The problem with communicating is the combination of speaking and hearing. You see, when I speak I know what I mean, while, when you hear, you know what you think I mean. Depending on your interpretation, and the meaning assigned to the words spoken or heard, we have communication or conflict.
The basis for many of the modern-day conflicts, especially in the Middle East, is a misunderstanding of commonly used terms. Added to the mix is the problem that arises from the cultural background of both speakers and hearers.
One elementary example may serve to set the stage. Consider the word compromise; as it has several meanings, the hearer assigns to the word the meaning most closely associated with his cultural assessment of the issue. For one, it can mean a willingness to mediate a position, “He compromised, so he was willing to see another point of view.” To the other it can mean weakness, “He compromised, so he was weak.” It is not merely what it means to one, but the other as well.
The danger arises when there is a conflict of cultures; each hears the same words but ascribes different meanings. The cultural background of the communicants must be taken into consideration. What a position means in one culture may have an entirely different meaning in another. One has the tendency to think the other understands a position based on the same cultural value, “Everyone knows nobody would do that because it is wrong.” Again, the danger lies in cultural conflict. What is right/wrong to one may not be right/wrong to the other. Just because party “A” would refrain from doing a thing based on his culture does not mean party “B” assigns the same moral state to said issue.
Enter the current Middle East conflict. Owing to the reality of cultural miscommunications, we find ourselves on the brink of what could very well lead to a worldwide conflagration of biblical proportions.
It is of the utmost importance that all parties concerned are operating on the same page and ascribing the same meaning to the same actions. A prime example is the aforementioned word “compromise.” To the Western diplomats utilizing that word, it implies a willingness to negotiate a position in hopes of reaching a position satisfactory to all concerned. Unfortunately, the culture with which they are dealing views “willingness to compromise” as weakness.
Since their objectives are clear and fixed in their minds, the willingness of the Westerners to engage in “give up to get” is evidence of weakness. A primary example of this is the so-called “two-state solution” proposed by the West and accepted by Israel. None of the parties involved in negotiating for the other side have accepted, nor will they accept, a two-state solution. Their objective is the total domination of a land currently occupied by two different cultures.
The ease with which the West proposed and accepted the two-state solution is proof positive to the Palestinians and their allies that the West is weak and by simply holding out they will obtain their demands. Furthermore, they not only do not accept a “compromise,” they increase their demands. The more they demand, the more they get. And the more the West “compromises,” the more convinced the Muslim nations are of their ultimate victory.
Compromise is seen by the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians and others not as a path to mutual peace but as weakness by the United Nations and Israel’s allies.
For the West, the threats to annihilate Israel made by Islamic nations (Iran in particular) fall into the “Everyone knows nobody would do that because it is wrong” category. Consequently, no serious action is taken against Iran’s race to build nuclear weapons. “Compromise” is the order of the day; cut back a little here, a little there, and ask for cooperation. Iran, meanwhile, which has repeatedly threatened to “annihilate Israel” and “wipe Israel off the map,” continues to build underground hardened-against-attack and bunker buster bombs facilities for producing “peaceful nuclear energy.” If it is producing nuclear energy purely for peaceful purposes, why is it refusing access to the U.N. inspectors and building underground nuclear plants and utilizing North Korean technicians?
Fortunately, Israel is acutely aware that the “nobody would do that” platitude is totally lacking merit. It has Holocaust museums and an annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day) whereby Israel reminds itself and the world, “Yes, somebody would do that.” Of course, non-Jewish Middle East types (whom the West listens to) proclaim this to be an untruth: “The Holocaust is a myth, initially created by the Allies of World War II to demonize Germans.” Because after all, “We all know nobody would really do anything like that.” However, modern-day Israel is absolutely convinced that someone really would do something like that because in their midst are survivors of the myth that “six million Jews died.”
The West, especially the U.S., must be, or must become, acutely aware that Israel – an economic and technological powerhouse with one of the most powerful, best trained, best equipped and nuclear-armed militaries in the world – has made one thing perfectly clear: While they may be willing to compromise on some artificial boundaries drawn up by the compromising diplomats of the U.N., in terms of another Holocaust (by Iran, Egypt, Syria or anyone else) … “Never again!”