Dehumanize the terror, not the people

In the Nov. 21 issue of the Minnesota Daily, Norman Shamas wrote in his letter to the editor, “Dehumanizing Israelis and Gazans,” on the need to move from a rhetoric of justification to a rhetoric of shared humanity. This is a very insightful and noble step, but in the author’s attempt at evenhandedness, he makes several key mistakes about the reality of the situation.

First, Norman initially admits that any argument on my behalf or Students Supporting Israel is omitted from the article, yet continues to pass judgment on what he confidently assumes it to be with no evidence to draw from. None of the events or rallies hosted by Students Supporting Israel serves to dehumanize Palestinians. We lament all loss of life, even in times of war, while recognizing that there are times when loss of life is unavoidable. Whether the latest round of violence was unavoidable is subject to reasonable debate.

However, the State of Israel does not hunger for war. The words of Golda Meir come to mind: “When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons,” from his statement at a 1969 press conference in London.

Further proof is the well-circulated and popular appeals that have appeared among Israelis in social media authored by civilians and soldiers that attempt to reach out to those in Gaza out of shared humanity. These include pieces like “An open letter to Khalil from Gaza” from timesofisrael.com.

We recognize that the people of Gaza are fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, each with as much a right to life as any Israeli. We also recognize that the majority of Gazans seek the same simple things in life we all do: to love, be loved, provide for one’s family and to grow old. So if Israelis do not wish to punish the people of Gaza, why does the government restrict building materials and impede the movement of Gazans? Well, those that are familiar with Israel’s history will know that these restrictions were not always in place. Further, they did not appear until terror groups utilized these resources not simply toward bettering the lives of their fellow Gazans but also to make war against all the citizens of Israel, young and old.

When Israel allowed unlimited amounts of concrete to be imported into Gaza, great amounts were used to build arms and smuggling tunnels, not just houses. When Israelis allowed sewage pipes to be imported, they were used to make deadly rockets, not just for plumbing.

With regards to the unfortunate loss of life in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli Air Force called off numerous strikes when civilians were seen near their targets. Hamas has been proven to abuse ambulances, schools, mosques and hospitals for weapons storage and rocket-firing bases. Israel did everything in its power to reduce the amount of civilian deaths while taking out these targets — targets, need I remind anyone, that seek to kill civilians in Israel.

Lastly, one cannot deny that there is discrimination in Israel much like what is found in other developed nations including our very own country. However, the discrimination faced by Arabs and Sephardic Jews is decreasing every year. Anecdotal evidence is abundant. One great example is Salim Joubran, an Arab member of the Israeli Supreme Court that was among those that convicted Moshe Katzav, a former president of Israel.

The above is not meant to justify any Israeli action, rather to provide some perspective.