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Opinion: Tolerance means not falling victim to a false dichotomy

We, as human beings, have a lot more in common than we realize.

(Fatima Shbair | Associated Press) Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.

Editor’s note: This was a winning essay in The Tolerance Means Dialogues project. Read the other three essays here.

When thinking about tolerance, I thought about how the world is painted in a black-or-white lenses. If you have an opinion, it must be on one side of the issue. It can’t be a mix of both sides. Obviously, that presents a huge issue.

Life is a lot more complicated than Opinion A or Opinion B. A specific issue that I think of at this time is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has recently become intense. People I follow on social media post about the conflict, but it’s either pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, nothing in the middle. I believe that you can find a middle ground, a tolerance, in regards to this conflict.

As a Jewish student here in Utah, a lot of people automatically assume that I must be pro-Israel in regards to the conflict. I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought that I had a shrine to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in my dorm room.

At the same time, Muslim students are expected to support Palestine.

This causes people to think that the conflict isn’t just Israeli/Palestine, but Jew/Muslim. This, of course, puts both Jewish students and Muslim students in danger. As public opinion of Jews and Muslims are already low, this conflict can — and has — caused an increase in hate crimes against Jews and Muslims.

I believe that people should seek to find a common ground when thinking about the conflict. Perhaps it’s possible to support Palestine but denounce Hamas killing Israeli civilians. Maybe it’s possible to support Israel but denounce Israel killing Palestinian civilians.

Why can’t we find a moral common ground?

I believe it’s possible to denounce the killing of innocent civilians on both sides. I believe it’s possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. Both peoples deserve to exist and their citizens deserve to live in peace and prosperity. To compare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to American politics, we see a lot of controversial topics, such as abortion, gun control, the border, healthcare and LGBTQIA+ rights, that come up in political debates, Senate and House sessions and in the Supreme Court itself. Yet, these topics tend to be quite polarized and often result in heated debates and a clash of views.

I feel like a lot of people can agree on the same thing, if they just take time to listen and tolerate the opinions of others.

In elections, we often vote based on name and face recognition, without paying attention to who the candidates are as a person. If you took statements and quotes by politicians on both sides and asked random Americans if they agreed or disagreed, I feel like there would be a blurring of party lines.

We, as human beings, have a lot more in common than we realize. This is why tolerance is important to talk about. Tolerance means that we must seek to find a common ground — a gray area — and not be blinded by the false dichotomy of things being black or white that is often portrayed in the media.

Aspen Marshall

Aspen Marshall is studying atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah. She is trans and Jewish, and she inspires to make the world a better place for everybody.

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