No Simple Summary For Mideast

CBS News Sunday Morning contributor Mo Rocca knows there is no quick way to explain the Middle East conflict.



If you're a talking head, you're living in a boom time. Television in the digital age, with hundreds of niche channels, has lots of time to fill.

If you're good with a sound bite you can weigh in on everything from '80s pop culture to electoral politics to food.

Which is why the raging hostilities in the Mideast are not just heartbreaking, but also frustrating to talking heads. You just can't sum it all up in a sound bite.

Even the most contentious domestic issues have been beaten down into sound bites.

Gay marriage, take one: "Marriage is a sacred union between a man and woman."

Gay marriage, take two: "Two people of the same gender who love each other deserve the same rights as two people of opposite genders."

But the Mideast will not submit to the sound biters. Try wrapping things up here without sounding callow or callous.

"Israel has a right to defend herself at all costs" (OK, but even if it means devastating Lebanon?)

OK, how about this?

"The Palestinian territories deserve the recognition and respect of Israel" (Really? Even though their elected leaders explicitly call for the elimination of Israel?)

Not so easy. There's a history here:

It goes all the way back to the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000 and the first Intifada in 1987 and the '82 occupation of Lebanon, the Yom Kippur War of '73 and, of course, the Six-Day War in '67.

And we can't forget the Balfour declaration of 1917, the rise of Arab nationalism, Zionist Conference of 1897, the pogroms of the 19th century, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century, the Jewish-Roman wars, Babylonian captivity and the Torah (lots of dietary law, but no sound bites here).

It's a complex issue. No simple right side and wrong side——mainly because there are so many sides. And it won't fit into the handy left wing-right wing template that so many of us have relied on to make decisions for us. I hate that.

Maybe there is an easy answer in the Mideast, a wallop-packing sound bite that says it all. If there is it's buried deep and I'm going to have to start reading now. Until then, here's my line: "I really don't know enough about the Mideast to go on TV and sound like I know what I'm talking about."
  • Sean Alfano

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