Wrong question. I am astounded that the media keeps asking impossible things. Who can even say what one life equals, never mind the 1,400 Israeli lives that were lost Oct. 7, 2023. Death cannot bring life back. Death can only create more loss and we have already lost too much!
As the death toll climbs daily in Palestine, currently at nearly 6,000 souls, over 2,000 of which are children, newscasters keep lamenting that Israel has the right to defend itself. But what is the proportionate response? If only there were some formula we could have. “An exchange rate,” as Bassem Youssef so bluntly put it to Piers Morgan. That way we can fortify ourselves for the end number.
It doesn’t exist
Sadly, there is no proportionate response. There is no acceptable casualty count. I refuse this logic. As the late Martin Luther king Jr. declared, “Returning violence for violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
The most evolved response would have been for Benjamin Netanyahu to do some real soul searching. He should have taken responsibility for his epic failures. Then he should have engaged with HAMAS and the Palestinian people instead of burying their requests in the rubble of Gaza.
War wounds, not solutions
The possibility of Israel actually wiping HAMAS off of the earth is zero. Can they kill every single militant involved in October 7th’s military resistance to the Israeli occupation? Probably. Will the cost be great? Most definitely, not only in casualty count, but reputation as well. This latest conflict has highlighted Israel’s penchant for war crimes.
However, the thing that everyone is failing to grasp is the fact that HAMAS represents an idea. You cannot bomb an idea out of existence. HAMAS stands for the liberation of all of Palestine and a restoration of justice. They seek to restore the 1967 borders of Palestine and essentially accept a two-state solution. Israel has refused to engage in any talks with HAMAS since they were democratically elected to represent the Gaza strip in 2006. Without any other avenue to further Palestinian liberation, it is no wonder we are here, with citizens of both nations bearing the brunt of the assaults.
There are echoes of the 2008 and 2014 conflicts. The same tropes and cliches are trotted out: “human shields, Israel has the right to defend itself, terrorists”. In those “wars”, Israel “mowed the grass” or inflicted enough harm to infrastructure, HAMAS and civilians as to beat back the problem, not actually solve it. As Zehava Golan pointed out, mowing the grass only creates perpetual war. She also cleverly pointed out that, “Human beings are able to talk, not only carry a club.”
Besides a ground invasion into Gaza, man to man, the only thing Israel seems to be more afraid of is talking. For if they open up diplomatic pathways, the reality of their Utopia will come crashing down upon them. They will be forced to face a fact that the majority of the world finds glaringly obvious: they have built their nation on top of Palestine. Israelis have been bad neighbors, illegally occupying more land, year over year while strangling any autonomy Palestinians in both the occupied territories dare to dream of. The Israeli government has set up institutions of apartheid such as “Jews only roads” and have a separate legal system for Israelis and Palestinians. Zionists have murdered and pillaged wondering why peace is so hard to keep.
Mediation is the only way forward
So again, what is the proportionate response? How can we right the wrongs of both sides? I don’t think there is one right answer. I do know however that violence is not it. It has yet to work in the 75 years that the Israeli occupation has been oppressing the Palestinians. It has also not done any favors for Israelis trying to build a life on the opposite side of the apartheid fence.
Peace begins when justice is exacted. The only way for that to happen is if both sides listen, understand and talk. It may not be a proportionate response, but it is a viable one.
Editor’s note: The Palestinian death toll has been updated since original publication