Between a Rock and a Crazy Place by author and public speaker Tony Candela

Between a Rock and a Crazy Place by author and public speaker Tony Candela

Between a Rock and a Crazy Place

By Tony Candela

“On Saturday, Oct. 7, (sic) Hamas militants launched an unprecedented cross-border attack into Israel. In a highly organized stealth assault, they bulldozed the border fence in multiple places, caught Israeli’s security apparatus off-guard and overtook overwhelmed military defenses. Surprised by the lack of resistance, the attackers turned the operation into a bloody and chaotic rampage through civilian areas.”

What a way to start a war! After the world was convinced that Hamas, long-time and professed enemy of the existence of an Israeli state artfully and skillfully planned and executed one of the most diabolical attacks in Palestinian-Israeli history, killing many and taking hostages, we learn that Hamas’ intentions may have been more limited. We also know without a doubt that Israeli intelligence and defenses were for a short while, defeated in a way that should cause them to be very afraid. In the midst of Israeli counter-attacks, they are stuck in a very bad situation. We do not know many facts at this writing, but we know that things are getting worse.

One thing we could talk about if we were of a mind to do so, is how bad has been the Palestinian situation over the years and how certain loud spokespeople who profess the desire for the elimination of Israel perpetuate the state of unease between the two peoples. After all, anyone who is threatened with their very life (Israeli or Palestinian), would react. However, if we were to engage in this line of discourse, we would no doubt end up in the same hateful stalemate as pretty much everyone else has over the past several decades. For that is how long this has been going on.

Instead, I would like to talk about communications styles, the Palestinians’, Israelis’, and ours. I propose that our ways of communicating have made it very hard for us outside of Gaza and the West Bank to understand what the Palestinians are experiencing. The same goes for what the Israelis are feeling. We are at a flexion-point if we are willing to engage it. If everyone would seek the higher moral ground, we might finally hear each other.

If not morality, then how about practicality? Will Israel take lessons from the American experience in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9-1-1 and avoid both a protracted war and an even more harrowing quasi-peace should they choose to occupy Gaza again? Will the Palestinians who do not want Israel to exist change their minds and try for a better life over what the most militant among them have wrought?

Let’s start with the elephant in the communications room. In many places, saying anything at all about the humanity of the Palestinians is regarded rather aggressively as “antisemitism. Accusations follow; politicians quake; and policy continues with little regard for the other side. The reverse also obtains. Pro-Israelis are generally and reflexively regarded as anti-Palestinians and the beat goes on as it has for decades. Here we make neither claim. Instead, we discuss how all sides use communication styles that conjure the ancient prejudices at best and are incomprehensible at worst, especially and unfortunately for them, the Palestinians.

My independent assessment is that we have a harder time understanding even what the Palestinians are saying than we do the Israelis or their supporters and this is a trap that the Palestinians cannot escape without help.

Two things stand out when the Palestinians speak. First, they generally speak with heavier accents, replete with Arabic-English rolling Rs and usually less well-put-together English than do the Israelis. Arab-speaking people who have been raised and to a lesser extent, educated in the U.K. and U.S. fare better, but in most cases, they do not speak as well or clearly as Israelis and their representatives do. Three barriers Palestinians face to better communications appear to be (1) fewer opportunities for education, life, and acclimation in the West; (2) generally lower education-levels that might lead to such overseas experiences; and (3) more prevalent anti-West attitudes, which historically, we have found quite dangerous.

Palestinians, having lived in difficulty for so long, also suffer, in my opinion, from lower emotional tolerance, or so it seems when one listens to even the best-educated of them in news interviews. One can almost put a stop-watch to the sequence. They begin somewhat haltingly due to their relative inexperience with English elocution and slowly build up internal pressure, sometimes instigated and aggravated by Western reporters, and sooner or later slide into what sounds like a tirade. It may not be as bad as it sounds, but we in the West take it that way. As an Italian-American who grew up in a loud family, I know it is easy to drift into ethnic habits, earning one a scowl or two from less ebullient interlocutors. Unfortunately, there is powerful and painful emotion behind much of what they have to say and it squelches communication.

Not that I blame them. The history of Palestine is replete with conquest and displacement, ranging back to the Ottoman Empire, through the British, and onto Israeli occupation. Human rights and economic disadvantages have accrued, often in response to desperate behavior that is interpreted as bad and threatening. This is not unlike how blacks in our country have said they feel: like second-class citizens and downtrodden.

Israelis also express emotion, but theirs is a more-in-controlled emotionality, often tinged by anger on top of fear as we see whenever untoward events occur. As with many Jews in America and around the world, Israeli Jews cannot escape the trauma of centuries of dispersal and of course the Holocaust. Their mantra (“Never Forget”) is a warning to both themselves and the rest of us that there will be no tolerance for existential threats. Thus, if attacked, there will be fear, anger, and heavy-duty and quite skillful counter-punching. If threatened, there will be well-spoken language and immediate preparations for either defense or attack. Unlike many Palestinians, Israelis have a long history of higher education and travel abroad and their English and communications-style is more familiar to the West.

All this is to say that both the Palestinians and Israelis are caught between a rock and a crazy place, to quote a line from a favorite sit-com of mine. Neither can escape their past or present circumstances and neither is willing in the short run to back off. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, their political history and communications-style combine to create disadvantage when they try to affect the West in non-violent ways. This leads me to a final point.

The U.S. suffered greatly after the 9-1-1 attacks. It was clear from the start that we were more injured than the loss of people and building indicated. There was true and deep fear and trauma. That is why we have recently warned Israel not to fall into the same pattern we did in the decades following 9-1-1. Israel will be historically better off not trying to occupy a foreign land and probably in better shape if it seeks a viable two-state solution, but this has proven near-impossible in the past and will require some creative and courageous thinking and politicking.

Ultimately, there appear to be only a few possibilities, some dire and some good. First, Palestinians need to communicate better. If they cannot muster the skills from within their borders, compressed and stifling as they ‘ve been laid out over time and war, they need to find able spokespeople from outside. Whomever speaks for them must enunciate so they can be easily understood in whatever language they happen to be speaking and they must maintain an emotional level that is both genuine and human and not, well, crazy. Next, Israelis must figure out how to put aside their seemingly intractable fear of annihilation. Most of us thought they had done so when they built a strong Israeli state with a top-notch Israeli Defense Force, but perhaps they are growing tired from protracted vigilance and long to let their hair down. Unfortunately, in the face of a dire enemy like Hamas, they let it down a bit too much.

I suggest American and British Palestinians come to the aid of their homeland in the form of good spokespeople and strategists who have a drive toward peace and not stalemate or war.

Israel would also do well to right its ship of state. Clearly it has been askew lately. I am neither a political scientist nor betting man, but I’d lay down a few Shekels that after the current war with Hamas is over and assuming the Israeli people can still hold their heads high, there will be a normalization of their government and their policies toward the Palestinians, that is, of course, if they can discard some of their hypervigilance.

Anthony R. Candela, Author

Saying aloud what should not remain silent.

Books by Tony…

Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy

A memoir about life lessons learned, especially through sports

Vision Dreams: A Parable

A sci-fi novella about how a dysfunctional society forces people to go to extremes, including four blind people who seek out artificial vision.

buy his books here.

More About Tony…

Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar.

Follow him on Facebook for more here.

2 Comments

  1. Trish Hubschman Reply
    October 28, 2023

    one of my closest friends was born in Israel. Oct 7th was heart breaking. Isrfeal is just a small piece of land, a state, not a country. Why can’t tfhey jsut be left alone?

    1. Hi, Trish Israel is an official country in Asia.
      What is happening is totally horrific.
      On this you’re right.

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