One of my mentors, discount Angela Davis (“The Angela Y. Davis”), gave me some pretty profound advice. She said, “Do not ever become the very thing you are struggling to defeat.” Those words have been an ever-present guide for me in the pursuit of social and political justice, equity and equality for ALL people.
This week, Israel invaded Gaza after bombing them in retaliation for the rockets that were launched against Israel. The casualties in that offensive for Israel were zero. At the writing of this column, in the past 13 days there have been 341 Palestinians killed and 5 Israelis. The deep, generational struggles between the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot be discussed in a weekly column; the issues are far too complex, and the legacy is far too ancient. It seems as though when you mention either Israel, as a “friend” of the U.S. or Palestine (which for many in the U.S. only brings to mind the “so-called” terrorist group Hamas) you are immediately expected or required to pick sides. Whose side are you on? Rockets are being launched at the State of Israel on a daily basis from the Palestinian side, and Israel is just fighting back. Or are the Palestinians just fighting for their rights as a people who deserve freedom and liberty in their own land without being occupied by a foreign government?
If you listen, there is “sense-making” on both sides of the argument. The horrible tragic quandary is that innocent people are being killed in the midst of an argument that has no “#winning” for either side without concession and compromise. Children are dying; poverty, overcrowding, sickness, and lack of opportunity is evident on the Palestinian side. There is no peace or promise for better days or hope of a life without this struggle. Israel lives in constant fear of their enemies attempting to annihilate them and have (at least Hamas has) called for their complete destruction. What about the people in the middle of this untenable conflict?
Israel knows struggle. They know what it is to have no homeland. They know persecution, and their fears are not without merit or understanding. However, the words “Do not ever become the very thing you are struggling to defeat” echo deep in my spirit. We cannot be so consumed by our fears that we lose our humanity. There are also women, children, and elders in Gaza who deserve a land to call their own. They should also be recognized and not wiped off the face of the earth. How can bombing a people indiscriminately rally people to your cause, even if your argument is they bombed us first? Your weapons defense systems are some of the best in the world, and the rockets fired do not land on your people. How does invading a people like you have been invaded, reigning your will and wrath upon them change minds or help to make any sort of peace or security for your children or your children’s children? This is the problem when we consider “picking sides.”
WAR is not the answer…the more we fight, the longer we keep fighting. It has to stop. We have to call upon our better selves and put down our weapons to struggle at the table of dialogue with as much fervor and tenacity as we do on the battlefield. And if we fail, we must come back again and Again…And AGAIN until we can come to an agreement that allows us ALL to have autonomy, a homeland, and a HOPE for a future.
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: The Forgotten Ones #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS