Lately I’ve had to think a lot about some very uncomfortable events in Albuquerque that I was asked to cover for the Jewish community, about an activist group that has arrived at the UNM campus, Students for Justice in Palestine, who brought a boycott resolution asking the student senate to vote for the university to divest in multi-national corporations that were alleged to contribute to human rights violations against Palestinians. They got a lot of attention, and though ultimately the resolutions didn’t pass, they came very close, close enough that people need to notice. They certainly got my attention. (See "Students for Justice in Palestine defeated again at UNM" and "Anti-Israel boycott movement arrives at UNM")
There are a number of problems I see there. One is that the anti-Israel movement always brings out the crazies and the overt anti-Semites in the community.
And now the SJP group has asked a number of minority student groups on campus, including a Native American group, to join their cause, which serves to stigmatize Israel, and this troubles me. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have legitimate rights and aspirations, and if they are going to find a resolution, it is going to be in a two-state solution. Israel isn’t going away. Neither are the Palestinians.
If anything, it seems to me their situation is more analogous to the Navajo-Hopi land dispute. Both Israelis and Palestinians have been victims of larger forces, pawns of a larger political game played by people who don’t care about the particulars of real flesh and blood families.
And, they equate the security barrier in Israel to the border with Mexico to elicit endorsements from Mexican-American students. The security fence in Israel was put up to literally stop suicide bombers after over 500 attacks. Now the arguments about these issues are endless.
All this makes me uncomfortable. I don’t have an argument with anybody unless someone is trying to pick one with me.
On the one hand, a part of me hopes to be carried away by some social activism, some cause that I might throw myself into that proves some social utility, but I also think that is like being at the mercy of whatever comes my way – which is a dangerous position to be in, like a lonely guy or gal who hooks up with the first prospect to come along, or like a hitchhiker who gets in the first car that stops.
Of course the hitchhiker gets in the first car that stops. He’s stranded. Do I want to be a hitchhiker waiting along the stream of life for something to float by that I latch onto or do I want to truly seek my own unique destiny? That’s a dilemma isn’t it?
A fleeting moment
I try to listen to the voice of my soul. That voice is so faint and so light. It appears only infrequently, and takes practice to strengthen the eye and ear of the soul, the one that notices the small signs.
What I do need to say about this issue is that there was a hopeful moment that happened at this meeting, when two young men, men of military draft age who could conceivably have to face each other on a battlefield, met and talked and then, shook hands.
One was a young Arab-American student who is a member of the student senate and who sponsored the resolution from the SJP, and the other was a young Jewish student who has family that lives in Israel and who is a member of Hillel, the Jewish student group on campus. They are both in that full glorious moment of health and youth, and, as I say, of military draft age. I don’t know what either of them have said or done in the past, or will go on to do in the future.
It was a fleeting moment, a faint, light moment, in a crowded room of people milling about after the meeting, a hidden moment that I don’t know that anyone else saw or noticed. Because I was watching them I happened to be close enough to get a picture of it. And as they shook hands I heard the Hillel student say to the Arab-American student, “You seem like a cool guy.”
It was not a photo that made headlines. Yet, it was a very significant moment where two young men were brave enough to show each other mutual respect. I was proud for America, because it could happen here. Everything leading up that moment in their lives came from the immigrant ancestors of both who brought them here, to America, to a spiritual landscape that, despite our best efforts to destroy it, is here because of the true spirit of the land, which is bigger than any of us.
And in these dark days where the seas are rising, and peoples everywhere are pitted against one another in fights for land and water and resources, that was a moment of hope that shows us that as individual people we can choose to follow the quiet voice, we can find the middle way, to a reasonable solution, without having to kill each other, demonize each other, hate each other.
I don’t know what either of them were thinking. But in that moment, I know I thought, it can happen. It gave me some hope.
### This is an updated version of this story, 5/29/14. A correction has been made. A longer version of this article was first published in the Gallup Independent, May 17, 2014 p. 20 Spiritual Perspectives column, as "My Soul Longs for Peace." and a shorter version is published in the New Mexico Link, June 2014, page 5 as "A Fleeting Moment." It follows up the story "Anti-Israel boycott movement arrives at University of New Mexico." See also follow-up story about Graduate Council, "Students for Justice in Palestine defeated again at UNM."
Schmidt is an award-winning writer and photojournalist in New Mexico. New Mexico Press Women recently awarded her 1st Prize for Enterprise Reporting for Con Man Red Feather, and Honorable Mention for personal columns about Judaism, including Our Prayers are Heard, published in the Gallup Independent and in The New Mexico Jewish Link.