You would think an American Jew with relatives in Israel would be the first to have Israeli flags and “I stand with Israel” all over my social media. But I know the history, and I’ve talked with Palestinians and Israelis. It’s a complex problem with a long history, and it can’t be reduced to memes and simple narratives.
It also can’t be discussed in detailed, nuanced terms at this moment. Even the slightest hint this crisis can be examined rationally incites rage. I’m sure people hate me for even bringing the idea up.
We hope for peace, but talk about peace right now seems cruelly naive. Too many parties have a vested interest in keeping the conflict going. And whatever happens in Gaza will prevent any hope of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians for generations. But the alternatives are too horrible to even consider.
And the horror won’t just be limited to the Middle East. Antisemitism and anti-Arab sentiment has already been on the rise internationally. This situation will give racists more reason to attack our communities, and provoke members of our communities to seek revenge.
This is why we need to hold on to our humanity.
We must treat everyone with compassion and dignity. We need to separate those who seek violence from those who just want to live their lives. We should mourn the loss of innocent life no matter which side they’re on. We should demand that humanitarian aid is given to those in need. Regardless of what stories come out, we can’t afford to see each other as less than human.
I think about that time after 9/11 when we met a Muslim family in a bookstore, and my son Benjamin played with their son Omar. It didn’t matter to us they were Muslims, and his mother and grandmother wore hijabs. The boys were just having fun, and Omar cried when his grandmother told him they’re leaving. If children can see the humanity in each other, why can’t all of us?
Everyone demands that we take a side on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I side with humanity. It’s the only way we can navigate through this complex and painful crisis and, in time, make our way back to justice, reconciliation, and peace.