A Civil Debate

To judge by how I/P discussions proceed on blogs and end up tearing them to pieces with the vitriol from both sides, it would seem there’s no other way and that the topic can’t even be discussed.

I’d just like to call your attention to the debate series called The Doha Debates. I’ve only watched one, when it was on BBC, the March 28th, 2007 one, on the topic of Palestinians’ right of return, and found it very illuminating, unlike the invective-laced “discussion” anything I/P brings out on the blogs.

If these people can talk civilly with one another and share their life-and-death opposed perspectives without killing one another or insulting one another’s integrity, surely people here can too:

Speaking for the motion, Bassem Eid, founder and director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.  He’s worked in the Human Rights field for many years, documenting abuses by both Palestinians and Israelis.  He’s lived in refugee camps for over 40 years, and is now resident of the Aqabat Jaber camp in Jericho.  With him, Yossi Beilin, Member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.  He served as a minister in several governments, and in 2003 he helped to bring about the signing of the Geneva Accord, a private peace agreement negotiated by Palestinian and Israeli experts, but was never officially recognised by either government. Against the motion, Ilan Pappe, senior lecturer in political science at Haifa University.  Two years ago he supported a boycott of Israeli universities, saying that external pressure on Israel was the best means of ending the occupation.  He’s written a number of books on Middle Eastern affairs, including The Making of the Arab/Israeli Conflict.  Also against the motion, Ali Abunimeh.  He’s the son of Palestinian refugees; he grew up in Europe and now lives in Ireland and the United States where he founded the Electronic Intifada, an internet gateway about the Palestinians and their conflict with Israel.  He lectures frequently at colleges in the US and is the author of a recent book called One Country: A Proposal to end the Israeli/Palestinian Impasse.

The full series with video and transcripts for all the debates is here.

The March 28th, 2007 debate is here: video | transcript

I highly recommend you watch it, at the very least to learn how to put your points across to those of us not personally invested in one side or the other and who are otherwise ready at this point to just say fuck off to the whole lot of you. 


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  1. Too bad.

  2. … I think the problem here on the blogs is a little different.

    It isn’t so much about Palestinians and Israelis.  It is fighting between advocates of Palestinians and advocates of Israelis — personal characterizations, it’s a personal fight, imo.

    And until we can get that out in the open I don’t think there can be debate.  There is such strong and visceral distrust between the players involved.  We would need to find neutral moderators, ones both sides would trust.

    Even then, even if folks agreed ahead of time about the moderator, there could still be dissent over personal characterizations of each side.

    I think the search for the holy grail would be easier!

  3. I’m working on this and will be addressing it relatively soon.

    • pico on September 19, 2007 at 21:51

    I’d suggest any approach to structuring I/P debate here is going to have to take into account some other issues, as well:

    History.  For better or worse people debating here have been debating each other elsewhere, so there’s a great deal of baggage already lying around.
    Bad Faith.  Related to history, the flare ups of the past lead people to suspect the motives of ‘the other side’ (it’s ridiculous we have such clear-cut ‘sides’ on an issue like this), and that in turn leads to people’s not interpreting each other’s words in an objective light.
    Text.  A constant problem in internet debate is that, minus important body language and vocal tone, words sometimes carry different shades of meaning depending on the reader.  With the poisonous combination of bad faith and objectification, this pretty much guarantees that any debate, no matter how much in good faith from individual members, will spiral into a nasty fight.

    That third one’s a bitch.  Not sure how to structure anything to get around that one.

    • Turkana on September 19, 2007 at 21:59

    my favorite i/p diarist at dk was “another american,” because he kept trying to get people to talk about the geneva process. i thought it was a great place to start. needless to say, it didn’t take.

  4. no I/P unless we can first talk about how to talk about it without making it personal, full of invective, half-truths, accusations, strawmen, and hate.

    but no talk about ‘civility’ standards, either.

    tricky, tricky…

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