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Can we at least agree that killing is wrong?

4 min read

I don’t think it’s possible to morally support the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, but that’s too weak a statement. What’s happening there seems to be — based on what I’ve read through the news, what I’ve seen in video, the stories that have been sent back to us — an atrocity. The latest story, from Rafah, is of an airstrike on a civilian evacuation zone where displaced families were sheltering in tents:

Images showed the area engulfed in flames as screaming Palestinians fled for safety, with some video shared on social media showing disturbing images, including severely burned corpses and a man holding what appeared to be the headless body of a small child.

There’s nothing flippant to say about this. This isn’t sports, where you root for a team. It’s not a theoretical debate: certainly not for the families who have no way to escape, kettled as they are into a small strip of land under constant military bombardment.

The bombardment on Gaza is disproportionate and indefensible. Thirteen thousand children alone have been killed. A quarter of surviving children have acute malnutrition. There’s nowhere for them to go, and nowhere for them to get the care they need. In the face of these conditions, there must be a ceasefire. Obviously there must be a ceasefire.

Making statements like this is fraught. It sometimes seems like we’re being asked to fall into weird ideological lines that have little to do with the humanity of the people involved. Following the events of October 7, I unfollowed multiple progressive Instagram accounts that not only described the attack and kidnappings as the necessary work of de-colonization, but applauded the action. It’s clear to me that Palestine has been annexed, its land illegally settled, and its people made to suffer at the hands of increasingly-conservative Israeli policy. Protest and resistance are inevitable and justifiable. Regardless, I can’t support the killing and kidnapping of civilians, let alone accept cheerleading for it. Not ever.

By the same token, I see some people online call for an end to the state of Israel. What would that entail, exactly? Assuming it was a desirable goal, how might one go about achieving that? Dismantling it would involve unthinkable bloodshed.

Some people talk about how Hamas is the local government, and how the people there voted for them, so they deserve what’s happening to them. That it’s okay to bomb hospitals because Hamas is hiding out in them — regardless of international law related to protecting the lives of human shields.

The history, today’s political issues, and the road to a solution are far more complicated than can be conveyed by memes and soundbites. I have no solutions to the problems in this region or how to get to a lasting peace.

But some things are not complicated at all.

Don’t kill. Don’t subjugate. Don’t dehumanize. Don’t reduce lives, in all their complexity and beauty, to points and sides.

The core of this issue right now is — or should be — concern for human life. Everyone, regardless of nationality or political affiliation, should be appalled when children burn to death or are decapitated (whether they’re in an evacuation zone or not). The ruining of cities should never yield applause.

The protests on university campuses are the latest in a long line of campus anti-war protests, and I’m strongly in favor of them. Except, because of course this is true, there are people there who conflate the protest over policy with protests of anyone who is Israeli, or even anyone who is a Jew. I’ve personally heard stories of at least one person being spat on, not because of any rhetoric they were espousing, but simply because of who they were.

This all has the potential to escalate. I worry that it will. This is all already so horrific.

These are human beings. The Palestinian people are human beings. The Israeli people are human beings. Arabs are human beings. Jews are human beings. They are not their leaders; they are not their circumstances. They all - like all people - deserve to live, and live well. The death of any human being is never something to celebrate or to praise as a strategy. It’s all just endless tragedy.

Stop the killing. Find another way.

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