I have been trying to write about what has been unfolding in the Middle East for a month. I have drafted and edited and asked friends for feedback and edited some more. And during this process, most of you have heard nothing but silence from me, and for that, I apologize. I condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia, dehumanization, and oppression of any kind.
I have been grappling with the frenzy of urgency and the complicity of silence. Harm can be caused by both. The rush to “take a stand” has caused many to pick sides and to feel isolated or divided from their communities. Pain upon pain upon pain. One person I read noted the additional spiritual violence many are experiencing. I want to validate how complicated and confusing many of our feelings are right now.
I have struggled to write this post. (I acknowledge the privileges that I have that allow me space and time and distance from what is happening.) I have wanted to avoid making mistakes. I have been confused about how to talk about a situation in which two systemically impacted groups of people have been positioned against each other, resulting in mutual dehumanization and violence. I have been worried about calls for unwavering loyalty to one group over another to justify violence instead of validating the shared humanity of each and every one of us.
Many of us have been reactive and in pain and seeking unequivocal validation of our sense of threat. Most of us are not skilled in validating someone’s feelings even when we do not agree with those feelings, and so many messages and articles and posts have contributed to binary thinking and people choosing sides. Cycles of dysregulation and spirals of emotions. Division and fear compounded.
Each of us respond to perceived threats in different ways and it is important that we continue to show compassion, love, and curiosity about each other and resist pulling away or turning toward despair, hate, or violence. These moments of panic challenge us to respond rather than react, something that takes practice. I have been reading Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger and it has been very meaningful as she speaks about the aftermath of 9/11 and the reactions that followed against anyone who could be remotely associated with terrorism. I fear that we are repeating those mistakes.
Recently, public reactions are shifting. Many more people are denouncing violence and are calling for a ceasefire. Many more people are responding with compassion and love and understanding while still holding the line of human rights as a baseline.
I am so grateful for the thoughtful people who have reached out to their communities quickly and with compassion. I have so many examples now of how to hold space for grief, how to express compassion for suffering, and also how to hold the line of the value of all humanity and human rights, ideally bringing people together in the process.
We must resist the forces that seek to divide us from each other. Most of us are harmed by fights for power and dominance by governments/states/organizations that are not motivated by shared humanity. While a power imbalance exists between Israel and Gaza and should be acknowledged, the power imbalance I want to highlight is between those in positions of power who are willing to use violence to harm civilians and the rest of us who want to live our lives in peace and do not hate each other. (Credit to the last paragraphs of Robert Hubbell’s post here.)
If you have also been feeling confused or hesitant or doubtful, I recommend the following resources, action items, etc. There are many roles to play in changemaking. Consider your capacity and preferences and jump in wherever the opportunities present themselves — donating funds, mutual aid, writing to media and elected officials, marching or protesting, educating yourself about the history and context of Israel and Palestine, and amplifying voices that are not reflected in our mainstream news sources. We can hold each other and build our connections with each other because so many forces right now are trying to divide us.
If you want to learn more about how to support Palestinians in particular, here’s a resource document that several people have put together and is being updated frequently. I was given permission to share it with you.
These resources have been helpful to me; maybe they will be for you, too:
- Nicholas Kristoff’s “We Must Not Kill Gazan Children to Try to Protect Israel’s Children”
- Iman Jodeh’s “Opinion: Human rights for Palestinians should not be controversial”
- The Anti-Racism Daily’s “Recognize state-sanctioned violence” and “Solidarity Isn’t conditional”
- Kurt Streeter’s “‘I Love You. I Am Sorry’: One Jew, One Muslim and a Friendship Tested by War” and NewGround’s website
- Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s “a lot of things are true”
- Ryan Grim’s “Gaza and the Empathy Gap”
- Valarie Kaur’s work, including this quote
- Solutions Not Sides “Avoiding Antisemitic and Islamophobic Hate Speech”
- If Not Now
- Standing Together
- Peace Now
- Friends Committee on National Legislation
- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
- Ali Abu Awwad
- The Jerusalem Youth Chorus
- Jewish Voice For Peace
- Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
There are many more out there.
Please, do not lose hope and do not turn from each other. There are so many examples of people working together for peace and standing in the name of humanity. Find something that you can commit to and keep going. You are not alone.
Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.