Two Groups At War, and Both Are Marginalized People
The war in Israel is horrific. And the discourse around the war is completely off the rails. At this point, anyone following along has seen the clarifications over and over again: Hamas is not Palestinians. The Israeli government is not Israelis. Both are true and important statements! Frustratingly, these clarifications seem to be immediately followed by declaring that anyone who supports the other side, is supporting genocide.
The Israeli government just warned that over 1 million people have 24 hours to evacuate northern Gaza before the area is bombed and flattened. That is an impossible demand, which means, that it sure sounds like genocide. When someone says I stand with Israel!, is that what they want? Of course not. They don’t want genocide and they are not the Israeli government.
Hamas’ stated goal is to destroy the State of Israel through jihad (Islamic holy war). That sure sounds like genocide. When someone says Free Palestine!, is that what they want? Of course not. They don’t want genocide and they are not Hamas.
Is someone telling you they support ending the apartheid in Israel? Fantastic. They can join the club. I know literally zero people who deny the many years of violence and restriction in Gaza. I know of no one who is happy about it. I know of no one demanding to keep the status quo. (Are there people who want the status quo? Sure. Lots of right-wing extremist pundits. But no one I know personally, and certainly no one I respect, is pro-status quo.)
I’ve been reading and reading, trying to learn and understand, and much of what I’ve read is utterly discouraging. But I did read one essay this morning that brought me a flicker of hope. The essay is called “We Cannot Cross Until We Carry Each Other,” by Arielle Angel, the editor-in-chief of Jewish Currents. I hope you take a few minutes to read it.
I understand that Israel has the military might, and they have the support of the world-power-US-government. So then does that makes Israel the big, bad Goliath, and Palestinians the scrappy, humble David? No. That metaphor is not quite right for this situation. Israel is a place, but it’s also a people. And those people have been persecuted and driven from their homeland — and from every land where they’ve tried to settle — for 2000 years. That’s 2000 years of trauma.
I don’t think we know quite how to react when there are two groups at war, and both are marginalized people.
But maybe you don’t see them both as marginalized people? Here are some questions I’ve noted as I’ve had discussions about the war in the last few days:
Do you see Palestinians as a marginalized people?
Do you see Israeli Jews (not all Israelis are Jewish) as a marginalized people?
Do you believe Hamas is a terrorist organization?
If Palestine gained independence, do you think Hamas would still be the governing body?
Do you agree with the stated goals of Israel’s government in response to the Hamas attacks? Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip; they demand civilians in Gaza evacuate, but cut power and restrict borders and don’t let anyone leave. If yes, do you understand why that may be viewed as pro-genocide?
Do you agree with the stated goals of Hamas? In 1988, the stated goal was: Destroying the State of Israel through Jihad (Islamic Holy War). In 2017, the goal was restated: “To liberate Palestine and confront the Zionist project”, claiming “resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honour for all the sons and daughters of our people.” If yes, do you understand why that may be viewed as pro-genocide?
Do you believe Palestinians have a right to live freely, and to thrive, in the area that is currently called Israel (including the occupied territories)?
Do you believe Israelis have a right to live freely, and to thrive, in the area that is currently called Israel (including the occupied territories)?
Do you believe that with the right government leadership, Palestinians and Israelis could live peacefully as full and free fellow citizens of one country?
Do you believe there needs to be two separate countries, Palestine and Israel?
Do you consider yourself Anti-Zionist? Or do you believe Israel the country should be dissolved? If yes, would you expect the Jews in Israel to leave?
There are currently over 7 million Jews in Israel, and it’s been 3 generations since the country was established, while some Israeli Jews have been there for 10+ generations. Is there a particular place you think these 7 million people should live instead?
The basics of Palestinian liberation are right of return, equality, and reparations. When you consider these basics, do you believe they require that Israel be dissolved?
Do you believe Palestine must become its own country? If yes, do you believe Palestine should be the same borders of current day Israel (including the occupied territories)?
If that were to happen, and Hamas was the government of the country of Palestine, do you believe it would be safe for Jews to live there? If not, is calling for Palestine to replace the country of Israel a call for genocide?
Prior to Israel being established as a country, the West Bank was controlled by the country of Jordan, and the Gaza strip was controlled by Egypt. If Jordan and Egypt reabsorbed those areas today, would that feel equivalent to Palestinian liberation?
Do you believe there’s a scenario where Palestinians can live as fully free citizens in current day Israel (including the occupied territories) with equal access to resources and opportunities and a political influence as all other citizens? When Palestinians rightfully demand that the apartheid in Israel needs to end, is this what they are picturing?
Do you follow any Palestinians or Israelis who write about what a future peace could look like? What a shared nation-state or non-nation-state could look like?
Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks has been described as disproportionate, with people noting multiple massacres of this size that Gaza has endured in the last decade. Is there a response that you would consider “proportionate”?
Efforts by Palestinians fighting for liberation — even non-violent efforts — have been met with violence and force by the Israeli government. What do you think Palestinians should do in order to gain independence or dismantle the apartheid state?
Do you have friends or relatives in Gaza or Israel or both? How much does that inform your thoughts about what’s happening?
Hamas is backed by Iran. Relations between Iran and the US are… not great. Does that affect how you feel about this conflict?
Both Palestinians and Israelis have lived in the area that is now Israel for a long time; long before Israel was established as a modern state. From what I understand, both Jewish people and Palestinians are both considered Semitic-peoples. Who gets to decide who is indigenous to the area? And does that matter?
If you live in a country like America, or Canada, or Australia, where most current citizens are not indigenous, do you think that affects the way you think about who has a right to what land?
If you live on the African continent, where many of the countries were established with arbitrary borders that weren’t reflective of the communities who lived there, do you think that affects the way you think about what a nation-state is?
Most people — including the vast majority of humans who haven’t been forced from their homes — don’t live in the house or land where their grandparents or great-grandparents lived. Jobs and marriage and curiosity and opportunities (among other things) move people across town or across the world. Certainly there are people who feel drawn to an ancestral home, but I think it’s fair to say most people prioritize seeking security and health. All people need a safe home with access to schools and healthcare and groceries and community. How many people would willingly move their family to a different place if they were promised and guaranteed a safe home with access to schools and healthcare and groceries and community?
These are some of the questions on my mind as I read and study. They help me clarify my thoughts. Maybe they’ll help you too.
Ultimately: please be gentle with each other. Call for a ceasefire. Call for the attacks against civilians to end. Call for peace. Sending love to all of you reading.
That’s all for now. I hope you have a calm weekend. (I’m leaving comments open, but if things get mean, I reserve the right to close them.)
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