Politics divide us. Religious ideology isolates us. War kills us. Existence, though, unites us, and therein, very quietly and often ignored, lies hope. Yes, this is about Israelis and Palestinians…and the conflict that has existed between them for my entire adult life. If you militantly lean one way or the other on the subject, you will likely stop reading now. If on the other hand, you are a reasonable and critically thinking human being who knows that growth often involves changing the way you think about things, you will not.

I write this not to espouse ideology one way or another. The basic truth is that human beings are a fickle lot. We tend to form and evolve our opinions based upon where we live, who brought us up, and with whom we socialize. There is nothing wrong with this, but to return to the ideas of reasonableness and critical thinking, we are not interminably bound to our opinions. I use the word opinions because as with so, so many subjects, social media has afforded – or condemned us – to mistake our opinions for irrefutable facts.

Let’s take the current horrific violence initiated by Hamas loyal Palestinians. It’s really quite simple. We’re talking about a group that formally came to be in the late 1980’s, publishing a charter that seeks the destruction of Israel and establishment of a Islamic society in historic Palestine. As charters go, Hamas’ is as drastic as it gets. If the primary goal was the establishment of an Islamic society in historic Palestine, there would be room for respect. Adding in an additional goal of establishing such in a manner that allowed for peaceful coexistence with a Jewish Israel would also be something that, albeit difficult to achieve and sustain, reasonable people could support. The fact though is that Hamas openly and unapologetically communicated a desire to destroy an existing nation. Since the first, documented suicided bombing in 1993, Hamas has continuously sought to achieve their goal.

Unfortunately, too many of the social media masses don’t seem to understand this. What we see in social media is the sharing of snippets of thoughts that seek to garner sympathy for a cause (Hamas) that has no moral compass. Herein, it is important to acknowledge that all Palestinians do not support Hamas any more than all U.S. Republicans support Donald Trump. The core element in either case is that not speaking out and, if unfortunately necessary, acting out against wrong can be almost as bad as openly supporting it.

It is indeed widely known that Hamas as an extremist, terrorist organization is openly supported financially, ideologically, and morally by extremist governments in geographically adjacent countries. Thinking critically about it, supporting Hamas’ ideals, tactics, etc. could give the impression that one supports ideals, tactics, etc. of extremist governments. This, in turn, could give the impression that one supports extremism. Unfortunately, the slope is more than slippery. Extremism in any form is unwise. Too often, though, people ignore it until it is aimed at them. In the current scenario, Hamas aims to rid Israel of the Jewish people (a sadly recurring them throughout the past millennia). The truth is that if Israel, a as a nation, government, and military, wanted to embrace the same charter idea of destruction, they could have decisively done so many times over. They haven’t though, and the reason is not just because of potential political fallout. It’s because Israel recognizes the right of other countries, ideological groups, and at the most basic level of people to exist. 

A related angle from which a reasonable and critically thinking person will examine the situation is the idea of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as a war. It’s true that Israel has in the past few days declared war, in response to Hamas-inflicted horror. Technically, though, Hamas is a group – not a nation. If one acknowledges Palestine as a nation, one has to in turn expect that it will act like a nation. One of the millennia-long tenets of acting as a nation includes basic ideas of when and how one wages war. As far back as Ancient Egypt, the idea of “Bellum Iustum” has existed. In modern times, it’s commonly referred to as the Just War Theory. Yes, there is irony in the phrase, but the ideal still has merit. “Bellum Iustum” is further broken down into “Jus Ad Bellum”(determining validity to go war) and Jus In Bello (how war should be fought). Let’s postulate that Palestine is a nation that determines it does have the right to go to war with Israel. If such is true, the human element remains. Palestine would go to war against Israel as a nation. This means against Israeli government and military, but it doesn’t mean directly and individually against Israeli people. Rape, beheadings, and mass murder are not tenets of Jus In Bello. This, though, is exactly what is happening, and sadly, it is what too many people around the world seem to support through their sharing of misinformation or, at best, half-truths. One doesn’t have military expertise or be a historian to understand it. They simply need to be a reasonable human being.

What people should really examine in both the current situation and others far less publicized around the world is not who is more right or more wrong but what happens if any extremist side achieves their goal. Will the extremity dissipate and see the people behind it convert to a peaceful existence? It’s not impossible, but it is highly improbable. Once one group (Israeli Jews) is out of the way, who is next? Is the expansion truly limited to one geographic location or region? What if the religious zealotry persists, what is the next group that needs to be destroyed? If Jewish people were “wrong” for not believing in or being Islamic, aren’t Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, and every other non-Islamic faith “wrong” as well. What about agnostic and atheist people who could be deemed wrong for not believing anything at all? Are Hispanics, Asian, and other cultural and ethnic groups safe just because they are Islamic in ideology? This idea of “who’s next” has been around as long as mankind has, but sadly, we still seem to collectively ignore it. Ultimately, extremism in any form is a variable in a formula that equates to destruction. There’s no shame in not being able to solve the equation, but there is great shame in making the equation more complex. Hopefully, people both in the situation and viewing it from afar figure that out before a dangerous formula equates to cumulative destruction.