I could not forgive myself if I didn’t write this piece. Undoubtedly now is a time of horrific tragedy and a time for mourning. The loss of innocent life is always horrific, and we should all be invested in seeking ways of being that uphold the value of life.
Right now I am also sick with worry. I worry because I see the pain and suffering so many people feel being used to justify actions that will beget so much more anguish and so many more broken families. I cannot be silent about the violence that Israel is unleashing on Gaza right now. I cannot pretend that it is in any way justifiable.
Bombing hospitals, regardless of flimsy justifications about theorized Hamas occupation, is a human rights disaster. Cutting off food, water, and electricity is unconscionable. Israel’s use of white phosphorus on Gaza and Lebanon is a war crime. I cannot be silent as thousands of innocent men, women, and children are burned in effigy as revenge for the suffering of a few, no matter how great the collective anguish may be. I cannot pretend that drone strikes are a more ethical way to snuff out the lives of children than guns.
I’m not posting this just to grandstand; I am an American, and like all Americans, my tax dollars in some small part go into the $3-5 billion a year Israel receives in United States aid, which includes 80% of their weapons supply. Back in October, leaked U.S. State Department emails cautioned against discussing “de-escalation” in Gaza. Flatly, the idea that the U.S.’ highest organ of diplomacy would shun the idea of seeking a less bloody end to this saga is sickening.
In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack, I saw a number of commentators draw comparisons between it and 9/11. I really don’t think it’s sensitive to rank tragedies, but for once it may be instructive. If there is anything to be learned from 9/11, 20 years on, it is that it is unwise to mourn through aggression. The invasion of Iraq was a mistake. And as was the case in Iraq, any violence Israel may enact in the occupied Palestinian territories will bring no man, woman, or child back into their family’s arms, and it will make no single person safer, save perhaps embattled politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.
Just as in the 2000s, we as Americans must be especially vigilant in looking out for propaganda in service of powerful militaries, be they American or Israeli. President Biden claimed recently to have seen photos of 40 babies decapitated by Hamas, a statement the White House later walked back when it became obvious the viral narrative originated from an unverified report from a French television journalist. We are witnessing the same media ecosystem that took the government at its word on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq fall hook, line and sinker for Israel’s president claiming nonsensically that Hamas fighters were carrying instructions for making chemical weapons. Why would a fighter need instructions for making chemical weapons while going out to attack? Did he leave it in his pocket by accident? That’s not to mention the constant implication of collaboration that the IDF has attempted to draw between Hamas and ISIS — two groups that openly hate each other and have killed each other’s fighters.
We have to be vigilant about misinformation because it distracts from an important reality of the situation: Oct. 7 occurred despite decades of Palestinians being among the most surveilled and deprived people on Earth, and it was committed against an extraordinarily well-armed and funded state. For all of Israel’s hegemonic power, it could not prevent these attacks. The myth that Israel can keep Gaza captive has been violently disproven, and innocent people have lost their lives because of it. More violence against Palestinians — from the military, from settlers, from economic discrimination — will not lead to the development of the peaceful society that all parties deserve.
The best way to mourn the victims of violence is to say never again. Business as usual cannot continue. Now is the time to fight for a radical peace. It’s the time to seek a ceasefire and to exchange hostages on both sides, as so many families have called for. More bombs will harm hostages, Palestinians, and Israeli soldiers alike. The end of apartheid will free both Israelis and Palestinians from this nightmare.
My biggest hope in writing this, the same as every time I have discussed this issue with people I know, is to promote understanding and compassion. Putting this forward makes me more nervous than anything else I’ve done in college, but if I can help at least one person to see differently, it will be worth it. We cannot remain silent as innocent people suffer. I urge everyone to contact their representatives and demand a ceasefire, and to carefully interrogate claims urging us to support a deeper plunge into humanitarian disaster.
This article was published as part of the Campus Times’ Nov. 21, 2023 Special Edition on Israel-Palestine.