By the time you read this, I’ll be at cruising altitude, on route to Israel for a wedding. I’ll be gone for a week, away from my summer Seattle Weekly internship, visiting much of my extended family. I was born and raised in Bellevue to first generation Israeli immigrants, and most of my extended family still lives in Israel. While the prospect of visiting family and friends excites me, I still feel trepidation about entering a country under constant attack. Just yesterday my mother, who flew there ahead of us, called and said maybe my father and my sisters and I shouldn’t come.
When fellow Seattleite Eddie Vedder went on a tirade at a recent concert (I originally read about it here), not only did he blow up the comment section of every website that reported it, but he also incited the rage of many Israeli fans. Vedder’s vague, anti-war comments had just enough details to connect them to the current Israel-Gaza crisis. His comments do not bring any new light to the issue, but, by speaking out, he contributes to a larger debate—one that often surfaces in my own home. Even though his comments are mired in ignorance and naivete, he does have a right to express himself.
His fans have a right to express themselves, too. In fact, as I read through the comment sections of the multiple sources covering this story, I couldn’t help but notice how they mirrored my Facebook feed in their criticism of Israel. While I have not visited Israel during ongoing fighting, I have spent many summers there living with my family. And, unlike Americans who have no ties to Israel and who simply condemn Israelis, I am an American whose family lives there under attack. I talk to my mom on the phone as she explains how she spent her evening in a bomb shelter or how she uses the few hours of peace during a cease fire to run errands before retuning to the confines and safety of her parents’ apartment. Many Americans who denounce Israel are naive about the complicated issues facing the Middle East and the reality of living there.
It’s impossible to deconstruct the conflict in just a blog post, and the issue is more complex than one side simply wanting to obliterate the other. It is rooted in a long history of political, religious, and personal strife. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who started what and which side is right because people are dying. So, Eddie Vedder, you’re right. Not very far away, people drop bombs on each other and children die. It’s happening all over the Middle East, in Israel and Gaza, in Iraq, in Syria, and so forth. Missiles, shootings, and suicide bombings are a common occurrence in all these places. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying, so you are definitely right to ask, “what the fucking fuck?” I’m asking it, too.
While I agree with Vedder’s sentiments, I think he, and a lot of other people who don’t have ties to the Middle East, are naive and ignorant. While he might not have any idea what he’s talking about, he’s still an incredibly popular figure. People will listen to him and more misinformation will spread. There is no easy answer to end the conflict. The only way to truly solve this problem, like any problem, is to be educated about it, to know the facts, to communicate, and to understand it’s not as simple as Vedder’s claim that “everyone wants the same goddamn thing.” If it were as simple as that, there would be no need for this conversation in the first place.
Editor’s Note: After his remarks at the Milton Keynes, England show, Vedder penned an open letter to his fans. You can read it here.