No Killing

The riptides of crossing agendas, vital agendas, requires that people with the slightest online presence take sides in the present conflict between Israel and Hamas. Anybody who knows me even slightly well can imagine what I think about this, and what I think about requiring other people to state their position. Still, to guard against ignorance or misprision, here are relevant convictions to which I hold.

(I disapprove of privileged folk trying to prove their solidarity by citing persiflage of the ‘I marched with Martin’ sort, so I’m not playing any of those cards. Maybe I don’t have any, maybe I do. My life is the most honest testimony to my character; if you know me, judge by that, for better or worse. If you don’t, I won’t try to twist your arm by claiming a highlights reel of my ally-ness while skipping over my complicity with power and oppression.)

So: First, don’t kill people. Any people. Just stop it, everyone.

Second, if you’ve decided that you’re among the people who are responsible enough to kill other people, it is utterly, unalterably obligatory that you restrict your killing to people who have made clear their own willingness to kill others. Not ‘associate with killers’, for that’s a different, subtle calculus (and calculus is always hard, especially when it’s subtle); not ‘supports killers’ (that’s true of people who support you, and most of them haven’t volunteered to be eligible to be killed); not ‘people on the wrong side’ or ‘people who apparently haven’t stopped the killers on their side’. You see where this is going: there’s no excuse for killing people who are themselves unwilling to kill. And you can only tell who’s willing to kill if they wear a uniform that indicates, ‘Yes, that is I, I am a willing killer.’ We can reduce this to ‘Especially don’t kill noncombatants.’

Yes, I abhor the Hamas tactics of massacring noncombatants and taking hostages.

Yes, I detest the Israeli tactics of bombing and besieging noncombatants.

I have a very long history of having life-affecting friendships with Jewish contemporaries, friends, teachers, and theology. I oppose antisemitism unreservedly.

I oppose the dispossession of indigenous peoples, their confinement on reservations, camps, their forced relocation or ethnic cleansing. Islamophobia is culpable and hateful (and doesn’t pertain to all Palestinians any more than hatred of Jews pertains to everyone who lives in Israel). I would not want to live under the conditions that obtain for most Palestinians for even a short time, much less for years without prospect of an end. I don’t know anybody who would want to live under those conditions. Insofar as the government of Israel compels Palestinians to live under intolerable conditions, I oppose the government of Israel.

I am repelled by Hamas’s terrorist tactics. Insofar as Hamas governs Gaza without the consent of the governed and pursues terrorist policies, I oppose the Hamas authorities.

Pretty much everything else follows from what I’ve said above. I embrace my nonviolent Israeli friends, and I embrace nonviolent Palestinian colleagues. And don’t tell me that this really means some thing that you oppose; if I didn’t say it, ask me whether I believe it before you tell me what I believe.

(And be aware that pretending that your reasoning must be what I’m reasoning will very quickly lose all sympathy from me. You probably don’t care at that point, but at that point neither will I, and I’ll stop paying attention. Knock yourself out.)

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