Here's why I won't be talking about the Middle East on NewsTalk again
The current situation in Gaza is newsworthy. It's a compelling story. And it could make for a great conversation on NewsTalk 1010. All too often, however, it fails to function on real-time talk radio.
NewsTalk 1010's Ryan Doyle has been in the talk game longer than me. When we worked together I couldn't understand why he was often reluctant to discuss abortion, native affairs and Middle East issues. This week has been a real wake-up call as to why certain topics are simply toxic to civil discourse.
Those texting or calling in to the station are usually not representative of the overall listening audience. These are listeners with something to say, and they want their voices heard. As we've heard this week, some are tightly connected to the conflict, with loved ones in Israel being forced into shelters to escape the shelling from Gaza. Another listener, who identified himself as Palestinian-Canadian, described taking his boys on their first trip to Israel where he says their Canadian passports were not recognized. He says they were treated as second-class citizens. "Once a Palestinian, always a Palestinian."
Many other listeners, with no direct connection to the land or the people, have chosen a side based on the information and news sources to which they subscribe. And many urged me to do the same.
Based on the information in front of me, it's difficult to stand firmly in one corner. Hamas clearly have no desire for peace, and it's the people they were elected to protect who have borne the brunt of Israeli shelling. Israel should not be expected to live under a persistent barrage of rockets, even if its sophisticated defence systems are capable of repelling the incoming shells.
My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of the same polarizing statements we're seeing on the NewsTalk text board. Friends and colleagues have been compelled to point out the victimization on both sides of the conflict. It's still not enough for me to grab the flag of one team and head into battle.
I'd argue that those of us on the sidelines, with no horse in the game, are among the most qualified to weigh in and assign blame wherever it may lie. We know that an independent nation under siege has a right to defend itself. We also know that scores of civilians - including many children - being caught in the crossfire and killed is simply unacceptable.
History is not made up of a series of rights and wrongs. History is a confluence of anger, misunderstandings and ego. It's not until we can understand and listen and hear that we will be ready to go all in with one side.