THE EQUIVALENT SANCTITY OF LIFE
I must join others in condemning the bombing in Tel Aviv that killed more than 1,200 people. Those killed were mothers and fathers, children and grandparents. They were soldiers and civilians, people simply attending a concert. They had no idea they had breathed their last breath when they died. They were going about their business, possibly blissfully clueless about the next moment. Their deaths, horrible deaths, must be mourned.
There are also as many as 200 hostages, some American citizens. Brutally, some of the hostages have been paraded about. Some families have no idea whether their loved ones are dead or alive. Barbarism is associated with taking hostages, mainly innocent civilians, and it must be condemned, with the hostages released soon. But Netanyahu's assertion that he will not bargain with Hamas, the group that took the hostages, does nothing to facilitate hostage release.
Israel is justifiably enraged and has vowed to retaliate. And the retaliation has begun with bombing attacks on Gaza. These ruthless attacks have hit mothers and fathers, children and grandparents, soldiers and civilians, and people living their lives. They had scant warning of their coming slaughter. They were going about their business, possibly blissfully clueless about the next moment. Thousands in Gaza are dead, and their horrible deaths must be mourned. Tens of thousands of others are affected by Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has restricted the availability of food, water, and medical supplies.
The Bible says something about an eye for an eye, but an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. I fear that we in the United States have been blinded long ago. There is no excuse for the carnage Hamas imposed on Israel. Period. There is also no excuse for starving people to death or removing tens of thousands from their homes, forcing them to leave everything behind. When President Biden says, "We stand behind Israel," already sending military equipment and asserting a strong presence, what is he speaking to the Palestinian people? The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (https://www.ochaopt.org) has documented the loss of human life in Gaza and the West Bank between the last (2008) and now, not including the current conflict.
There have been 6407 Palestinian fatalities and 306 Israeli fatalities. Where have world voices, now united against Hamas brutality, been in the face of Palestinian fatalities exponentially greater than any Israeli fatalities? Without excusing Hamas (because their cruelty is inexcusable), cannot one understand Palestinian frustration and, perhaps, brutal action? Hamas didn't do the Palestinian people any favors. Israel's retaliation has left as many as a million displaced. But I think of the Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay, whose 1919 poem, "If We Must Die," spoke of armed resistance against racism. The poem begins, "If we must die, let it not be like hogs, hunted and penned in an inglorious spot." McKay continues, "If we must die, O let us nobly die," and concludes, "Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave, and for their thousand blows deal one death blow, what though before us lies the open grave like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack, pressed to the wall, dying but fighting back." It's a powerful poem, written in response to the carnage of the Red Summer of 1919, where random packs of whites attacked Black people for next to nothing, slights real or imagined, protests to our very presence, even as Black men had returned from World War I.
Many will find the comparisons between Palestinian insurgents and Black freedom fighters to be false or untimely. I understand. I especially realize that McKay was not writing about killing women and children or putting them in danger. I cringe at the notion that human lives, especially children's, are considered "collateral damage." Yet, who bombs hospitals and educational institutions for "revenge.”
Israeli lives must be valued, and so must Palestinian lives. Human life is equivalent, but the media does not reflect it. There were protestors outside the White House saying they stood with Palestine. Can't we all stand with life? Until we embrace the equivalency of life, this conflict will continue, and an eye for an eye leaves all of us blind. Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist and author. www.juliannemalvaux.com
Dr. Julianne Malveaux Economist/Author/Educator