Lately, my news feed, my facebook page, and really much of my mind has been preoccupied with a single current event, the ongoing mini-war in the Gaza strip. One cannot escape the myriad of articles, opinion pieces, news pieces (is there a difference anymore?), and blogs upon the subject, and I have hesitated to add my voice to the din. That I have finally been driven to do so is a manifestation of the overwhelming urge to speak out in the face of the devolution of the human race. I am not writing to appease the anxieties of my Jewish friends who no doubt secretly wonder where my loyalties truly lie. Nor is it to sympathize with my Muslims “brothers” in the Gaza. For I do not see that taking sides in this conflict must entail a dichotomous choice at all. I choose the side of peace and empathy.
I have seen my colleagues and friends speak of this conflict on both sides of this issue. Most often, it is couched in terms such as “I support Israel because…” or “Look what is happening to these poor Palestinians”. I have seen otherwise rational people succumb to this dichotomy without giving so much as a thought to the irrefutable fact that by doing so, they are perpetuating and condoning the killing of human beings–they are somehow in their minds making it justifiable and trying to convince others of that “fact”. Every intelligent person who re-posts an opinion piece on facebook in support of one side or the other is in a very real sense supporting the actions of that side, and there is enough innocent blood on both sets of hands. I refuse to partake. I would rather decry all killers, as well as all of those who support them.
I have lived long enough, in a very friendly and close atmosphere with many Jewish friends, to understand the existential threat that Israel faces. In an attempt to flee the memory of a brutal genocide, they have landed in a place where their every neighbor yearns for their destruction. They face the fear of attacks on a daily basis, and have no reliable partner for peace in Gaza. One can understand if they feel the need to respond in kind to force. But to continue to pursue a military strategy which has killed a wildly disproportionate number of civilians, while continuing to maintain lip-service towards the sanctity of innocent life, is unconscionable at best and hypocritical at worse. Whatever the reason behind civilian casualties, be it human shields or devious weapon depots, if Israel truly cared for the sanctity of civilian Palestinian life we would have seen a wild shift in tactics to this point.
I have no love lost for Hamas, and patently refuse to support them as co-religionists. I am acutely aware of the hypocrisy of many who spend countless breaths trying to separate themselves from Islamic terrorists, only to sympathize with them when they are being beaten simply because they call themselves “Muslims”. Like most of my Muslim friends, I can truly say I feel no religious kinship with those violent extremists whatsoever, and my feelings for the Palestinians are limited to the “fellow-human” level. After being democratically elected, Hamas squandered a true leadership opportunity, and instead used the bully pulpit they had been given to spew immature and reckless venom towards their neighbors. They have lost the opportunity to show the world that they can rise above their hateful roots and lead their people to peaceful coexistence. I wrote in a previous post how the onus was clearly and totally on Hamas to stop the violence, and they have repeatedly let that opportunity slip.
What is lacking in this entire argument is empathy. Not the false empathy of facebook posts decrying the killing of civilians of the kidnapping of IDF soldiers. That empathy is a crude facade for the support of violence and killing. True empathy would involve asking more difficult questions. What made the Palestinians so desperate that they would put their trust and their votes in an organization willing to use them as human shields and put missiles in their schools in the first place? What did they fear more than the miserable existence they have now, and why did they have reason to fear it? The Palestinians can also ask themselves difficult questions, such as how long they will deny the existence of Israel, and its right to exist? What useful purpose can the insistence upon that fantasy world possibly support? The existence of Israel is a fact, whether one likes it or not. Moving onward from that point, one must begin to reconcile what is really relevant in negotiations with such a super power.
If these questions can be asked, and truly answered, peace can still win out. I refuse to accept answers which bank on the irrationality of groups of people such as “Israel is a bunch of bullies” or “Palestinians just love to die as much as we love to live”. That is blatantly false, as I am convinced that people throughout the world are basically the same. No mother in labor in Gaza lays eyes on her infant for the first time and wishes for him/her to be a suicide bomber. No mother in labor in Israel lays eyes on her infant for the first time and hopes that he/she shoots a Palestinian child in cold blood. They both want what every other mother in this universe since the beginning of time has wanted, a long, healthy, and peaceful life for their child.
I will not take sides in this conflict. I will not verbalize, I will not share, I will not “like”, I will not repost. I will not in any way attempt to justify the inhuman activities of any party in the Middle East. It is just plain wrong, and there is enough blame to go around. To take sides in this conflict is to surrender all empathy to the basest martial instincts within us, and to be an accomplice to the devolution of mankind.