On Thursday, I was walking by the Arbor and saw two groups, one pro-Palestinian, the other pro-Israeli, having the typical arguments with which we have all become familiar. As students were throwing rebuttals back and forth, I looked to the literature offered by both sides. Students for Justice in Palestine were promoting a candlelight vigil for Gazans in light of recent sanctions Israel has placed on shipments entering the enclave. Their posters provided statistics pertaining to the shortages in Gaza. The pro-Israeli students were also providing information in the form of pamphlets underscoring Israel’s human rights positions, particularly in comparison to other Middle Eastern countries. Looking up at the board over on the pro-Palestinian side, I noticed an inscription in support of Hamas written by an individual and not necessarily indicative of the pro-Palestinian students’ positions. I was lost in a maze of irrelevancy and inconsistency. When I left, I tried to approach the situation objectively.
Hamas has launched rockets into neighboring towns in Israel and participates in other such acts of indiscriminate killing. Ignoring questions regarding Israelis’ right to preside wherever, most people would agree that Israelis have a right to defend themselves just as other people do. But how do Israeli restrictions defend against or reduce the number of rocket attacks? At a very base level, the restrictions may force some militants to apportion their time so as to smuggle food as well as arms. But history suggests those who wish to wreak havoc undoubtedly find ways to acquire the necessary means – even if they are reduced to strapping bombs to themselves. So what is the most pronounced effect of limiting water, flour and electricity? Collective punishment. Innocent people, who comprise the majority of Gazans, in turn pay for the crimes of a few. And in the end, nothing is resolved; the Israeli action is largely ineffective, and life on both sides – in some miserable form – goes on.
In front of the Arbor again, I hear an angry activist: Somebody doesn’t see the “facts” like she does. I’m confused, it would seem to follow that most of the people there should agree on, if nothing else, a candlelight vigil for the innocent people caught in this de facto no man’s land. Despite their commendable compassion, activists nowadays seem blinded by a very infectious strand of tunnel vision. They vary, sometimes greatly, in the causes they advocate, but, nevertheless, all exhibit a uniformly dogmatic approach. I wish the pro-Palestinian students had walked over and asked the pro-Israeli students to accompany them to a vigil for innocent victims everywhere. Or I wish the students had stepped up and criticized the immorality of the actions of their own side as well – whether the actions be collective punishment or indiscriminate killing. Alas, one side asks for “justice in Palestine” and the other is simply opposed to anything Palestinian. Yet when I ask the pro-Palestine students whether they think “justice” should be restricted to people of a certain ethnic group, they adamantly disagree. And when I ask the pro-Israeli students whether they believe any group should be dismissed based on their ethnic identity, they also disagree. But there, in front of the Arbor, everyone is exonerated and stands sharpening his or her index fingers. How depressing activism has indeed become.