Opinion

Opinion: Searching For Heroes in the Israel-Hamas War is a Fool's Errand

No one in the Israeli-Hamas War shops here
No one in the Israeli-Hamas War shops here Photo by Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr
What do you do when everyone is right, and everyone is also wrong? In America, you plow ahead with both fists swinging anyway.

The Israeli-Hamas War is a brutal, horrific conflict that has understandably sickens anyone with a heart. It’s an acute flare-up of a chronic condition built of generational trauma and endless colonial meddling. I’ve had a few friends call it 9/11 Part 2, with all the accompanying and senseless slaughter that was perpetuated after that attack. It’s a pretty fair assessment.

The emotional recoil from these past few months has powered a lot of responses from Americans. From “Free Gaza” billboards to bomb threats at synagogues, every righteousness is vying for center stage. Talk about antisemitism, and you’re accused of ignoring the war crimes of Israel. Mention those same war crimes, and someone is going to ask if you think the attack on October 7 was justified. And on and on and on.

America, particularly its 0social media, has become a proxy battleground for the war, and we are waging it as senselessly as the actual leaders of Israel and Hamas, though thankfully with far less bloodshed. Everyone is being encouraged to choose sides, to find the “good guys,” and cancel the “bad guys.” It’s an ideological football game where every play is a blitz.

Few seem ready to face the hard truth: there are no good guys here. Everyone involved in the conflict has a legitimate point, and everyone is committing atrocities.

Israel was founded by people who felt that Europe and Russia had adequately proved the Jewish people would never be safe without their own homeland, and the last two centuries make that premise very hard to argue with. With no other country willing to take them in (or even allow many of them home after World War II), they staked a claim on a piece of land they had an ancestral right to.

Of course, the people who handled it were a collection of settlers and members of the British government who either supported the desire for a separate state or saw it as a way to solve the "Jewish problem." In the process, they built an apartheid ethnostate and displaced thousands to create Israel. For generations, the country has built itself through violent oppression of the Palestinian people, who also have a legitimate claim to the area.

Meanwhile, the United States pushed for “democracy” in Gaza, which led to the extremist fundamentalist Islamic group Hamas taking dictatorial control. There have been no elections since they did, and their reign has primarily been one that sought the elimination of Israel as well as any of their own political rivals and dissidents.

Those three paragraphs are a gross oversimplification of the history of the region, but even in those few sentences you can realize how tangled the morality of the situation truly is. No one can reasonably expect a people to stand by as their existence is threatened by outside forces, and that applies to both Israel and Palestine. The world wrote off the safety of the Jewish people for centuries, even after the Holocaust, just as it wrote off the safety and freedom of the Palestinian people once “peace” was achieved in the Middle East.

We can all agree that children are innocent and shouldn’t be killed, right? The problem is, once a situation has progressed this far, that simple rule goes right out the window. It wasn’t good when the Bolsheviks gunned down teenage Romanovs, when the Haitian murdered plantation owners’ children, or when the French Revolution guillotined noble minors. Once things got to those stages, there were no longer reasonable solutions.

Those heinous acts do not invalidate the rightness of the struggles in whose name they were done, but it also doesn’t absolve the murderers. Yes, of course the Palestinian people should control their own political destiny. Hamas isn’t Palestinian antifa, though. They’re a right-wing theocratic group of warlords who are as interested in freedom as a fish is in a treehouse. Most reasonable people, also agree that the Jewish people are safer with a homeland, but simply saying “but somewhere else” is exactly how we got here in the first place.

We can’t keep trying to find the “good” genociders. America has done that for more than a century, and it only leads to more misery. No one is going to emerge the triumphant and righteous victor of this fight. All we can do is seek whatever path reduces the most harm.

Imposing a good vs. evil mindset will always involve erasing someone’s suffering, but it’s something America does at every opportunity. We have the largest military in the world and have steadfastly refused to think it can’t solve any problem despite the mountain of evidence since 2001. It doesn’t matter because we’re a group of people whose triggers pull their fingers, to quote the Drive-By Truckers.

Americans cannot absolve our sins by cheering for other groups making our same mistakes. By searching for a hero, we’re just sweeping a lot of bones under that hero’s cape.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner