It may be kind of hard to believe, but I wasn't always so pro-Israel or politically active. Like many Americans I just didn't care about the situation and didn't know much about it, and was pretty happy that way. I knew there was a country called Israel that was in conflict with its neighbors but that's pretty much the sum of my knowledge there. It's a little bit embarrassing to admit that now, but what can I say that was my history and I'm not going to deny it.
But in college (surprise surprise) I started traveling the world a little and found other people who did care a lot about it and I thought that I would start reading about it. This began with websites like Facebook, and I gave the Palestinian point of view a fair shake. I read "Case for Israel," but I also read "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," as well as "The Accidental Empire" and relatively unbiased books like "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Middle East Conflict." I had not been to Israel at that point though that would come later.
So yes, I was leaning more to viewpoints of pro-Israel but in my humble opinion I still had not "picked a side," and thought that both peoples had legitimate grievances. In a lot of ways I still do, but I was much more sympathetic to the Palestinians then than I am now. And if you will permit me for a moment to tell a very quick story I will explain what changed my mind.
When I got back from studying abroad and extensive reading, the foreign students club at my school started to engage in anti-Israel activities. We didn't have an SJP or MSA though we may now I haven't really been paying attention since. There weren't very many Arab students there, in fact most of the anti-Israel people were Turks. Anyway they showed "Occupation 101" and I attended the screening, and was able to recognize which was true and which was spin.
When the movie was over a lot of people were crammed into the outside hall. This was the first time in the three years I had been there when anything Israel had happened so there wasn't the kind of line in the sand hostility that you now see at such places as UC Irvine. Students on both sides of the issue discussed the movie and at one point I found myself in a conversation with two students that clearly felt more pro-Palestinian than I did.
One of them said, "I just don't understand! Why doesn't you, I mean Israel, doesn't just end the occupation and leave the Palestinians alone! Then there will be peace! What do you think?"
I replied, "I think what Israel is concerned about is that if they do leave some Palestinian terror groups will continue to fight. So they want a peace treaty first before they end the occupation. It makes sense to me."
At this point he puffs out his chest and declares, "You just want to kill Palestinians, don't you!"
There was a pause for a moment where I admit that I was shocked by his reaction.
"How on earth did you get that from what I said?" I asked. At this point even his friend was like, "dude come on that was out of line." But he quickly stalked away and soon everyone went their separate ways.
I'd like to say that was when the Palestinian cause lost me. I wasn't even offended by his conflation of Israel supporters and Israeli soldiers or the personal attack. That was something I saw all the time on Facebook. What I found shocking was that in terms of criticisms of the Palestinian position, I had offered one of the mildest there was. He was a well educated student who had all the opportunities to learn about this issue that I did and yet he still had nothing to say in response to a challenge. I started to wonder if they couldn't even answer a simple question without lashing out how righteous their cause actually is. Even the most right wing Israel supporters I have spoken to before and since didn't behave in such a fashion.
After that, I found more problems with the Palestinian point of view. Most notably the endless problem of what the Palestinians are actually fighting for. I'm sure we have discussed this: How their supporters say they want "freedom and justice," but when the chips are down their politicians quibble over 5% vs 10% of the West Bank. I found not only the favoring of land over people to be repulsive, but also the disingenuousness as Norman Finkelstein would say. If the Palestinians are fighting over land than just say it! But they can't say it because that isn't attractive to college students. And if the Palestinian cause involves lying about what the Palestinians really want, I didn't see a reason why I should be a part of it.