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  • samchris51

Sadly predictable

I cannot begin to imagine the complicated, contradictory emotions that are being experienced by the families of Samer Fuad El-Talalka, 24, from Hura, and Yotam Haim, 28, and Alon Shamriz, 26, from Kibbutz Kfar Azza.  They were all victims of friendly fire, the term used in the US when the army shoots at one of its own.  After being held by Hamas for 62 days, they were able to free themselves from their captors somehow. Only to be shot by Israeli soldiers unable to distinguish them from Hamas fighters despite their waving a white flag.  My heart also breaks for the soldiers who were involved in the incident and their families. I cannot imagine their horror, guilt, and shame as the reality of what they did sinks in.  I have had some experience treating US military personnel who have been involved in similar incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are devastated.  I hope these soldiers can get support and professional help quickly.  The event will also impact most Israelis who are wrestling with how to understand it. As I have said before, Israel is a small country whose citizens are interconnected. 

As devastating as this event was, it is not surprising.  The soldiers fighting in Gaza are disproportionately young conscripts who have been told that the environment they are operating in is divided into those they can trust and everyone else who wants to harm them.  Some may have grown up in an environment where they were taught that there is a “we” and a “they.”  “We” are Jews who always have a well-justified fear of annihilation, and can only survive only if we act as though annihilation were imminent.  “They” are Palestinians who want to annihilate us.  It is hardly surprising that these young soldiers would have felt threatened by three young men coming toward them, regardless of whether they were waving a white flag and asking for help in Hebrew.   Their fight response was in complete control.  They could not access the cognitive skills necessary for evaluating the data in front of them.   Of recognizing in a split second that the young men in front of them were “we.”

Israel continues to wage its war against Hamas.  The gulf between the “we” and the “they” grows, with each side inflicting more pain on the other and generating more desire for revenge in return.  The families of the hostages and their supporters are increasing their advocacy on behalf of the hostages and insisting that the government make their safe return a greater priority than defeating Hamas.  I wonder whether it is possible to construct a narrative in which “we” and “they” can come together to find a way that benefits both.  A way that can lay the path for the problematic compromises and painful concessions that will be necessary for the Israelis and the Palestinians to share the land “from the river to the sea.”

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