We can hold it all

Aerial view of Gaza City

I find myself increasingly frustrated by much of our discourse about the war in Gaza.

Many of us seem so desperate to paint this conflict in black or white. We pick a side and declare them right and condemn the other as wrong. Seemingly whenever I hear anyone talk about the conflict, they only have room in their hearts for one side. They are entirely focused on Israel’s right to protect itself and the growing anti-Semitism around the globe. Or they are entirely focused on the plight of Gazans and Israel’s brutal attacks on them.

On one hand, I have some empathy for this. Personally, while I believe Hamas’ October 7 attack was abhorrent, it’s hard for me not to focus my care on Gazans right now. They are watching their homes and families being ripped apart to an extent that Israelis simply are not right now. The power is strongly weighed against them. And the death tolls they’ve had to endure are far greater than Israelis. It feels important to say that what has been happening to them for months is wrong. Period. I don’t want to equivocate on this.

But for me, there’s also perhaps a greater truth: We do not actually have to pick just one side to sympathize with. We can hold it all. 

We can hold that every side in this situation has good reasons to defend themselves. We can hold that every side has contributed to this conflict. We can hold that every side has people who mean well and people who do not. We can hold that anti-Semitism is very much alive and growing, and that not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. We can care deeply for the well-being and rights of Gazans and still strongly condemn the October 7 attacks and acknowledge that many Gazans supported it.

And we can do all this without implying that both sides are equally responsible for what’s happening. Holding it all does not mean that we have to lose conviction about what we believe is right. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have a side that garners more of our empathy and care. It just means that when we do pick our side, our hearts remain open to the humanity on every side. We remain committed to all sides finding security, peace, liberation, and justice. 

It’s so much easier to act like this world is black or white and that people are either right or wrong. But it’s not more kind. It’s not more truthful. And it does not move us closer to the radically peaceful and caring world we so yearn for.

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