Israeli and Palestinian casualties are rising at rates that could surpass any Israeli conflict in the last decade, with over 1,035 recorded Palestinians and a significantly lower, but equally tragic, number of Israeli deaths. With greater presence in the Gaza strip, lack of a clear exit strategy for the Israelis, and unprecedented Palestinian militant resistance, it seems that the future holds nothing but a military and political stalemate for the current crisis. Amidst the ongoing violence is a popular social media movement that urges people to voice their support for either Israel or Palestine with hashtags like #ISupportIsrael and #IStandWithPalestine. Indeed, while the patriotism and call for a quick end to the bloodshed is a noble one, media movements such as these are more often than not counter-intuitive and have a tendency to self-propagate violence in the name of peace and victory.
Last Saturday, Israel approved a temporary twenty-four hour truce, but promised retaliation if Hamas (the governing organization of the Gaza Strip) would prevent its forces from destroying militant tunnel networks. Hamas fighters, however, have resumed rocket firing and mortar rounds into Israel and subsequent retaliatory Israeli military operations have been underway. Choosing sides in a war is never easy as a third party, and when a conflict has consistently escalated for decades if not centuries, a reasoned argument to support one side over another becomes even more difficult.
In recent years, Hamas’ absolute unwillingness to negotiate with its belligerent and thereby further escalating conflict by violating ceasefire agreements is hard to rationalize, let alone accept. Moreover, the militant organization’s explicit creed to destroy the state of Israel and all its people deter any possibility of meaningful cooperation. In much the same way, Israel’s gradual encroachment upon Palestinian settlements, despite being condemned by much of the international community, has left many unsympathetic to their cause.
Perhaps most important of all is not in the grand analyses of the conflict but the daily occurrences that rip families apart, leave children as orphans, and thousands without homes to live in. While Palestine has faced the brunt of the devastation in this conflict, support for one party over another solves nothing. Quite the contrary, open support for Palestine will further motivate Hamas militants to halt promising diplomatic missions and pursue their current, failing tactic to bomb Israeli territory; much the same, support for Israel only calls for further bombing of civilian territories in the Gaza strip and the deaths of more innocents.
It is understandable that natives of the two countries are in a position where it is incredibly demanding to understand the other nation’s point of view. Everything seems bizarre and irrational as done by the other party, and the roots of the crisis will be blamed similarly too. For many, there is good reason to believe so; civilians in both parts of the world cannot sleep at night because either their families are in perennial danger or they already know of a lost loved one.
Pointing fingers is easy. Calling out an Israeli or a Palestinian for death and destruction offers closure. But the far more difficult realization to come to is that regardless of nationality and race, Palestinian or Israeli, they are all human. The death of Palestinian children is an atrocity, not simply because innocents are killed, but because they have no say in who they are born as. Killing them and justifying it as support for Israel and a ‘necessary evil’ for longterm peace is not acceptable. The same goes the other way; Hamas militants kidnapping and killing Israeli teenagers is incorrigible.