Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris

By Hannah Morris, educational psychologist 

I believe Israel has a right to exist. I believe Israel has a right to defend itself from attack and terrorism.

I believe Palestine has a right to exist. I believe Palestine has a right to defend itself from attack and terrorism.

Everything in between is such a mess. I find myself conflicted, not knowing truth from fiction on both sides and I am increasingly mystified by the media – not factual news – vamped up media. Videos are faked, stories are spun and bias bleeds everywhere.

I cannot imagine a world without Israel. Many communities have lived in the Holy land, with the Jewish community dating back to the earliest of times. Jerusalem is a religious focal point for Judaism and other religions too.

This is a land loved by so many, yet spawns so much hatred in its name. I see the grief and hear the cries of innocent people, humans, families over decades of war. I am desperately trying to wade through propaganda to find answers of how to help them, how to build a road to peace, how to protect the land of milk and honey.

George Galloway has provoked fury and a police investigation by declaring his constituency Bradford 'an Israel-free zone'

George Galloway has provoked fury and a police investigation by declaring his constituency Bradford ‘an Israel-free zone’

I think Jews find it hard to trust due to centuries of persecution. For me Israel is a safe haven, somewhere any Jew in fear can go to. Blurring anti-Zionism with anti-semitism only serves to create more fear among Jews around the world and, in-turn, stronger feelings that Israel must be protected, some saying ‘at all costs.’

There are extremists within Islam that call for the destruction of this Holy land. They would rather see it obliterated than be a Jewish state.

Here is another conflict for me: I could never agree with anything ‘at all costs’ when human lives are implicated in this ‘cost.’ Yet equally I want Israel to defend itself from terrorists who seek it’s destruction.

Sadly there are extremists on both sides. Different sects of Islam are currently at war with each other and different sects in Judaism are growing further and further apart. Narrow-mindedness, unwillingness to question and literal thinking are the factors that underpin extremism.

We are, shamefully, seeing more examples of Israeli extremists, with anti-Arabic chanting and aggression as equally disturbing and disgusting as the anti-Semitism currently sweeping across Europe and other continents. For me, such intolerance and primitive thinking is not ‘the Jewish way’ and I know from friends it is not ‘the Islamic way’ either.

It is possible to be religious without being an extremist and this is the view and practice of most religious Jews and Muslims. So how come those with extremist views are able to influence agendas and speak on behalf of others?

Ex-Deputy Tony Cohen resigned after saying, 'I don’t care about Palestinians - I only care about Jews' at a recent Board of Deputies meeting

Ex-Deputy Tony Cohen resigned after saying, ‘I don’t care about Palestinians – I only care about Jews’ at a recent Board of Deputies meeting

As a psychologist, I am all too aware of the importance of understanding behaviours in order to change them. Maybe this is why there is so much debate and discussion about this entrenched conflict. It is certainly why I start dialogues with friends and try to read a variety of perspectives.

Name calling is petty – no, it’s pathetic. I encourage everyone to channel their anger and their passions into constructive communication. You don’t have to accept a view point in order to understand it. If we in the diaspora cannot talk to each other how can we expect those living in Israel and Gaza to?

It is not enough to ‘take sides’ and you are naive if you think you don’t need to listen to both. It is not enough to have equal rights, you must also advocate them through your actions and goals. It is not enough to give aid, you must also ensure it reaches those that need it.

It is not enough to try to avoid civilian casualties, you must also apologise for them too. It is not enough to fight for freedom, you must also protect your civilians from harm. It is not enough to have moral standards, you must also demonstrate them through your tactical philosophies.

It is not enough to protest against one humanitarian crisis, you must protest against them all. It is not enough to say you love thy neighbour, you need to clearly and unequivocally demonstrate it.

The solution is not simple and I do not have answers to so many questions, but we should and must strive for peace. Governments, communities, faiths and families need to embrace self-reflection.

We need to celebrate our differences, notice our shared values and recognise that shifts need to be made by all. I pray for small gestures of goodwill that will perpetuate a cycle of hope and peace.

When my son overheard a discussion around the Shabbat table about the conflict, he asked if he could see the ‘space rockets’. I am blessed that we live in a democracy and that his innocence is protected from violence.

In his young mind he cannot perceive humans firing rockets at one another. His mind is filled with the wonders of science and the excitement at what we can achieve when we work together.

But one day in the not so distant future he will ask me about the images of death and destruction on TV, the heart breaking cries of families stuck in poverty, the mistakes and injustices of his own people, the dreadful fear of guerrilla tunnels and suicide bombs and why people who don’t know him hate him because he is Jewish?

Tough to know where to begin to help him understand. Here is what I’ve got so far:

I am pro Israel. I am pro Palestine.
I am anti-prejudice, anti-racism and anti-terrorism.
I am pro-equality. I am pro-peace.
I am trying to understand.
I am conflicted.

  • Hannah Morris is a member of St Albans Masorti Synagogue