When I was a student writer for USA Today back in 2012, I wrote a story about the violence in Gaza. My angle was college students; namely, I wanted to know how both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian youngsters felt about the attacks. Let me be perfectly clear that the University of Pennsylvania is a hotbed for debates regarding Middle Eastern affairs. The campus is about a third Jewish (a demographic that tends to favor Israel) and is the home of a very popular JStreet chapter. It also happened to be a prime site for the BDS movement.
I expected a fiery article that would either end or jumpstart my fledgling journalistic career. I felt that this article would get me blacklisted, or at least make me famous. I thought this was going to be one heck of a controversial piece.
Surprisingly, every student I spoke with had the same response: they wanted peace in the Middle East. Regardless of their own opinions of which side was right or wrong, they were all seemingly willing to make certain concessions to get their families out of harm’s way, and to get soldiers off the field. This generation of Israelis and Palestinians don’t want fighting.
Today, it’s my turn to take a stand on one of the most controversial topics of our time. And no, it’s not war or the Middle East, but rather something more gruesome yet unconscionably politicized.
Today, I want to talk about the murder of four children.
After the recent tragedies in the Middle East, both the Twitterverse and geopolitical demagogues have been taking sides and arguing incessantly about Israeli legitimacy and Palestinian rights, or visa versa. Regardless of your opinion on who’s right, we need to all agree, once and for all, that murdering children, for any reason, is wrong.
I also want to stress that neither side’s government sanctioned these killings. Just like how the VAST majority of Muslims in the US have no desire to become suicide bombers, much of the violence between the two sides seems to be coming from extremist groups, like Hamas. These extremists do not characterize Israel or Palestine, much like how the orchestrators of the US’s recent spate of mass shootings are in no way representative of our nation as a whole.
It’s sickening that these poor souls are now becoming poster children for war, and that their own tragic ends may well foster further, unbridled violence from a generation that’s no longer even in the field.
Furthermore, just because you support Israel doesn’t mean you support its politics. Likewise, supporting Palestine doesn’t mean you condone all its actions. Even as someone who has a well-defined opinion on the matter, I will be the first to admit that the feud is historically, politically, and culturally complex and that it deserves dialogue, support, and open-mindedness.
As intelligent world citizens, we owe it to the people living in these war zones to do our research and learn to separate our ideologies from their troubling realities, before spitting out cruel catchphrases like the oft-repeated belief that Israel needs to be bombed out of existence, or Golda Meir’s famous quotation: “We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
(Although, as a side note, I’d like to point out that Meir’s phrase is often misquoted. The complete statement starts off with: “… We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children…”)
Have your wars and your conflicts. Have your geopolitically-fraught opinions, but keep the children out of this. The four children in question weren’t political entities. They were innocent. Let’s keep them that way.