It’s hard to talk about a topic as inflammable as the Israel-Hamas conflict these days. Even more so for teachers who have to address it in class in front of thirty or a hundred people. Experts offer us some ideas to avoid mistakes.
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1) Do no harm
The first question to ask is: is it my role to address the issue? Is it the right time, the right context? suggests Sivane Hirsch, professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Laval.
“If it’s just to look ‘cool’, it’s not the best option,” explains the woman who has participated in the writing of several guides on how to approach sensitive topics in class.
For Dd Cécile Rousseau, psychiatrist specializing in polarization, the first rule to follow is “do no harm”. His team is currently seeing an increase in support needs in schools.
“Right now, even acknowledging the suffering on both sides is easily seen as partisan,” he notes.
Even when we are in favor of dialogue, sometimes we need to pause to avoid confrontation.
“It’s like in a family, when the conflict is too acute, we must not promote a premature dialogue”, explains D.d Rousseau.
2) Be well prepared
It is difficult to improvise a course on this topic, notes David Morin, a professor at the School of Applied Politics at the University of Sherbrooke. Not only do you need to have done the research to be prepared, but it’s better to “feel prepared, subjectively.”
Also, it is better to know your class, know who you are talking to, suggest several experts.
Preparing also means questioning where we come from and the a priori that we can have, adds Sivane Hirsch.
For example, the researcher herself is of Israeli origin. “Of course I’m prejudiced. And I have to think about it.” Thus, we can avoid sinking into the belief that our point of view is synonymous with absolute truth.
3) Advocate for moderation
Sami Aoun has taught applied politics and topics related to the Middle East for over 30 years. In fact, there is a way to approach these issues if we do so with a professional conscience, and not an ideological one, he says.
He suggests defending a balance between criticism and self-criticism. For example, he does not hesitate to read texts critical of the Palestinian position written by Palestinian sources, while doing the same on the Israeli side.
David Morin also suggests highlighting the presence of important characters who practice moderation.
“The worst thing we can do is let the extremes on all sides monopolize the conversation,” he adds.
4) Dialogue can be learned
Despite the explosive climate, we must ensure that people still have spaces to express themselves, several experts point out.
The feeling of not being heard or that one’s voice does not count is one of the factors of radicalization that leads to violence, explains Louis Audet Gosselin, scientific director of the Center for the Prevention of Radicalization that leads to violence (CPRLV) .
In addition, learning to dialogue is part of the social role of the school, recalls Sivane Hirsch.
“If we’re not able to talk about the conflict, we can’t talk about the (Quebec) tram,” he explains.
As for the university, in principle it must be a space open to debate. At Concordia University, however, there are tensions shot in physical altercations, November 8 last
But, according to David Morin, it is better to regulate discussions than to ban them. “Otherwise, it pushes the problem out into the police’s backyard.”
5) A political conflict, not a religious one
In any case, we cannot tolerate people crossing the line into hate speech. In other words, designating as an enemy a group identifiable by its religion or ethnic origin, explains Louis Audet Gosselin.
Before “dehumanizing the adversary”, we must remember that the conflict is above all political, rather than religious, several experts point out.
“We must stop saying that it is a conflict between Jews and Muslims. This is not true”, says Rachad Antonius, professor in the Department of Sociology at UQAM. “It is a conflict between a state and its victims,” he summarizes.
“Not all Jews are Zionists and not all Muslims are Islamists or anti-Western,” notes Sami Aoun.