All summer I worked in a lab listening to National Public Radio. Every day it seemed one of the shows was devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Experts representing both sides would come on the show and proceed to disagree for the next hour. Every one of these shows was the same and after about a dozen of them I asked myself, why doesn't NPR do something more relevant with its airtime, like broadcasting random small claims court disputes? Then it hit me, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a big, fat, greedy toddler that wants all the attention to itself, and unfortunately gets it.
Then I came back here to read one article after another about the Campus Watch Web site. Campus-watch.org is stupid. Honestly, if I started a Web site listing every anti-Catholic Church reference I have heard from professors at this school, I would max out the bandwidth available for the whole Internet. I do not complain about this because I did not come to this school to hear my beliefs validated every second and never criticized. If I wanted a school where Catholicism would rarely be attacked I would have gone to Notre Dame. Conservatives have railed against bias in academia for over 30 years with absolutely no results. Personally, I take comfort in knowing that most Americans seem to be conservative, as witnessed by Tuesday's election results. Israel supporters should find solace in the fact that within the U.S. government, support for Israel is completely unchallenged.
But the people who scream bloody murder over campuswatch.org aren't making any real points themselves. After all, the more they complain the more attention the Web site gets.
To illustrate the heightened that attention the Israeli-Palestinian issue always demands, consider this. After a couple of incidents this fall in which anti-Semitic graffiti was found in the Shoreland, the school sent a letter to all the residents of that dorm and generally made a big deal out of it. This is perfectly legitimate, anti-Semitic graffiti is pretty horrible. However, so is homophobic graffiti, and almost every men's room on campus is filled with anti-gay insults and references, written on the bathroom stalls. The school not only does not send letters out, it does not even paint over the graffiti.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a relatively minor dispute that does not deserve the incredible attention it has received. The basic arguments you hear from both sides do not hold any water. Palestinians say they want their own country. They already have it—Jordan. Israelis say that the Jewish people have no other place to live, but clearly the United States is a place where Jews, like many other immigrant groups, came to live peacefully and prosperously.
Foreign supporters of the Palestinians bemoan the treatment visited upon them by the Israelis, but they are not so vocal about what the Serbs did to the Bosnians, or what the Russians have done to the Chechens. Likewise, the Israelis say they want to live their lives without the fear of being killed by terrorists. But living in Israel is still a lot less hazardous than living in, say, inner city Detroit or Washington D.C.
It is time for people to make a conscious effort spend less time focusing on the situation. Extremist elements among these two peoples have been fighting since Moses wore short pants, literally. International scrutiny has given a microphone to these extremists, and their very public posturing and dramatics have made peaceful compromise even less likely than it normally would be.
The attention paid to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals one of the flaws of a democratic society: the tyranny of the passionate minority. This happens when a small group of people can exert an influence out of proportion to their size on one issue because the bulk of the population is indifferent on that issue. We see this phenomenon with the gun lobby. Most people are either neutral on gun control or in favor of it but not enough so to devote much time to pursuing their position. Meanwhile the gun owners, most of whom are passionate and extremely active in their opposition to gun control, win the day despite being outnumbered. Most Americans could care less about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but because a highly energized minority is obsessed with it, they have forced our country to pay attention to it. It's time for us to make a conscious effort to change this situation, and focus on more important things.