Stephanie Schamess: Responding to a human tragedy

People demand the immediate release of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group protest in-front of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.

People demand the immediate release of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group protest in-front of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. AP PHOTO/OHAD ZWIGENBERG

Published: 02-21-2024 9:06 PM

The Feb. 16 Northampton demonstration for Gaza narrowly defined the situation there as an “Israel=aggressor/Palestinians=victims” war. This oversimplifies a complex conflict born of decades of adversarial relationships, corrupt leadership and trauma that has victimized innocent civilians on both sides.

Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’s vicious attack on Oct. 7, while appallingly inhumane, was very predictable, but Hamas was obviously prepared to sacrifice innocent Palestinians as “collateral damage.” And Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backed by his most rabid right-wing cohort, has abandoned any pretense of attending to his own devastated citizens, focusing instead on wreaking catastrophic damage on Gaza. To quote Shakespeare, “a pox on both their houses.”

There is widespread agreement that pursuing the following initiatives is imperative to end this conflict: 1) a cease-fire; 2) return of the Israeli hostages; 3) a blueprint for post-war governance of Gaza; 4) ending the occupation.

While accusatory rallies and city council resolutions have their place, there are less divisive and more effective ways of both encouraging action on these issues and aiding the victims. These include donating to joint Israel/Palestinian grass-roots organizations that have long promulgated nonviolence, peace, and justice for Palestinians (i.e. Combatants for Peace, Standing Together, and Parents’ Circle/Families Forum), and to organizations providing immediate medical and nutritional aid to Gazans (Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, Doctors without Borders, and the International Committee of the Red Cross).

Supporting these groups will result in much-needed direct relief to the victims and foster empathy and collaboration rather than polarization.

Stephanie Schamess

Easthampton

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