Israel-Palestine: no room for zealots


Contributed photo
Contributed photo

Conflict is a funny phenomenon because it occurs for reasons that aren’t beyond jealousy, greed or misguided hatred; reasons that are unfortunately more valued than human life; and reasons that regularly trump rationality.

Every time someone dies in a conflict we are collectively agreeing that the conflict was more important than life itself. Coping mechanisms, rhetoric and explanations exist during, before and after conflict.

While scholars and historians debate the causes of conflict, rifts on the ground are exploited for economic and political gain.

Words like martyr, sacrifice and hero are commonplace and there is no term more depraved and inhuman than collateral damage.

To nobody’s surprise, especially those involved, Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in another conflict. Within the hearsay and lack of objective information available, it is difficult to discern how this particular chapter of the much broader conflict began, but the same rules apply, as always.

On one hand, the Israeli military is bombarding Palestinian territory in an effort to stop rocket attacks and dismantle Hamas in order to prevent further conflict.

On the other hand, Hamas is firing off rockets that hardly ever land: an empty effort to cause harm to Israel.
It does not take much to understand that occupation leads to violence.

Civilian losses breeds hatred and radicalization and, in turn, that cultivated hatred and radicalization gives Hamas a reason to continue existing. As long as that hatred and radicalization continues to exist, Israel will feel it must defend itself.

It is a preposterous cycle, much like an Ouroboros. A car rolling down a hill can only stop at the end of the hill, or if a part fails.

History suggests this conflict cannot be solved with time, therefore an end to the cycle of violence and death relies on a failing part.

If not before reading this article, certainly by this point within it, you have already decided which party is responsible, which part must fail to stop the cycle and who is to blame for pushing that car down the hill in the first place.

But before you start looking for justifications for your choice, it would be wise to take a step back and consider the harsh realities of the matter.

Although we all have a right to an opinion, this situation is not like picking sports teams.

Regardless of how appealing it may seem, we don’t get to back a team and blindly support its every move when people’s lives are at stake.

Anyone that is fully behind either side has no place in a debate over peace and has demonstrated an asinine, but also dangerous, ability to reject reality.

Cease fires are temporary breaks in between violence. Peace requires empathy, something that staunch backers of each side often lack.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is the most terrifying of emotional states because it is either practiced infrequently or outright ignored.

The ability to understand and lessen the differences between the self and the other and the ability to feel compassion are not guaranteed and if you want to talk about war, let’s start with those who fight it.

We are told that massacres, genocides and war crimes happen because groups of people are dehumanized so they are easier to kill.

We are told that broadcasting pictures of those dying and grieving over the dead in Gaza will humanize Palestinians and lead to international support for a cease fire. Dehumanization and humanization are fascinating. Why is humanization necessary?

As humans we somehow manage to convince ourselves into thinking that a human is less than a human. How can we learn to forget humanity, the very backbone that defines our species?

The fact that humanization is necessary and that dehumanization is possible means conflict may be inevitable and empathy will always elude us collectively.

If you take one side or the other in this conflict, you lack empathy and must immediately remove yourself from the peace process.

Phrases like “Israel has the right to defend itself” and “What else is Hamas supposed to do” mean absolutely nothing, especially to those losing loved ones.

Israel is killing civilians in a useless war that cannot be won but is being fought because it is popular at home.
Hamas is also engaged in a war it cannot win. Israel drops small bombs to warn of imminent bigger bombs and Hamas stores rockets in civilian populated areas.

Israel is killing children and Hamas keeps firing rockets off, which means more children will be killed.

Neither side needs or deserves a cheerleader. In a war that is misguided and utterly senseless on so many levels, we can only hope that reason prevails and one side or the other finds their way back to humanity.

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