Friday, July 08, 2005

Our Right To Speak Out On Israel

In the current issue of The Jewish Week, Chananya Weissman discusses the reasons some claim that Americans may not voice an opinion on Israel's policies and attempts to rebut them. Unfortunately, he seems to have neglected the primary argument that I have always heard:

You cannot properly understand the situation in Israel without living there.
He somewhat addresses it with this statement:
If we have educated ourselves sufficiently to contribute to the discussion, it would be wrong for us to withhold these viewpoints. Who is so sure of himself to declare that a Jew in the diaspora cannot offer a fresh perspective or even the smallest insight that deserves to be considered?
But who says that we are not just fooling ourselves? Who doesn't think that they already know enough to offer an opinion?

I think that the only proper response to the above argument is that people living there tend to extrapolate from their own personal circumstances and (usually mistakenly) think that his situation is reflective of the entire country's. Often, people in the middle of a situation cannot see the whole picture. That is why history written by participants is often entirely wrong; those involved cannot possibly know the entire goings-on. Not only can an outsider see multiple points of view and have access to external information, he can be (but not necessarily is) more objective.

Not that I have an opinion on what's going on in Israel. I plead ignorance of the details. But many people with whom I speak are drowning in details but only of limited pieces of the puzzle (not to mention being misinformed from unreliable news sources). As the truism goes, a little knowledge is dangerous. Perhaps ignorance is better.

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