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Weingarten: Looking in on Gaza

Caleb Weingarten
Opinion Editor Caleb Weingarten discusses the Israel-Hamas war on its six month anniversary.

Today, I write from Brussels looking at a small Palestinian protest gathered in front of Brussels-Central train station. It was yet another somber reminder of the vile events that have been occurring in Gaza for the past six months. I have thought to myself, somewhat buried in melancholy of course, if any true “peace” is possible. There is a large academic consensus that believes peace is too far out of reach, especially after the current conflict. Looking in from the outside, it is hard to not agree with them.

Both sides, although I am beginning to despise such a simplistic description of our woes, have little to gain from cooperation it seems (or else it would have happened, right?). All of us must question why this is the case. It may clash with our preconceived notions of what we believe to be “right” or “good,” but given the circumstances, shouldn’t it? 

What the Israel-Hamas conflict needs are people who are willing to insert themselves in opposition to political dogma. It takes immense courage to do so, but as Christopher Hitchens writes in “Letters to a Young Contrarian”, extracting an “observation from antiquity,” that although “courage is not in itself one of the primary virtues, it is the quality that makes the exercise of the virtues possible.” To ally oneself with this thinking defends from the unrelenting inculcation of those menacing and ominous demagogues who continue to peddle lies and blatant nonsense disguised as divine morality. And, perhaps, the most unfortunate part of this realization is that it applies to both sides of the conflict – and at the center of it lies not simply political opposition, but a deep-rooted ethnic and religious controversy. I noticed this primarily in the videos and interviews I have seen online. 

For example, one man claimed that because God “gave” the land to the Israelites in the Bible, Palestinians in Gaza deserve what they have endured. They must “pay” for what they did Oct. 7, 2023. This includes the innocent men, women and children who committed zero atrocities. He even went so far as to say that he would be more than willing to move into the Gaza Strip after the dust settles and the Palestinians are expelled to Europe. According to his logic, this is a reasonable solution since Europe has absorbed a great deal of refugees from the region. What is the problem with a few more? 

It may just be my morality (which seems to get me in trouble quite often), but this is clearly a disgusting notion to push into the world and into a society that is constantly fearing for its security. It is also heavily dosed with the tool a writer treasures most: irony. Why? Well, if we consider the Jewish question and trace the history, we see that the Zionist movement has its roots in Europe. It is no secret that Zionism was a project undertaken by European Jews and supported by important people in the West. Meanwhile, Palestinians who can trace their roots to the land are being told to find a home elsewhere. Was this not the precise phenomenon Jews were attempting to escape in Europe? The wrongful persecution in their homeland? I find it highly contradictory that the mechanism of securing a Jewish homeland in Israel starts with the bludgeoning of the indigenous population. This fact, at the risk of over-simplification, is the central tension of this long and hate-filled conflict (which started before Oct. 7) and is the reason I am a pessimist when we bring “peace” or “hope” into the discussion.

Not every Israeli has the extreme views of the man in the video, even the ones who support the war; this, I understand. However, we must also be realistic about the rift between the Israelis and Palestinians. One poll found that many Jewish Israelis believe the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) are using “an appropriate amount of force” or “not enough force” in Gaza and that they “are almost evenly split” on whether the Israeli government should prioritize returning the hostages or destroying Hamas. For purposes of comparison, the majority of Arab Israelis believe “the casualty numbers on the Palestinian side are unjustified” and that “only a fifth of Arab respondents” believe the government’s aims in Gaza are clear.

If we briefly consider these two aims, the return of hostages and the destruction of Hamas, it is obvious that the former is perfectly reasonable. I believe that a just solution to this conflict means that the remaining hostages should be returned to Israel. Looking at the latter, however, is completely foolish. It is not because Hamas is a group worth supporting—actually, it is quite the opposite. It is only common sense though that it is impossible to kill an ideology. If you wish to empower it, keep killing innocent people. Drive people away from their homes, starve them, deprive them of the most basic necessities, and you will forever have terrorists lurking and seeking revenge. I believe I have discussed this in one of my columns previously. This is also one of the main arguments against Israeli occupation and expansion. It does not make Hamas’ actions any less vile; however, it does provide context to the situation. One could also look to Northern Ireland, for example. During the Troubles, you see a historically oppressed Irish-Catholic population fight violently against the British colonial government. It does not justify the violence committed by the IRA (Irish Republican Army), but it makes it more explainable. This is a distinction worth noting. One does not need to justify something in order to explain it. Do not let anyone convince you of anything different. 

It is also important to highlight that I believe Jews in Israel are in incredible danger. Although I find myself supporting the Palestinian plight, I do not stand for anti-Semitism, especially the kind that disguises itself as pro-Palestinian morality. I have found myself in tense disagreement with some people over this. Support of Palestinians does not mean a detraction of Israeli support. This is obvious to most, but for some, I must repeat myself at the risk of spewing tautology. 

I think the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu is a tremendous bulwark to peace in the region, but my allies are with the people, not with the government. The more Israel handles this war with blatant recklessness, the less secure Israel is in the region. As someone who cares about both Israelis and Palestinians and overall de-escalation across the Middle East, we must work toward a ceasefire. 

And this seems to be more likely by the day, especially after the horrific Israeli assault that killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen. These workers had finished delivering 100 tons of food to Gaza (which is on the brink of famine) and were killed shortly afterward. Israel claims it was unintentional, but this begs the question of why they were attacked in cars that were “clearly marked” with the charity logo, according to the New York Times.  Furthermore, according to the Times, Netanyahu appeared to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that it was a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally harming innocent people in the Gaza Strip.” Sound familiar? 

To those running to the comments to claim I am suggesting that Israel intentionally killed aid workers, I am not saying this, but I am also not ruling out the possibility. Remember, more journalists have been killed in Gaza over the course of the war “than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year.” So why would it be unimaginable that Israel would neutralize people who are helping the Palestinian population in Gaza? It has been revealed from the beginning that Israel cares little for the civilian population in Gaza—because, let’s be clear, a government does not kill 32,000 civilians if its aim is to protect civilians from indiscriminate attacks. 

Governments around the world are also beginning to feel their anxiety rise and their limits tested in regard to support for Israel. For example, U.S. president “Joe Biden has called for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza, telling Benjamin Netanyahu that future U.S. support for Israel will depend on it taking concrete action to protect civilians and aid workers.”

Biden is also urging Israel to “reach a deal” with Hamas as fast as possible. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is “facing growing political pressure to stop selling weapons to Israel after seven aid workers, including three British nationals, were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.”

It is my hope this pressure achieves results. It is time as a society that we begin to focus on the humanity of one another, Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian. The future holds dire consequences if we don’t.

It is here in Belgium where I watched the peaceful protest, the chants in flux between French and English, that I began to ponderously consider what George Orwell famously posited in his “Notes on Nationalism:”The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” 

It is not only the nationalists that have this allied proclivity to lie or to avoid truth. It is also the people with concealed agendas, the ivory tower folk who forget what it means to be one in eight billion—who forget what love and compassion in its simplest forms do to sustain human life. Somehow, someway, we must find our way back to this. 

Consider Kipling’s poem “If:” 

If you can keep your head when all about you   

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

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    Steverino | Apr 25, 2024 at 4:06 pm

    That wasa very touching piece on why the Palestinian Gazans should get away with murder. You criticize Israel for not protecting civilians from indiscriminate attacks. , yet you ignore the fact that the Muslim terror attack which provoked this war was intentionally an indiscriminate attack on civilians which included beheading infants and baking one baby to death in an oven in addition to raping and killing women , willy nilly.Yet, you offer no criticism of Hamas’ inhuman cruelty, you depraved hypocrite.

    In aGoPro video captured from one terrorist, he calls his parents in Gaza to brag that he is callingthem on a phone he took from a Jewish woman he just killed. He brags to his father that he has killed ten Jews with his own hands. His parents murmured their approval.

    These are the monsters you are supporting.

    • .

      . | Apr 27, 2024 at 5:30 am

      What a complete idiot you are, and you should be ashamed for framing a balanced article as if it was a pro-terrorist, Hamas supporting one. Did you not see one paragraph? below it is quoted

      “It is also important to highlight that I believe Jews in Israel are in incredible danger. Although I find myself supporting the Palestinian plight, I do not stand for anti-Semitism, especially the kind that disguises itself as pro-Palestinian morality. I have found myself in tense disagreement with some people over this. Support of Palestinians does not mean a detraction of Israeli support. This is obvious to most, but for some, I must repeat myself at the risk of spewing tautology.”

      The author isn’t anti-Semitic but since you cant come up with something to respond you turn to personal attacks and the classic propaganda instead of reason.

      In short, NO to anti-Semitism and terrorism.

      Read any other of the authors articles since it is clear from what I have read that he does not agree with the Hamas attack. Question is do you denounce the atrocities by Israel?

      Stop with the hate you “depraved hypocrite.”