When I was twelve years old, my mom found a mouse nest in some old mosquito nets she’d pulled out of a shed. She called me over to see the three, teeny-tiny baby mice, eyes still closed, that were crawling around the ground, aimless and confused without their mother. They were unbelievably adorable, and after a great deal of pleading on my part, my mom allowed me to keep them, provided they stayed outside. I fed them milk out of a bottle I had made from a plastic pen, and built them a cage out of some sticks and a bit of wire I’d scavenged from one of my dad’s projects. Sadly, my cage was no match for our cat, and when I went to check on the mice in the morning, they were no more.
Years later, when we began to have a mouse problem in our apartment, I refused to let Yohannes set traps. I tried to keep the kitchen clean and hoped we could get rid of them without hurting them. After all, those tiny little whiskered noses were still some of the cutest I’d ever seen. That all changed when I found out I was pregnant. Suddenly I had images of my little baby crawling on a floor covered in mouse feces and catching any manner of diseases the little rodents might be harboring. We bought traps.
Since July 7, Israel and Gaza have erupted in violence. One estimate alleges that Hamas has fired over 1,000 rockets into Israel in the last seven days. Many of these rockets have gone farther into Israel than ever before, demonstrating their increased range. Earlier this week, an elderly woman died of a heart attack after hearing the sirens in Isreal, and today an 37 year old Israeli man was killed. Close to 200 Israelis have sought medical care, although the majority were treated for shock and anxiety or injuries sustained while rushing to bomb shelters.
Every death and injury in this conflict is a tragedy. I can imagine the dread I would feel every time the sirens rang out as I rushed to get my children to a shelter. I have no doubt that I would feel threatened, and I remember my visceral response to the hint of a threat that I perceived from my furry gray friends. They suddenly became an enemy to be systematically destroyed.
This adds another layer of complexity to the conflict. In addition to the brutal history, religious differences, nationalism, ethnocentrism and racism that are each spilling their poison into this conflict, there is the simple psychological response to a threat. With rockets being fired overhead, the threat to Israel is very real, and conveniently concrete. Barriers surround 139 mi² of land, and Israel knows that this is where the rockets are coming from. This is a classic fight-or-flight situation, and it is natural for them to want to remove the threat. It is human for them to want to obliterate it.
This is exactly what Israel has been attempting to do since July 7. But this is worse than just a canned hunt of Hamas, because that 139 mi² of land that is Gaza is filled with over 1.5 million civilians. While Israel claims to be targeting its attacks on Hamas, those targets include the homes of anyone who is alleged to have any affiliation with Hamas, and consequently, their neighbors. In addition to people’s homes, air strikes have hit a mosque, a home for the disabled, and a cafe where people were watching the World Cup. Since July 7, 193 people have been killed in Gaza: approximately 36 of these were children, and about 77% were civilians. Between 1,000 and 1,500 Palestinians have been injured, at least 390 of which were children. Hospitals in Gaza, which faced shortages before the airstrikes began, lack the basic medical supplies needed to treat the wounded, and because they are walled off from the world, medical supplies cannot be transported in, and the injured cannot be transported out. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people have fled their homes in northern Gaza as Israel threatens to intensify attacks in that region.
The disparity between the situations in Israel and Gaza is self-evident. I don’t say this to diminish the hardship that people in Israel are facing, and I don’t want hundreds of Israelis to have to die in order for them to be motivated to strive for peace. But what is happening now cannot be considered self-defense. This is a massacre. And if they intensify the attacks as they are threatening to do, it will be genocide.
“What we have here between the Israelis and the Palestinians is an armed conflict – if one side becomes stronger there is a chance of genocide,” – Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer