I was walking in Jerusalem yesterday afternoon a few hours after the siren went off in our city. I saw a small kid run out of his house. I waved to him. He looked at me, blinked, and then laughed and waved his arms in the air. I looked back at his mother who had walked out of her house after her son. She smiled. I nearly burst into tears in the middle of a central Jerusalem street. It was a moment of entirely non-theoretical and non-intellectual and non-academic internalization of what it means that 34 children have been killed in Gaza over the last week. For nothing. Probably more now than 24. We talk about this war as if it is a concept. More then 250 other children in Gaza, as well as few in the South of Israel, have been burned or hit by debris and we speak of this war as if it is a concept.
I recognize that many will take issue with the following claim. We have been trained to believe that war is ”legal” or a fact of life. But I have stopped believing that: war is murder. Perhaps there are some extreme cases- WWII being the example usually given- in which there is no choice and murder is actually the only way to stop mass-murder. But this is not WWII. This is a war of choice. This is murder at for political goals, both Hamas’ and the Israeli Government’s. The major difference between Israel’s leadership and Hamas is not one of ”intent.” The major difference is that Israel’s forces are far more equipped to murder than are Hamas’. The argument of ”intent,” of ”they target civillians while we aim for military targets” is hollow. If my little sister were killed by a bomb, and Hamas’ leaders were to clarify that it in fact intended to hit the Knesset or had hoped that their missile would hit soldiers, I don’t think that would be bring me comfort or rest. A country can not simply excuse away the taking of 24 tiny lives with the words ”defense” and ”oops.” Well, actually, it can. But it shouldn’t be like this. And then, of course, there are Israeli commentators who don’t just sound similar to Hamas, but in fact echo them and their rationale for, say, suicide bombings inside of Israel. ”The residents of Gaza are not innocent,” writes Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, ”they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.” Or: The children of Gaza should have risen up against their leadership. In that they did not, they must die as a consequence.
Hundreds of people have been murdered over the last few days, a few of them Israelis, most of them Palestinian, and things here in Jerusalem continue basically as usual. I am writing this from a nice cafe. We have had two minutes of legitimate collective fear when bomb sirens went off Friday and yesterday. But mostly we can continue as usual. So what now? We on the Left protest, we write, we yell, we cry. And I think that matters, actually. Maybe its self-delusion. But I will continue to protest and write and cry. At very least, let this city be covered in dissent. History will note it, perhaps the people living in Gaza will note it. Perhaps a few people walking on the street will note it. Meanwhile, mourning and praying and scrabbling for a way to act that will stop the killing.
Update, 12:30 PM: Right after I published this post, a friend came to tell me that there had been an attack in Tel Aviv (where I am/was headed), a bus bombing. Please make this stop. This horror needs to raise our empathy for all people- for Palestinians in Gaza and for Israelis in the South- not increase our fury or blind us to suffering of the ”other.” I am afraid that it won’t. The fact that Hamas’ [I assume it was Hamas although it could have been another group] murderous tactics were ”successful” is all the more reason for a ceasefire. More deaths will not end the killing. War will leave us all dead. None of these people had to be hurt or, God forbid, killed. Praying for the victims of this attack in Tel Aviv as well as the people of Gaza and the Israelis living in the South.