I’m sharing memes with my friends while people are dying. The stories populating my social media feed are mixed with outrage coupled with good ole’ thirst traps, people promoting their events, and the occasional snap of that brisket sandwich dripping with sauce. While some are blasting streams of pro-Israel and others pro-Palestine content, there’s a continual bemoaning shrug of, “What can you do?” No one needs a memo that 2023 has been a nightmare and this latest moment of “Jesus, can we just take a break?” adds to the dogpile. The irony here is that neither of the fighting factions is Team Jesus. That’s an American judeo-Christian thing.
The conflict in the Middle East has been going on longer than most of us have been alive. Both sides have blame on their shoulders for making socio-political choices affecting the people living in the respective countries rather than the blow hard suits who push red ink across the paper, which often equates to the blood spilled in the streets. Israel, for decades, has treated Palestine like an open-air prison, squeezing the Gaza Strip ever tighter as more land is stripped away from them. The argument of who has the rightful claim to this land is widely debated, and depending on what form of the invisible sky daddy you believe in, that’s whose sales pitch you’ll agree with.
What we’ve seen over the last few days isn’t a friendly misunderstanding, but cultural and religious toxicity spilled over. A history of oppression by the ever-colonizer Netanyahu hasn’t done the people on the other side of the fence any favors. His tenure has been filled with countless examples of infringing on a populace whose resources are exhausted with food shortages, unemployment, and provisions. And many of those children are bred to hate Jews by proxy of the situation they’re born into.
There’s rampant misinformation about the conflict, the situation is complex. Past leaders for almost 80 years have tried to find common ground, a lot of times with the United States playing broker in the middle - those efforts have been largely unsuccessful. Not every Jew hates an Arab and not every Arab hates a Jew. Extremists are the causation of hatred. Extremists creating illegal settlements only pushes another extremist to take violent action.
That said, the reaction by Hamas isn’t some freedom-fighting moment, either. Hamas is a terrorist organization, end of story. They murdered kids at a techno music festival in cold blood. In response to the conflict kicking off, Netanyahu, who’s run on the premise of extreme safety, was caught with his pants down. And now, to retaliate, Israel has dropped over six thousand bombs on Gaza, and Gaza, even with Iran’s backing of Hamas, cannot compete with Israel’s war power. Hamas targeted innocent people and killed them – this isn’t collateral damage. It’s killing with intent. But Hamas isn’t all of Palestine.
The clash of ideologies sits at the precipice of the big question of what happens now. Kids have lost their parents. Communities are destroyed – on both sides. For many, someone never comes home, and the lasting mental health crises will never disappear; instead, more “freedom fighters” will be created. We’ve heard the phrase “human animals,” with both sides openly discussing genocide. Misinformation is rampant about beheading babies, about rapes, about who’s killing who – that’s not to say there haven’t been moments of exacting cruelty, that’s obvious, but the situation is dire. Children shouldn’t die over ideology. No one’s blood is worth more.
Americans continue their lives as we deal with our hellscape of inflation and unemployment, which isn’t terrorism. Political speakers from Cornell West to Alan Dershowitz to every talking head bullhorn their hot take. Kids in schools are speaking out, and there are protests in major cities, both sides citing their heritage and cultural identity as reasoning. But as more people die, there’s no end in sight. We can communicate globally in seconds; we cure diseases daily but can’t stop war. The comparisons to 9/11 are a false equivalence that only encourages both sides by proxy. Many people here in the States don’t know what to say. Lines have been crossed. We have Jewish friends. We want them to feel like we get their trepidation. That we understand their history as a people. We have Middle Eastern friends who feel like they’ve existed with targets on their backs since 9/11. To balance each is difficult for many.
This horror show will continue to play out, but the war machine will keep going, and sadly, it’s probably only going to get worse to not stamp a point but stab the message into the ground where all the blood is spilled. Hospitals will turn into graveyards. The border into Egypt needs to be opened so refugees can cross into the country. Immediately. If fighting continues, relief coordination must happen. Not everyone is a terrorist. Not everyone is an extremist. Everyone can be anti-war and anti-terrorism. Everyone can be pro-peace and pro-cooperation.
We still can’t stop hate. While it’s comfortable in the air conditioning, knowing that we’ll have a happy and healthy holiday season coming soon, there will be families on both sides of those concrete barriers who will have a missing place at the table for whatever feasts their religions celebrate. It’s painful to see bodies in the streets, parents scrambling to find their children, to know if they’re safe or dead. Conflict should not be celebrated. Those bodies in the streets were still people, many of them innocent. We don’t have to pick sides except the abhorrence to violence, death, and to war. No baby’s life is worth more than another.
Please stop killing people. And get back to sharing dumb memes - not propaganda.