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  • Writer's pictureSara Sharpe

Israel/Palestine. Either/Or or Both/And? Author Glennon Doyle suggests the latter

Updated: Nov 29, 2023


It seems to me that our social media feeds have become, to put it bluntly, a toxic cesspool of incoherent rage. More than usual, even.

If we hope to bridge this divide, I’m convinced you and I must avoid – or at least limit our exposure to - the myopic, distorted commentary that permeates social media just now. I’m not sure it’s possible to maintain a benevolent worldview if one subjects oneself too much to X, Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube.

Unless, of course, one is doing research for a project such as this Letters one. Sometimes, then, one must take one for the team. So, I took a deep dive into the world of Instagram last week, and I gotta tell you: it’s rough out there.

I first read two Instagram posts by writer and podcaster Glennon Doyle. To be clear, Glennon and her social media following are a relatively benign group compared to many, but the back-and-forth playing out on her feed is indicative, I think, of the problem at large.

Glennon, who runs an aid organization called Together Rising, first published an even-handed post in which she expressed sorrow for both Israelis and Palestinians and promised financial aid to both. “Heartbreak is not Either/Or. It is And/Both,” she wrote. “On 10/7,” she continued, “Israeli civilians were subjected to unimaginable acts of terror at the hands of Hamas, which killed at least 1400 Israelis and took 199 hostages. We can never be silent when civilians die at the hands of terrorists.” She then wrote, “Since 10/7, at least 2,750 Palestinians have been killed at the hands of the Israeli government, and 2 million Gazans, half of them are children, have been cut off from electricity, water, food, and humanitarian aid. We can never be silent when civilians die at the hands of F16 bombs.”

Her readers quickly accused her of being “naïve” and of trying to “appease both sides.” It was suggested, more than once, that she educate herself about this historically complex situation.

A few days later, Glennon posted a story about a Palestinian woman named Wafaa who works with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and has risked her life by staying in Gaza to provide relief for her community.

She was then accused of having a bias towards Palestinians, and it was again suggested to her, by a different set of people, this time, that she educate herself about this historically complex situation.

I’m guessing Glennon knows quite a lot about the historical situation. (I’m guessing, too, that she knows the story is not overly complex, after all.) And yet still, somehow, she manages to offer love and compassion to Israelis AND Palestinians on BOTH sides of the border. She doesn’t seem to feel, as do so many, that one must choose either/or. After all, one does not imagine the historical Christ standing before two groups of people and pausing to understand the "historical context" before doling out love and compassion to both in equal measure.

All tribes have stories, don’t they? Your tribe on one side of the divide, my tribe on the other. The Israeli people have their stories, as do Palestinians, and the indisputable power imbalance between the two doesn’t make this any less so. It is through story that we connect to and identify with one another. If we don’t carry the individual stories of a people – a people on the other side of a divide or across a border, say – those people don’t feel real to us. They feel “other.” Foreign. It is easy to dehumanize a population that feels so unlike us, and this is when the trouble starts. Stereotypes fill the vacuum, chosen and perpetuated by violent news feeds. Before we know it, the world is populated by US and THEM, and the thinking becomes increasingly binary from there: Black and White, Good and Bad, Right and Wrong, Worthy and Unworthy.


But the stereotypes (and news clips) tell an incomplete story. The images fed to us are misleading. We learn this every time we are exposed to real stories of real people.

The even bigger problem, it seems to me, is this: many of us are unwilling or unable to hold two truths simultaneously. This is a problem because, so often, truth is two-eyed.

Put another way: withholding love and compassion from one group is not necessary to demonstrate solidarity with another. Mourning the loss of innocent Israeli lives is not a betrayal of the Palestinian people. Condemning the Israeli occupation, calling for it to end, and understanding that until it does, blowback is inevitable, does in no way justify a terrorist attack. Calling now for a cease-fire does not lessen our care and concern for the Israeli people.

And so on.

I’ll be thinking more about this.

More soon,


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Thank you for being a voice of reason, compassion, wisdom and grace in an increasingly hostile time. I love you and am proud of your tenacious quest to reach across the divide.

Jolie Runyan

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