The recent events in Gaza are distressing, to say the least: thousands of Gazans attempting to cross the border into Israel, protesting the inhumane conditions in Gaza. Scores of them murdered by members of the Israeli Defense Forces. Many of us have seen the videos of IDF soldiers cheering when a sniper shoots a protestor. We’ve seen people in Israel celebrating the slaughter of their Palestinian neighbors.
This whole situation is disturbing on multiple levels.
For one, many Jews (not all Jews) are seeing and treating their Palestinian cousins as animals: celebrating their deaths, taking their land, murdering and imprisoning those who resist or protest, giving no credence whatsoever to any of the concerns and voices being raised in protest to how Palestinians are being treated by the Israeli State, blind to the injustices that they themselves are visiting upon their neighbors. They’ve become indistinguishable from the genocidal regimes and individuals that were responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of Jews in WWII (and before).
For another, Gaza is in effect the world’s largest concentration camp, perhaps best compared to the Warsaw Ghetto of WWII. Gaza is a sad and overpopulated strip of land surrounded by walls, backed up by one of the best trained and equipped militaries in the world. Nothing gets in or out of it without Israeli knowledge or approval. It is a convenient punching bag for the current Israeli government to justify its militaristic, racist, and inhumane policies. And really – hemmed in as they are in a narrow strip of land and defenseless in the face of Israel’s military might, how can the people of Gaza or the West Bank possibly be a serious threat to the Jewish State? They aren’t. An annoyance, perhaps, but not a threat.
That being said, it is true that Hamas’s facilitating of these protests is yet another example of how the misery of the people of Gaza is being used for ends not their own. And yet, the protests will, I think, continue regardless of what Hamas does (or does not do).
The people of Gaza have made it clear that all they want is jobs, food, adequate sanitation and healthcare, a safe place to raise their children. They want some hope for their future; something more than the hopeless and meaningless lives they now have.
All they have left is their desperation. This is why they’re willing to risk their lives attacking that fence in the face of tanks, rifles, grenades, and tear gas: there’s nothing for them in Gaza. Nothing for them to go home to, nothing to live for, nothing to live on.
So, when seeing those reports in the news – or listening to those talking about the “Palestinian Issue” in Israel and Palestine – remember that the ultimate question is not whether Hamas is the good guy or the Israeli government is the good guy (neither of them are). The issue is not whether Judaism and the people of Israeli will survive (they will).
The issue is not who is right. The issue is are we human beings, or are we not?
If we treat our fellow human beings – Israeli, Jew, Black, Hispanic, Native, LGBTQ+, or any criterion used to classify others as beyond the fence of humanity. Then we are seeing (and treating) them as animals unworthy of any sort of compassion or understanding or respect.
Are we then willing to accept that we are placing ourselves on the same side of the fence as the Nazis, as slaveowners in the Antebellum South, as supporters of Jim Crow, as supporters of Apartheid in South Africa? Do we realize we are becoming the vicious vermin we condemn others for being? In celebrating or justifying the extermination of others, are we willing to accept that we’re giving others an excuse and justification to exterminate us and those whom we love?
If we wish to be (and be treated as) human ourselves, then we must be humane.
And so, as human beings, we cannot allow the inhumanity of others to manifest without protest, without cost, without restitution, without resistance. Fixing this is not somebody else’s job. It is everybody’s job: including me, including you.
One way to help is to contribute to organizations seeking to bring healing and reconciliation to the people of Israel and Palestine. The Gaza Emergency Appeal is a one such cause: a fundraiser to provide medical aid to Palestinians injured in the protests.
There are also numerous organizations that are dedicated to facilitating dialog between Israelis and Palestinians, and to educating people in the complexities and history of the relationship between the two peoples. One such organization I recommend is MEJDI Tours, which hosts “Dual Narrative Torus” in Israel and the West Bank: a really wonderful way to see the confict from the firsthand perspectives of people on both sides of that fence.
Copyright (c) 2018, Allen Vander Meulen III.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.