There was a time when the sanctity of human life, at least publicly, meant more in our society. We now live in a world different from that of 4 years ago. Though pre-2020 life was perhaps more murky underneath than many of us thought, three years of incessant official lying, institutionalized vilification, population segregation, and publicly sanctioned hate has taken its toll.
Last week, some people with twisted minds unleashed a horror on the people in Israel. They have inflicted pain, humiliation, and death in ways that suggest the perpetrators have lost the basic tenets of human decency. They have unleashed death on innocent people in both Israel and Gaza.
They knew they were inciting a war that would devastate lives, families, and futures on both sides of the border. We should be saddened and appalled for what is unfolding. And appalled by those who are egging it on.
For the Jewish people, who have suffered recurrent pogroms throughout history and the worst of them within living memory, thinking of those dying on the ‘other side’ will be particularly hard. Many will find it impossible for years to come. Only a stupid person would condemn such attitudes rather than sympathize.
My grandmother never got over the way her son was deliberately starved to death by people of another nation, but who would not understand that? Jewish people have had this, over again, generation after generation, living with fear of what has just happened.
What is different and truly disturbing, in 2023, is the public response of others. Politicians are publicly calling for extermination of entire populations, half of whom are children. Claims are made that those who don’t support mass death ‘are on the side of terrorists.’ Those who show concern for innocent children dying in Gaza are publicly condemned. A media calls for blood and does not now seem to care that the blood comes from young girls, from pregnant mothers, from the elderly (these are the people of Gaza, as they are the people of Israel).
To express sorrow for the killing of innocent people is decent. It is not, in itself, a condemnation of those who do the killing. We accept in war that innocent people will be killed. We fight wars when we see no other way to prevent ongoing harm. Many who fight them care about causing further harm, see all those involved as human, and recognize they are making hard choices for a reason.