by STEVEN BOYD and RACHEL FRAADE for ISLAMiCommentary on NOVEMBER 20, 2012:
The two people who came together to write this column are very different. One of us is a male, the other is female. One is from the South, one from the North. One is Jewish, the other is an atheist. One has extremely close ties to Israel, and one has zero immediate ties to any nation in the Middle East. One is a member of Duke Friends of Israel, and the other is a member of Duke Students for Justice in Palestine. But beyond any of these differences lies one crucial commonality: both are upset and horrified by the current situation in Israel – and by the reaction of our peers in America.
Be careful before you jump to conclusions. This column will not endorse one side or the other. You will not find any blaming of Hamas or Israel for the present conflict surrounding the Gaza Strip. We may have our own opinions, but they are beside the point. When we began discussing this issue, neither of us expected to agree with much of the other’s argument. But we realized that our beliefs had more in common than expected – we realized that there is, in fact, a middle ground.
Unfortunately, this middle ground is usually swallowed up by those wishing to make extreme, polarizing statements of support for either side. The fact of the matter is, Palestinians face inequality and an inhumane standard of living while the Israelis are forced to fear for their safety because of the terrorists operating within and across their borders. We need to realize that these statements are not mutually exclusive. Suffering has been felt far too much on both sides of the conflict. We both acknowledge that this is an emotionally charged issue. Many people at Duke know people in Israel or the Palestinian territories that have been affected by the violence, and emotional responses are to be expected.
As of this writing, 99 are dead: 96 Palestinians, including 50 civilians, and three Israelis. By the time you read this, the total will undoubtedly be higher. The reality is that we have two sides that are fully convinced that they are doing what is necessary to protect the interests of their people. That is a dangerous thing. It is time we approach this situation with a rational attitude. It is ridiculous to expect either side to move beyond their national identities to resolve this issue. If that was easily accomplished, this conflict would not have dragged on — in deadlock for so long.
Bearing all this in mind, we have put out a call to the entirety of the Duke community and the world at large. We have to learn to temper our views. If someone says they support the existence of Israel, it is not the same as agreeing with Israel’s actions. Similarly, calling for respect of Palestinian human rights is not the same as supporting Hamas. Before hoping, praying, or wishing for one side’s victory, remember the cost at which it must come. Nobody really wins in situations like this, regardless of which party might emerge more powerful or accomplish their stated objective. Let us remember in the midst of this extremely trying and tragic time that above all, we share our humanity.
Let compassion and peace reign supreme. Rather than scramble to justify the actions of Hamas or the Israeli government, use your voice to tell both sides that you do not accept violence, hatred, or binary rhetoric. Regardless of which side you stand with, let your hopes and prayers be not for that side’s victory, but for the safety of all people threatened by this conflict and for the rationality of all leaders involved.
Steve Boyd and Rachel Fraade are both freshmen at Duke University. They are currently enrolled in religion professor Shalom Goldman’s “Religion and Politics in the Middle East” course.