In light of the recent violence in the Gaza Strip, I find it fitting to discuss to some degree the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I have seen several posts from acquaintances touting the phrase "I Stand With Israel", explaining their support for Israel during the renewed fighting that does not appear at this point to have a stopping point. I always get aggravated when I see posts like these, because I don't think that they tell the whole story. Yes, a Palestinian teenager was brutally killed, but so were three Israeli teens. And yes, Hamas may have initiated conflict, but Israel is still bombing Gaza. Neither side is without casualties, but neither is blameless or justified either.
One of the reasons why I find the "I stand with Israel" posts unsettling, is because they tend to disregard a conflict which has been exacerbated through decades of wrongdoing on both sides. It also completely disregards the human life that is being lost on the Palestinian side. With the bombing occurring in Gaza, it isn't just military lives that are being lost, there are civilian casualties. By saying "I stand with Israel" you are fueling the divisiveness that plagues this conflict. Of course saying "I stand with Israel" doesn't mean you don't stand with Palestine or at least their innocent people, but then why single out one side specifically to support? I get it, people feel connected to their Jewish heritage and Israel. I also understand that the Jews have been historically discriminated against for centuries, not just during the Holocaust. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, I don't think it is fair to disregard a whole population of people who in general are just trying to live their lives in peace. Why not just "I love Israel" instead of a statement that can be interpreted as being against innocent people.
The problem with "I stand with Israel", thus isn't that you support Israel, it's that phrases like that imply that you don't stand with Palestine. That you don't care about the family of the young boy who was burned to death because they are Palestinian. That you don't care about the tens of people who have lost their lives this week alone. You can't judge an entire population based on the actions of a few. Many Palestinian people only support Hamas because they feel they have no other option, and still others don't support Hamas at all. This goes both ways though--three Israeli teens were also kidnapped and murdered last week. Saying "I stand with Palestine" is just as single minded as saying "I stand with Israel". We are all just human, don't we have more similarities than differences? Much work has been done over the years to humanize people on both sides of the conflict, but it still perpetuates due to poor leadership and an unwillingness to compromise on both sides.
The Palestinian people are unwanted by nearly everyone. Many Palestinians are refugees in Arab countries that refuse to grant them the rights of citizens. Others are living in the territory they now claim that is less than 25% of what they had before the creation of Israel. You would think that the Jewish people would understand what it is like to have no place to call home. That with the history of the Holocaust and the subjugation of the Jewish people, Israel wouldn't want to let that happen to another population.
Both sides are at fault here, and there is no easy solution to this conflict. It is fine to have an opinion and it is fine to feel that Palestine and Hamas have made some unjust decisions. What I don't think is productive is taking sides. Why do we as American citizens need to take sides? Okay, you're Jewish. Maybe you have even been to Israel a few times or more. I appreciate the passion and the reverence you have for Israel. Allegiances are important and allegiance to a country that was created as a safe haven for your cultural ancestors is perfectly rational. Don't we though, as citizens of the world, have a responsibility to ensure life and liberty for all people, despite if they might be different from ourselves? Doesn't only supporting Israel disregard a whole group of innocent people who deserve a better life and the ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness? Surely as American citizens we can identify with the concept that everyone deserves the right to basic life necessities such as education, food, and shelter. When you take the side against the Palestinians, you are saying that they don't deserve that right. That the actions of a few leaders negate the aspirations and dreams of a people who just want a home.
This is obviously bigger than just a phrase. If you want to express your support for Israel by saying "I stand with Israel" that is your choice the same way it is your choice to say "I stand with Palestine". I think though, that in the face of decades of conflict, we should amend our language to embrace change for the better. If you feel that strongly about your support for Israel, a potential language change could be "I support Israel, but I want peace", the same goes for Palestine. And on the whole, why can't we just stand for peace?
Above: A young boy holds the flag of Palestine while flashing a peace sign.