatred is deeply entrenched, and while there are “good sides” in both groups, terror, retaliation and fear dominate the landscape. Despite the pain and suffering, I would hope that ultimately, the ugliness of violence would one day bow to the beauty that each group, Palestinian and Israeli, has to offer.

At HLS, I can point to nothing that has been done to help push back the ugliness. Instead of using its prestige to make a positive difference, Harvard’s main contribution to the conflict has been the preposterous and hate-ridden petition for divestiture. Supporters of this petition do nothing to help the people they claim to support. Casting Israel as evil only further entrenches Israeli supporters, who are quick to cast Palestinians in the same way. To engage in this activity is only to pointlessly retread old ground.

A Wedding in Ramallah gives more hope for possible grounds for peace, does more to demonstrate the presence of goodness in Palestinian people in two hours than divestment or any other mudslinging activity could hope to achieve in a lifetime.

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