The Dissonance Project

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Grand Prize: Erzsebet Helmeczy

Approaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict with an Open Mind

By Erzsebet Helmeczy
Lehman Alternative Community School
Ithaca, New  York
High School Graduation: 2015

The long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict is a political, nationalistic, and profoundly religious dispute over the historic city of Jerusalem and surrounding homeland, which both Palestinians and Israelis consider their own.

This feud has impacted the Middle East as well as Muslims and Jews around the world.

Varying perspectives surround the Arab-Israeli conflict, ranging from hatred of Arabs to hatred of Israelis for living on land each believe should be their own. Some propose a two-state compromise. However, the majority of the population within Israel and Palestine do not believe a two-state compromise is possible.

Both sides of the conflict continue to engage in war and violence for a cause that each considers equally valid. This continued, relentless tension propels disharmony between Palestinians and Israelis, impacting relations throughout the Middle East and United States.

The United States holds a very biased perspective about the Arab-Israeli conflict. It named Hamas of the Gaza Strip a terrorist organization for resisting Israeli occupation, even though Israeli troops reportedly torture innocent Palestinians and violate many of their basic human rights within the West Bank and Israel. Hamas is known for suicide bombings and a violent resistance. These actions drive the tension between these two cultures and fuel extreme examples of Israeli hatred toward Arabs.

Violence spurs violence. Both sides are equally responsible for the continued cycle of vicious outbreaks between cultures and people. If one of these radical extremists is named a terrorist, then the other must be as well. Neither is necessarily right nor helping to resolve conflict. To legitimate their actions, each advances their own arguments, cultural upbringing, and experiences.

The media in United States reflect bias when reporting the Arab–Israeli conflict. Its images and stories favor Israeli arguments, perspectives, and views. The Israeli position is as legitimate as the Palestinian position. Both sides present points that bring light to a problematic situation.

However, the United States media underrepresent Palestinians. As a result, the possibility of opening American minds to a perspective that the group on the other side faces hurt and harm is limited. It becomes difficult to see both Israelis and Palestinian radical extremists clearly.

Media bias is impossible to avoid: Each piece of media has a position. Without recognizing bias or hearing other voices and perspectives, those who are comfortable with one point of view never have to engage the reality of the Arab/Israeli conflict.

It can be very difficult to open your mind to an unexpected or an uncomfortable point of view. Yet, because of these unlimited, clashing perspectives, the world lives in disharmony. These dissonances render our world dangerous, violent, and challenging. But above all, dissonance makes individuals interesting.