At the time of writing this, almost 1900 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army’s assault on Gaza. Around 80% of those killed are civilians, with almost 400 children and over 200 women. Over 80 families have been completely wiped out; killed in single strikes. The operation, entitled “Protective Edge”, has been more destructive, in its claim of human life and urban infrastructure, than Israel’s 2008/09 assault, Castlead. There is very little to suggest that Israel, in all its misunderstood morality and goodwill, plans to stop its cleansing of Gaza any time soon.
Lifeless, bloodied Palestinian bodies, severed Palestinian limbs and wailing Palestinian mothers have become near staple daily viewings. I don’t volunteer to see these images but their ubiquity makes them unavoidable. And as common as these images have become in all the online spaces I occupy and frequent, the characterization of “both sides” has become far more widespread. Wherever I click, I see calls for “both sides” to stop fighting and agree (and stick to) a ceasefire; condemnations of “both sides” in causing so much suffering; distribution of blame to “both sides” and the lamenting of suffering on “both sides.”
But there are no “both sides.”
See, the problem with this talk of “both sides” is that is assumes a semblance of equality – equality in the position of power and thus ability. Yes, there are two sides in this conflict: there are the Palestinians and the Israelis. Well, there are more than two sides if we take history and geopolitics into consideration, but who wants more nuance on a Sunday. But that characterization of “both sides” ends there; it ends with drawing out who the involved people are.
“Both sides” don’t have the right to self-defense.
“Both sides” do not receive billions in military aid.
“Both sides” do not enact apartheid laws to ensure ethnic hegemony.
“Both sides” do not exist at the systemically violent prerogative of the other.
“Both sides” do not ethnically cleanse.
“Both sides” haven’t lost almost two thousand lives in less than a month.
“Both sides” do not have the deliberate and mass targeting of civilians engrained into their military doctrine.
“Both sides” are not states.
“Both sides” do not have their their homes, their hospitals, their schools, their places of worship and their shelters destroyed.
“Both sides” are not under land and naval siege.
“Both sides” haven’t had their electricity and access to water severed.
“Both sides” do not have their daily calorie intake counted.
“Both sides” aren’t occupied.
“Both sides” aren’t compassionate headlines.
And the lives on “both sides” are not equal in the weight and worth.
So don’t talk about the responsibility of “both sides” to make peace; don’t talk about how the blame of the suffering is on “both sides.”
The slave and the master weren’t “both sides”; the tyrant and his subjects were never “both sides”. The native and the settler were never “both sides” — so why do we treat the Palestinians and Israelis as “both sides”?
Until and unless there is some pretense of actual ‘balance’ in the positions of the Israelis and Palestinians – there are no “both sides”. It is an uncomfortable confrontation, but it is a confrontation with the right side of justice and history.