Discover more from Where on Planet Earth
Standing in the grey zone
When all you see is black & white
Hola and welcome to Where on Planet Earth! In case you got here by accident and are not yet a subscriber, sign up below! For more visuals on our travels follow us on IG @whereonplanetearth
Like most of the world, I have been struggling to make sense of the horrific scenes unfolding on the other side of the world. The images, videos, and testimonials of what is happening to civilians on both sides of the conflict are dizzying and maddening. The reminder, once again, of what humans are capable and willing to do to one another, in addition to the extreme nature of most opinions out there has been truly disheartening.
I am no expert in this long regional conflict or in this particular flair of extreme violence, but I need to put words to feelings, I need to try to articulate this knot in my throat, because when I write I understand myself and the world better. I am not here to try to convince you of anything, though I hope to make you re-consider any extremist stand you might harbor. But, ultimately, I am just sharing my personal opinion.
As someone who is married to a very liberal man who was born and raised in a very conservative Jewish community, I find our position somewhat unique. In this very particular case, we are not in a liberal bubble - as usual - but instead we are exposed to a wide range of opinions from both sides, coming from friends and family that we love deeply. The one thing that’s been the most obvious is that opinions are extreme, they are either on one side or on the other. To be in the “middle”, to be in a grey zone, to have a somewhat nuance opinion, feels lonely and dangerous right now. But that is where we are. So to get us on the same page - or not - let me tell you what we stand for:
Hamas is a terrorist organization that committed gruesome crimes against civilians in Israel.
Hamas does not represent Palestinians or the two million people living in Gaza.
Palestinians have the right to be free, to live in land not controlled by anyone but themselves, they have the right for self-determination.
The state of Israel has systemically oppressed the Palestinians for decades.
No civilians deserve to be terrorized or killed, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis.
Jewish people are not synonymous with the Israeli government.
Antisemitism is never okay.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s be extra clear: the terrorist attack Hamas unleashed on Israel on October 7th was a deplorable and horrific act. Hamas attacked civilians in their homes and kidnapped concert-goers. They terrorized thousands of people and indiscriminately killed as many. No matter your opinion on *anything*, if you care about human lives, if you have any empathy at all, then condemning the Hamas attack should be simple.
It is also true that these attacks are a (violent and unjustifiable) response to an oppressive system, a response to the desperation of people locked in what is essentially an open-air prison for decades. Have you ever seen Gaza on a map? It’s 25 miles (40 km) long and 5 miles (8 km) wide, around twice the size of Washington D.C. It has a population of 2 million, half of them children. It’s fenced off with basically no open border to any country. Food, water, internet, and electricity is fully controlled by Israel.
When Alan and I visited Israel many years ago, we also chose to visit the West Bank in Palestine, and my most vivid memories of that day are the hundreds of water tanks in every single building, and the tall walls and fences separating the land. “Water is cut all the time by Israel, so everyone has several tanks to have enough water for a few days”, our guide told us nonchalantly. I thought about that phrase all day, and the past week it has been resonating loudly in my mind. When one side of a war can control the water supply of the other - the most basic human necessity - then you know it’s not a simple war between two sides.
More than 6,000 bombs have been dropped on that small Gaza enclave in the last week, thousands of civilians have been killed, many of them children. Half of the population in that small sliver of land was told to migrate or else. To where? How? For what? Forcing a population to migrate or be killed is called ethic cleansing. Let’s call it what it is. So, yes, please do condemn and grief the Hamas attack, but don’t use that grief to justify more terror.
And also, don’t let that terror push you to extremes. Understand that Israel doesn’t represent all Jewish people, no matter where they live. This fact should be central to this discussion. Any form of antisemitism is a cowardly and disgusting reaction to Israel’s actions. And, unsurprisingly, there is a lot of that going around. The Israeli government also doesn’t represent all its citizens, regardless of their religion, and it’s not okay to paint all Israeli citizens as the bad guys. Just as we shouldn’t treat all Russians as war-thirsty criminals and boycott all their businesses, but that is a story for another day. Think about it, have your views always been represented by your government? I doubt it.
Be critical, don’t let the propaganda on either side of this conflict get to you. It’s simple, innocent civilians are being terrorized by both sides, but one has infinitely more power than the other and the support of the strongest military in the world, and that is important too.
Ultimately, I wonder how long this war will go on for, how many innocent lives will be lost. I wonder how will we look back twenty years from now at this moment, how it will be taught in schools around the world. I suppose this is how all atrocities happen, in plain light for all to see. But as you go about your day, know that staying engaged and informed, and not amplifying extremism is sometimes the most you can do, and that is okay.
Here are some articles on this topic I have found interesting lately: