“Cancelling the dialogue is much worse than having the dialogue despite the difficulties”

Fans of football club Hapoel in Tel Aviv

“Cancelling the dialogue is much worse than having the dialogue despite the difficulties”

An Israeli student calls on UM students and staff for dialogue

31-01-2024 · Opinion

A few days after the cancellation of the Dialogue Table on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, we received an email from Yoav Bar Ness. A second-year student in the European Law School programme, he had intended to participate in the event. “It is essential that the two sides talk to each other”, he wrote, “especially in internationally acclaimed settings such as the UM. Cancelling the dialogue (or simply not allowing for honest discussion) is much worse than having the dialogue despite the difficulties.” He proposed that Observant could be an “ideal forum” for students and staff to share their views and feelings in a “non-confrontational, non-aggressive way”.

Yoav Bar Ness is Jewish, from Tel Aviv. Having lost three friends on 7 October, he knows better than most that anyone affected by the war feels “overwhelmed, to say the least”. But if we stop talking to each other, he says, how do we ever get to a possible solution?

Below is the story he planned to read aloud at the Dialogue Table.

We warmly invite any students and staff interested in writing about their views and feelings in a non-aggressive way to follow Yoav Bar Ness’s example. This includes those who had already prepared for the Dialogue Table and also explicitly includes people with different views.

 

A personal story of football and a complex reality

From early childhood, football has always been present in my life. I was born in Thailand, where my parents lived for a few years. When we returned to Israel I was still in kindergarten. My dad, being a loyal follower of the Football club "Hapoel Tel Aviv", did not wait long before he took me to a home match. My early love for the game made players like Saleem Toama and Waleed Badir, Israeli-Arabs (or Israeli-Palestinians) my childhood idols. Hapoel always had dominant Arab players in the squad. As the Israeli-Palestinian MP Ahmad Tibi often says “No Arabs, no goals”. I agree.

Our stadium, “Bloomfield”, is located in Jaffa. It is a city with a predominantly Arab history, today in southern Tel Aviv. Visitors to the stadium will see Arab and Jewish fans supporting the team shoulder to shoulder. Arabic is spoken widely, and anti-racism banners in both Hebrew and Arabic are very common. None of this is a surprise, considering that Arabs make up about 20% of Israeli citizens.

I wish I could say that this is a microcosm of Israeli society, however, this is not the case. Israeli society is far from being perfect. The gaps between its different segments are widening, populist ideologies are on the rise, and racism has been infecting society in different forms. And of course, one cannot overlook the lack of leadership, manifested in incompetency to make difficult decisions on the future of Palestinians in the West Bank.

It would be, at best, a clear lack of understanding to say these flaws are unrelated to 07/10 and the ongoing war in the region. However, I find it extremely difficult to grasp how people who claim to have a versatile, fluid ideology, tend to think in such a black-and-white manner when it comes to Israel.

Let’s go back to football.

Omer Hermesh, a legendary Hapoel fan, symbolised the spirit of the club like no other. In one article from a few years back, his iconic words capture the essence of the club: “We might be provocative fans (...) with a sharp and sometimes merciless tongue... But we are not racist”. Unfortunately, Omer has not been with us since 07/10. He was slaughtered in his house in Kibbutz Kfar Aza during Hamas’s attacks on southern Israel. It took nearly two weeks to identify his body. At his funeral, Arabs and Jews stood together, chanting ‘You'll never walk alone’.

This war is not a binary exercise. It is a story of multiple narratives, all of which have certain truths. Instead of ‘choosing sides’ I wish for people to truly learn and reflect on the complexities of the situation. But above all, I wish for a peaceful solution, for the return of all hostages, and a just and prosperous future for the Palestinians.

Yoav Bar Ness

 

We warmly invite any students and staff interested in writing about their views and feelings in a non-aggressive way to follow Yoav Bar Ness’s example. This includes those who had already prepared for the Dialogue Table and also explicitly includes people with different views. [email protected]

 

 

Author: Redactie

Photo: Hapoelta-fc.co.il

Tags: dialogue table, omnium, dialoogcenter, israel, gaza, palestine, studium generale, hapoel, tel aviv, opinion

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