Politics, religion and destructive discourse

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By Shayna Han

During the past week, there’s been a lot of commotion in Schenectady.

Schenectady Gazette columnist Carl Strock wrote a series of op-eds from Jerusalem that insulted Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and attacked Israel.

An example of his writings: “It was an Arabian-Nights sort of experience, with the imam doing his other-worldly chanting, the men bowing their foreheads to the floor, the women (except my wife) secreted behind a screen, all of us surrounded by the most beautiful tilework in the world. I was ready to sign up right on the spot and had to pinch myself to remember that, for all its exotic charm, it was as much malarkey as any other religion.”

Need one say anything? The arrogance and insensitivity speak for themselves.

Strock refers to the tragic numbers of Palestinian children killed because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and compares that number to the number of Israeli children.

There’s no denying that murders of the innocent in war are tragedies.

However, he fails to mention that members of the Palestinian extremist group Hamas hide among Palestinian civilian populations.

They launch rockets from densely populated areas, endangering Palestinian civilians, including women and children, while they carry out murderous attacks against Israeli civilians.

Hamas’ method of attack has been amply documented by a spectrum of reputable news sources, such as The New York Times and BBC.

Does Strock suggest that Israel does not have the right to protect its civilians? If a foreign country suddenly started bombing Schenectady, would he have the American government sit idly by and let Americans be killed?

Strock said of himself, “I am just a poor reporter, stumbling through a foreign country, observing what I can on the fly and trying to keep from getting shot.” (If I wrote some of the things he’s “stumbling” over, I, too, would be afraid of getting shot!)

Strock calls himself a “reporter.” But he’s not a reporter. He’s an op-ed columnist.

Moreover, his writings are rife with mean-spirited, one-sided views and scant “fact,” often used out of context.

A true reporter, at the minimum, does research to substantiate what he has seen or heard. Strock’s offensive observations during a brief vacation in Jerusalem fly in the face of intelligent commentary and discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Whatever opinion Stock holds about the conflict, it is neither objective nor well-informed.

The causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are numerous and deep. The conflict has led to the display of many of the ugliest qualities of humankind. It has led to terrible decisions and choices.

The tragic consequences of this conflict’s long history cannot be justly and adequately comprehended through one short trip to Israel.

Indeed, people who have spent their lives trying to resolve this issue have not yet solved it.

People on both sides have given their lives; any conflict that has spilled so much blood cannot possibly be explored in one visit to the depth needed to write accurately and intelligently about the many issues involved.

Particularly in today’s world, where words fly more quickly than bullets, one needs to stop, think and question.

Legitimate op-eds require accurate facts, intelligence, and objectivity. Op-eds that lack these qualities have nothing constructive to add to the conversation. Worse, they imperil the fair-minded and conscientious efforts of those who are striving to resolve difficult issues.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

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