“Complicated” doesn’t begin to describe the conflict between Israel and Palestine, so I won’t try. Even if I were qualified to go in-depth on the events, decisions, and atrocities that have brought us to this moment, we’d be here for years, parsing out guilt and suffering and responsibility until the heat death of the universe. And in the meantime, the war would rage on.
All you really need to know, as an American citizen, is that after a nightmarish attack on innocent people, governments and commentators are seeking new and worse reprisals against other innocents in return. They will argue and dissemble about this—saying that starvation can be earned, or that blood demands blood, or that raining inescapable fire from the sky is an act of self-defense against a knife to the throat. And in return, the people subjected to these harms will harden their hearts and demand—or accept—new blood sacrifices in return, if only to inflict their suffering for a moment on those who make them suffer too. And the cycle never ends.
This is not about equivocation or minimization of the horrors perpetrated or experienced: It is always wrong to harm civilians. People are not their governments, and people are not their extremists. There is no way to earn the violence happening in Israel and Gaza, no sin that could excuse the suffering that everyone is now enduring. Any cheering or cheerleading for the cruelty inflicted or anticipated because of the “side” responsible for it is a grotesque abandonment of human decency. This is not a game; there are no winners or losers here. There is only grief.
It is tempting to say that because we are over here, experiencing Prime Day and traffic and expensive groceries, that this is not our concern. But even aside from the Americans captured or killed in these attacks, we have US politicians making statements, US protests and solidarity meetings, US weapons and resources at use in the violence. We are tangled up in this conflict, from our budgets to our culture to our rhetoric, and so we are responsible for finding a way to de-escalate it.
Because to validate the pain and rage that flows through the region—justifiably and irrationally—is to cultivate more pain and misery for those least responsible for inflicting it. With no small portion of truth allocated to each, both sides believe they act with righteous fury, that their cruelty can be absolved by their cause, that they act upon the guilty, that they defend and protect the vulnerable. And so every salvo, every battle, every life snuffed out in a perversion of equivalent exchange simply further entrenches the belief that there is no virtue left in their opposition. In this paradigm, there is only victory when there’s no one left to take revenge.
In our names, by our hands, we cannot accept such an atrocity on either side. Both of them are guilty; both of them are innocent. We are not here to judge, but to salvage. Because while there is no true righteousness in this escalating violence, there is a right side, and a wrong one. No joy can grow from a seed of blood. The ends cannot justify the means. We can either have a chance at peace, or a guarantee of war. I know which one I vote for.