The Crisis in the Middle East Is Complex; Terrorism Is Not


Eliza Lampert

The security barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank in the center of the Old City.

Note: The opinions expressed in this op-ed represent the perspectives of its author, not the voice of The Forum.

I was about to go to sleep on Friday night when a CNN notification popped up on my phone: “Breaking News: Militants have entered Israel from Gaza, the Israel Defense Force says, after rocket attack killed one.” I wasn’t even surprised. And since then, that initial report of one death has increased to over 1000 in Israel and 900 in Gaza.

The first thing I noticed about this update was the use of the word “militants,” which in this case refers to Hamas, the group that controls Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Merriam-Webster defines a militant as someone who is “engaged in warfare or combat,” aggressive, confrontational, and hostile. None of these words, however, even begin to capture the hate-fueled violence that Hamas is inflicting on Israel.

Hamas has been recognized by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997. What they do to try to fight for the land in the Middle East is far from productive and peaceful. They torture and kill innocent citizens. Hamas does not represent every Palestinian, though. Many Palestinians, even in Gaza, don’t support Hamas. They are innocent people who are unfairly tainted by their perceived connection to Hamas.

I want to recognize that the Israeli government is far from perfect, not so dissimilar to that of our own country. Their current government holds hate towards the LGTBQ+ community, limits who can identify as Jewish, and has attempted to close the land off to only Jewish people, removing innocent Palestinians from their homes. I also want to emphasize that Jewish people in and outside of Israel are not the Israeli government. Just as the U.S. government doesn’t represent every American, the Israeli government doesn’t represent every Jewish person.

This ongoing conflict is not black and white, and it never has been. There are some things, though, that are obvious. Yet they aren’t treated as such.

There is only one side to 150 people being taken from their homes and held hostage; to concertgoers being massacred at a music festival; to women being raped next to a pile of dead bodies; to innocent people being threatened with execution. No matter what Israel “did first,” this reaction is not justified, is not moral, and is, well, the opposite of “advocating for human rights.”

Mohammed Deif, the supreme military commander of Hamas, stated that “the enemy will understand that the time of their rampaging without accountability has ended.”

We learn as children that just because somebody was hateful to you doesn’t mean you have to be hateful back. Hold your head higher and be a bigger person.

But I’m not naive. I know that this isn’t how the world works. The Israeli government hasn’t made life easy for the Palestinians—they have denied Palestinians basic human rights by restricting their movement in the Occupied Territories and evicting families from their homes. That doesn’t mean we have to get to this place: an extreme place that results in terror and murder.

But Hamas is dangerous, and Israel has a right and an obligation to protect itself from this group. The group that proudly took responsibility for the absolute massacre this past weekend. The group that has said they will execute a hostage anytime Israel sends bombs into Gaza. So in the midst of trying to fight a war and protect their citizens, the Israeli government is facing a moral dilemma: Sacrifice one to save many or sacrifice many to save one.

One woman taken hostage was an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor. She was dragged out of her home in her wheelchair and tortured. She survived the Holocaust and is here again. How does that happen to somebody twice in their lifetime? How is that right?

It is also important to note the impact of social media and various news outlets. There are a lot of courageous journalists doing extraordinary reporting, but there is also so much misinformation being spread. NPR reported that many of the photos and videos circulating right now are clips taken from video games or previous wars. Be thoughtful about what you read and watch, and consider a diverse “news diet” to avoid relying on a single source for information.

This is also a good moment for us all to remember to be sensitive with our language and to look out for our peers.

A video originally posted on Twitter, but now verified by multiple news sources, shows a woman covered in blood with her hands tied behind her back, being forced into a car. She is being pulled by her hair while others chant “Allahu Akbar,” meaning God is great. A person is being tortured, and people are chanting. That’s not right, either.

None of this is right. Not for the innocent Israelis who are being held hostage and murdered. Not for the innocent Palestinians, who are not being killed, but will continue to be seen as part of Hamas. And not for Jewish people around the world who are seen as part of it and part of the problem.

I see my Jewish peers at Latin in our Jewish Student Connection meetings, in the lunch line, the classrooms, the halls, and there is a look of sorrow and grief. Because being a Jewish person, anywhere, means you are only ever one step removed. I don’t have family in Israel, but I know many people who do. This massacre is happening to all of us, and we all feel it.

No one should have to live in a state of fear, physical or emotional. The century-long conflict in the Middle East isn’t going to miraculously stop, and we all know that. We can’t simply tell Hamas to end their warfare, and we most certainly can’t bring back the thousands of lives lost. The violence and the hate need to end. We can’t make it right, but we can try to understand what is going on, and more importantly, we can see it for what it is.