Monday, March 02, 2009

How to Talk about Gaza, 2

I still don't have any answers. But people are coming to me with questions. I have to remind myself that I have a repertoire of skills for these moments. I have facilitated dialogues about topics almost as fraught. It is probably possible to dialogue about this, too. I'm going to take it in baby steps. Here is a snippet that might come in handy.

How to Talk About Gaza: When somebody says something that you just can't hear.

If you have any opinion about Israel and Palestine, you probably know what I mean. Sometime people state opinions about Israel that seem so heinous that it's hard for me not to scream at them. I don't really want to repeat those opinions. Sometimes they are as blatant as, "I think it's great that IDF kills babies," or "I think suicide bombing is the right thing to do." (This is not to say that these are parallel or equivalent, but only that they evoke similarly emotional reactions for different people.)

What happens for you when somebody says one of those things you just can't hear?

What do you feel?

What do you say??

Here's are a few possibilities.
  • "That's really hard for me to hear."
  • "Did you just say that ... [paraphrase what they just said]?"
  • "You may not realize that I grew up learning to talk and think about Palestine and Israel in an entirely different way than you did."
  • "I would really like to have this conversation with you. For me to do that in a way that feels sustainable, I would need . . . "
-to set aside some time to just talk about this, separately from our everyday work/life.
-to recognize that our different perspectives may be based on different knowledge and information, different analysis and interpretation, and/or different personal relationships to Palestine/Israel.
-to agree that agreeing on this issue is not a prerequisite for our friendship, or for working/living together peacefully.
-to set a timer, so that we can take turns explaining our perspectives, while enjoying the other's complete and respectful attention.
-to set an overall time limit for the conversation, for example, that we don't spend more than an hour discussing this at any one sitting.
-to agree to informed dialogue, that is, that we both want accurate facts and data to inform our opinions and analyses.
-to discuss and come to agreement about how it is or is not okay to share each other's perspectives with third parties outside of this conversation.
-to make plans for a follow-up activity, regardless of the outcome of our conversation, so that we can take care of ourselves and each other after discussing this very difficult topic.