Being FOR Something in the Middle East by Megan Hallahan, USA

Here in Israel and Palestine, it’s easy to fight AGAINST something – against the occupation, against terror, against settlements, against boycott, against “normalization”, against anti-Semitism, against dividing Jerusalem, against giving up the right of return, against SURRENDER.

imageIt’s easy to be “anti” because it’s easy to rally support – it’s much easier to agree on what is wrong than on what could be right. And there are strong and emotional arguments, symbols, examples and principles that justify the cause, echoed ad nauseum by politicians and interest groups.

On the other hand, to be FOR peace is to try to convey a new vision so drastically different from the current reality that it is almost impossible to convince others that it is possible, especially if they have suffered from the conflicts, like most here have. When you are against, you can easily make use of fears, narratives, symbols and platitudes; but when you are FOR you must build, from nothing, a new vision of hope, of progress, of coexistence, of belief that another way IS possible.

Building anew is always harder than tearing down. Tearing down feels good; it takes little energy, the rally call is simple – NO, STOP, CAN’T, DON’T – and it can release pent up frustration, trauma, anger and emotion, which is always in high supply in any conflict area. Building anew requires new ideas, new energy, new resources and the patience and strength to continue to believe, no matter what the set-backs, that the long and difficult process will be worth it when the vision becomes a reality.  This is nearly impossible when, on one side, daily life is continually controlled and threatened, and on the other side, the burdens of a history of victimization is the lens through which all else is viewed and thus deemed as threats.

Nevertheless there are those who, instead of tearing down, are building anew – building a reality of understanding and peaceful coexistence, brick-by-brick, day-by-day, in the face of great criticism from their peers, communities, and even friends and family.  No matter how hard it is to be FOR peace here, I know that even the most brutal and entrenched conflicts have been transformed in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the Balkans, Ireland and beyond. So, in the face of all the AGAINSTs, I keep the faith that the FORs will prevail, that our building anew will soon outpace the tearing down, replacing the cycle of violence, revenge and blame with collaboration on a shared future.

Megan Hallahan

YaLa Young Leaders

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