#ISupportHumanity

by / 3 Comments / 210 View / July 29, 2014

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.

As long drawn and deep-rooted as the Israel-Palestine conflict is, there has never been a time like now when the international community can have tangible sociopolitical impact through social media. The power of the masses is most accessible and most influential today. Realize that a partial or complete victory for either party is a failure for humanity. Instead, choose your hashtags wisely and change the conversation by tweeting #ISupportHumanity.

  • Undergraduate

    I understand the sentiments behind this article, and I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that humanity transcends national boundaries with regards to the conflict, but I disagree with some fundamental assumptions in this analysis. Of course there is no perfectly “right” side in this conflict; the truth must lie “somewhere in the middle,” as is often stated. There is a problem, however, with the dreary fatalism that accompanies such an attitude and its premise, analogous to that of the two-party dichotomy here in the United States and its condemnation by middle-of-the-line independents, that both sides have an equal bias and are equally at fault. By adamantly asserting the equal moral repugnance of both sides, we are not necessarily being objective; a refusal to comment is itself an ideological choice which upholds common assumptions without getting at the heart of the problem. For example, an “objective” observer in the pre-Civil War era, in response to the polarized Northern/Southern reaction to the militant abolitionism of John Brown, might have refused to take one side, but his/her position would still be an ideologically driven, albeit popular, acceptance that pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates both had fair points and that the truth was “somewhere in the middle” (of course, the “middle” might be far more towards one side than the other). As Howard Zinn once said, you can’t be neutral on a moving train. That being said:

    1. These claims regarding Hamas’ actions are misleading. The author warns of “Hamas’ absolute unwillingness to negotiate with its belligerent” and its violation of ceasefire agreements, but a look at historical ceasefires indicates that both sides have incurred violations; after the 2008 agreement, for example, Hamas’ renewed rocket attacks were a direct response to Israel’s refusal to ease the Gaza blockade, a major part of the ceasefire agreement (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/world/middleeast/20mideast.html?scp=2&sq=Ethan%20Bronner%20December%202008%20gaza&st=cse). Back in 2006, a beach explosion in Gaza due to Israeli shelling killed 8 Palestinians and wounded 30 others, which initiated Hamas’ rocket attacks in violation of a ceasefire. See here (http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/infographic-who-violates-ceasefires-more-israelis-or-palestinians) for an infographic detailing more recent ceasefire violations on both sides. Details are often murky and it would be unfair to condemn Israel without recognition of Hamas’ similar incursions, but the assumption inherent in right-wing American-Israeli propaganda that Hamas regularly violates ceasefire agreements without cause is blatantly false.

    2. The article mentions “the militant organization’s explicit creed to destroy the state of Israel and all its people,” but closer inspection reveals that Hamas’ objectives are not so clear-cut. No doubt their ideology involves a certain amount of intolerance and anti-Semitism, but conflicting statements have come from leading Hamas officials; at various points, Haniyeh and others have stated that Hamas would accept a long-lasting truce in exchange for a two-state solution along the 1967 borders (http://www.haaretz.com/news/haniyeh-calls-for-formation-of-palestinian-state-on-1967-lines-1.207641) or otherwise accept a peace agreement in exchange for their most pressing objectives: an end to Israel’s occupation, a permanent lift on the economically ruinous blockade of Gaza, and a return to the 1967 borders. Though certainly tinged with anti-Semitism (critics of Zionism, regrettably, often equate Judaism with Zionism) and religious in tone, Hamas’ founding charter states that “Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions—Islam, Christianity and Judaism—to coexist in peace and quiet with each other” (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp). It’s also often stated that Hamas is a purely military group and refuses to address the needs of its citizens, but a large part of the group’s operation is focused on social welfare and economic infrastructure (see http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2007/05/hamas-palestinian-israel). I certainly don’t mean to paint Hamas in an overly positive light, especially given their often racist and religiously extreme character, but demonizing the group and blaming them for Israeli-wreaked carnage in Gaza functions as a sort of moral barrier for the West; it is easy to carry out attacks and cite the inhumanity of the other party, but much more difficult to acknowledge the reasons behind their influence and address those reasons directly and nonviolently.

    3. The second-to-last paragraph states that “Hamas militants kidnapping and killing Israeli teenagers is incorrigible” (I assume the intended word here was something like “unjustifiable,” as “incorrigible” doesn’t seem to fit the context). This is blatantly false; Hamas never claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the teenagers, and despite Netanyahu’s obstinate insistence that Hamas must have been behind the tragedy, Israeli officials have recently admitted that Hamas was not the perpetrator (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/07/hamas-didnt-kidnap-the-israeli-teens-after-all.html). In fact, Hamas’ initiation of rocket fire during this conflict was in response to an Israeli military crackdown after the kidnappings, ultimately beginning after the IDF killed seven Hamas members and had previously killed 5 to 10 Palestinians and arrested 350-600 more (see http://www.timesofisrael.com/is-israels-operation-to-find-kidnapped-teens-a-war-crime/). Of course, the violent anti-Arab racism of the Israeli right, responsible for burning Mohammed Abu Khdeir alive, was also a precipitating factor.

    Being Jewish myself, I abhor anti-Semitism as much as anyone else, but it’s become very apparent that the conflation of Judaism and Zionism is an ideological blunder not only of Hamas, but of many Americans and Israelis, particularly on the right. As a result, many are hesitant to denounce Israel’s actions too strongly for fear of charges of anti-Semitism, but this weakens us from a moral perspective and leaves the door alarmingly open to atrocities and inhumane mistreatment of Palestinians in the name of “self-defense”. As the author of this article notes, the international community can have a sociopolitical impact on events in the Middle East; let’s not refuse to comment and offer insubstantial sympathy by vaguely “supporting humanity.” If we want to make a difference, we should (while still recognizing the problems associated with Hamas and the PLO) pressure Israel to end the occupation and relieve the ruined Gazan economy by lifting the blockade. As an enormous financial backer of Israel, the U.S. has considerable power to challenge the militancy of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition in the Knesset. The best way we can support humanity in this conflict is not to spread platitudes on social media, but to express solidarity with the downtrodden of Gaza by supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

    • http://www.templecommunications.org Terry Buttwilder

      but dog need support too

    • ZPT205

      RE: #3: It’s not blatantly false, although it is misleading. While Hamas did not order the attack, the attack was carried out by rogue members of Hamas. Thus it’s not inaccurate to say “Hamas militants kidnapped Israeli teenagers,” though it does leave out context.