Saturday, October 28, 2023


The past three weeks I have been filled with horror watching the news coming out of Israel and Palestine. The attacks of 10/7 were unconscionable, horrific, abhorrent, disgusting, and absolutely condemnable. I mourn with Israel and for Israel for the senseless deaths that occurred that day. Their resulting fear, anger, and grief are both palpable and understandable. 

However, I also must unequivocally condemn their retaliation against a nation, who is not a nation, whose only army is not an army, and which is full of people—fully fledged humans, not some animal-human hybrid—who have no where to flee, and whose import (and export) of food, water, power, and aid is controlled by the very people who wish them harm. 

The footage I've seen coming out of Palestine is disturbing to say the least. 

I've heard it said that "On October 7th, Hamas murdered 1,400 a country of fewer than 10 million people. This would be equivalent to over 50,000 Americans murdered in a single day.  That’s 20 9/11s. That is why October 7th is another day that will live in infamy." 

I agree that an atrocity of that scale is mind-numbing, but I don't think we can stop doing math there. 

I mean, if we are going to do the math, let's do the math!

Reported casualties within the Gaza Strip are around 7000. Naturally, the United States government, which voted against a humanitarian truce does not believe these numbers to be accurate). I agree that the numbers are probably not entirely accurate. How could they be given the chaos the enclave has been facing? The carnage and destruction I have seen coming out of Palestine has been gut-wrenching.

Benjamin has been working with inequalities lately, so let's take a look at these numbers: 

American deaths in 9/11 < Israeli deaths in 10/7 < Palestinian "retributive" deaths

3,000 ÷ 285,000,000 < 1,400 ÷ 9,367,000 < 7,000 ÷ 2,000,000 

0.00001052631579 < 0.0001494608733 < 0.0035

I could be doing the math wrong, because I'm getting that Israeli deaths were 14 times the impact of 9/11. The number of casualties in Palestine, then, is 332 times the impact of 9/11.

At what point do we say Israel has carried out a proportional response if not now? If not weeks ago? 

There are many more questions we could ask. I don't have all the answers to those questions. I have appreciated listening to Israel voices and hearing from my Jewish friends, who are hurting right now, who feel their very existence is in the crux. I have a very dear mentor who has been sharing her thoughts, who has been embracing the mess of discussion. She has posted things that have made me wince, but her words have also challenged me to research more (about various documents, about various historical characters) and I've learned new things that have, truly, help shifted my opinion. 

I did a lot of research into cultural and commutative memories for my thesis (see Jan Assmann and Aleida Assmann (who are both criticized and complimented for their theory (which is imperfect, yet foundational to our modern understanding of communicative memory), theories that came about largely from looking at trauma surrounding the Holocaust, which has been reverberating through generations since the end of WWII. That trauma is real.

The Holocaust is responsible for "the machinelike murder of approximately six million European Jews." Considering the fact that there were about 9,000,000 Jews within Europe, this means that two thirds of the Jewish population in Europe was murdered during the Holocaust. Many more (we'll assume the vast majority that didn't die) were forcibly displaced. 

Before that were various pogroms against Jewish people...which is the reason for one of Andrew's family lines being in the United States. To my understanding, Andrew's great-great-grandmother— Minnie (Miriam)—fled what is present-day Lithuania during the Russian pogroms.

There is an undeniably long history of persecution of Jews. 

I've seen it argued that when you consider their neighbours, Jews are the minority in the region of Israel. I suppose that is true. They are surrounded by Muslim nations. 

Muslims constitute approximately 25% of the global population (1.9 billion). 

In that sense, Jewish people are certainly outnumbered. 

But Palestine, while having the backing of many Muslim nations, has no control over its own borders. They cannot simply "import" munitions, the way Israel has freely done for years. And the surrounding countries are saturated with Palestinian refugees. 

There are over 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, for example. 

Jordan's population is only 11 million. 

I could do the math for you again, but I'm sure you can see that 2,000,000 (Palestinian refugees) : 11,000,000 (Jordanian citizens) is far greater than, for example, 113,000 (Ukrainian refugees) : 331,900,000 (American citizens). Jordan takes in a lot of migrants. They (and surrounding countries—such as Syria and Iraq—who are experiencing enough turmoil and instability that people have been fleeing from them) should not be expected to absorb 2 million people from Gaza and 3 million people from the West Bank simply because Israel doesn't want them. 

That part of the world is their home. 

I understand many Jewish people believe they have a historical claim on the land. I just finished watching Jewish Matchmaker (while busily crocheting Halloween costumes) and in one episode a couple on a date was talking together about how they were "brainwashed" from a young age to want to come to Israel, their true homeland. Brainwashed is their word, not mine. They were talking to each other, not the camera. I believe one person was from Italy and the other from the United States. And yet, there they were, living in Israel.

And I really don't know how I feel about that. On the hand, I think it was a noble idea to say, "Hey, we've been persecuted, like, a lot (see: The Holocaust) and it would be great if we had a place to call home, where we could live unmolested, where we could regather after being scattered across the globe, where we could speak our language and live our religion without fear of oppression..."

That idea is beautiful, though my true wish is just that the people of the world could relax and let people live and speak and worship as they choose, without, you know, blaming them for economic collapse and everything bad in the world, and then deciding to just...exterminate them make the world...better? 

Like, I just think...blaming all problems on a single group of people and deciding that killing that group of people will fix 

And I think that people should be able to worship and live and use their language freely—and, perhaps, even with respect, admiration, and support. Like, let's all help each other be the best whatever we can be, right?

I understand the desire to gather; there is strength in numbers. My own people gathered (in Utah)...and, to be fair, unleashed a fury of injustices on the people already inhabiting the land (the Native American Nations there) simply because we thought our way of life was better. 

Granted, the founding documents of Hamas contain violent rhetoric that hints at annihilation of the Jewish State (my reading, given more modern documents, is that it is the state, not the people that is the target). However, the actions—and words—of Israel prove that they are equally fueled by hatred. They seem to be seeking to dehumanize Palestinians (calling them, for example, "human animals" (on more than one occasion—"To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human")and denying their historical claim to the land). The Israeli Declaration of Independence states, "it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations," but these beautiful words feel rather empty in consideration of...everything...

So, I'm sad (a word which feels far too small to express the emotions I feel about this). 

I'm sad that we (the US) are complicit in perpetuating war instead of peace. I'm sad for my Jewish friends. I'm sad for my Palestinian friends. I'm sad about the deaths on both sides. I'm sad this situation is so complicated. 

I don't think it is so simple as [Israel = good, Palestine = bad], or [Palestine = good, Israel = bad]. So I can't say that I'm pro-Palestine (though, to a certain extent, I am) and I can't say that I stand with Israel (though, to a certain extent, I do). Mostly I feel like I'm pro-peace.

I don't know what to do to make it better, but I'm pretty sure carpet bombing an open-air prison is not the way. 

Once upon a time I was put in a group with a bunch of girls who frequently bullied me. The whole time we were working, they were throwing things at me—erasers, pen lids, and crushed up Ramen noodles with the powdered sauce shaken up in the bag (a middle school delicacy). It was frustrating for me, to be sure. They would throw something at me and say, "Give me back my eraser!" or whatever. So I'd give it back...and they'd throw it again...and...then they started throwing these crunched up noodles and spicy powder at me. 

They got it in my eyes, which was uncomfortable. I was blinking and rubbing my eyes, trying to clear them of these foreign objects. All the while my peers continued to toss things at me: wads of paper, erasers, pen lids, pencils, more food. 

"Give me back my pen lid!" one girl whined, after having thrown the pen lid at me. 

So I grabbed the pen lid from my lap and tossed it back to her. And it hit her in the face. 

"Ouch!" she screamed. "Nancy just threw a pen lid right at my face!"

Never mind the fact that she had been throwing objects at my face on purpose and I had merely hit her by accident (while blinded by...whatever spices are in Ramen noodle spice packets). 

Suddenly it became a big thing. I had to go to the principal's office. I was given detention. 

I tried to explain my side of the story, but for some reason any of my complaints about these girls (and there were many—they cornered me in the hallway and pulled my hairdo out (my sister had put it up in a bun with chopsticks or something ridiculous but so cool), they would follow me home from school and threaten to kill me, they drew devil's horn and a mustache on my picture in the hallway, they would drop hate notes into my locker, they once stole another boy's comb and dropped it into my locker and then told the teacher that I had stolen the boy's comb, which I denied and then when I opened my locker to prove that I hadn't...there was the comb, they...made my life miserable. I was not only afraid at school; I was afraid to do or go anywhere within town because they were so relentless. If they saw me outside walking anywhere they would come out of their houses to yell mean things to me. I'm not even kidding. Those girls were the worst. But also, one of the girls was the principal's daughter. I'm just saying). 

Anyway, I explained what had happened to me, but that was "irrelevant" and "we expect better things of our students" and yadda, yadda, yadda. 

Should I have (even blindly) thrown the pen lid back to the girl who threw at at me in the first place?

No, sure. Fine. Even though she literally asked for it back. I should have calmly handed it back to her. 

Did I throw it at her face maliciously, with a lot of energy behind my throw? (No. I tossed it back, without aiming, without even looking at her. Though she on the other hand was throwing with malicious aim, but that, apparently, was irrelevant). 

Clearly I think I'm innocent here. I'm the protagonist of my own story, go figure. 

It's possible I did something to antagonize that group of girls. But mostly I felt that they targeted me quite unjustly. 

Oddly enough (or predictably enough) they've mostly grown up to be fine human beings. Kids are dumb. End of story. 

I'm not saying that Palestine is innocent. I'm just saying...golly. Enough death.

What number of dead Palestinians will make Israel feel "better" about the deaths inflicted by Hamas? Is there a number? Is it even about retribution? 

Like I said, there are a lot of questions to be asked. I don't have the answers for all the questions. 

But I do know that I'm disappointed in the vote against a humanitarian truce in the middle of what amounts to a humanitarian crisis. And I'm glad "our" vote was outnumbered by those in favour of the truce.

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