I’ve been wanting to write about the current war in Gaza for a while now, but it’s been hard to find the words for what I wanted to say. But today I started writing a letter to a friend, and found that in addressing a single person I was able to find words. So this is an epistolary post, unedited from what I originally meant to send in an email to one friend who asked what I thought.

I frequently feel as if half the world wants this to be a black-and-white situation where one party is innocent and angelic and the other party is evil and demonic, whereas the truth is far more complex. Truth, after all, is always complex, because truth is never singular.

You know, the problem is that there are just as many opinions among the Palestinians as there are among the Israelis. (Have you read Bitter Lemons? If not, I’d recommend it.) Today in Ha’aretz there’s a huge 1/4 page advertisement from an Auschwitz survivor, expressing shock and outrage at the international community for wanting a cease-fire. And I have a friend in Jerusalem, who lost both of her parents at Auschwitz, who is generally pretty centrist, and desperately wants a cease-fire so no more Israeli soldiers or Palestinian children get killed. If even 92-year old Jewish women Holocaust survivors can have varying opinions, then any larger demographic will never have consensus!

I see that there had to be some kind of military response against Hamas at this point. No question. But I also think that Israel has created the necessity itself – this could have been avoided if the withdrawal from Gaza was not “unilateral,” if Gaza hadn’t been turned into a ghetto, and if anyone on either side had been honestly engaged in a peace process over the last 15 years. Instead, I hear more and more Palestinians and Israelis being quoted saying things like “they just don’t want peace – they will never allow us to live in peace” and sliding further and further towards fear and helplessness. And I don’t see where it’s ever going to end.

And in the end, I’m not Israeli or Palestinian, I’m not planning to live here permanently, and frankly I don’t think the rest of the world has the right to be meddling in Middle East politics. If the US didn’t provide such massive funding to Israel, I think the settlements would never have grown past a few nutcases smoking pot on their hilltops. If the US hadn’t been using the Afghanis against the Russians in the Cold War, Al Qaida wouldn’t have become such a huge threat, and if the Arab world could just grow up already and accept that Israel isn’t going anywhere then Hezbollah and Hamas would have stayed focused on providing social services, and their violent activities would have dwindled and perhaps disappeared.

But I still do feel some responsibility to talk about what’s going on here, and try to convince others that neither side is perfectly innocent, that we all shoulder some degree of responsibility for the massive failures that brought us to this new war. Because there are so many people who want slogans and bumper stickers and easily stated positions, and frankly I think that slogans can be just as destructive as qassams and fighter jets. If I hear “we stand with S’derot” one more time, I’m going to be sick. What does that mean? Is the speaker planning to join the IDF, or physically move to S’derot? Of course not. If I hear “solidarity with Gaza” one more time, same thing. Is the speaker moving to Rafah, or joining the UN convoys to bring medical supplies to Gaza City hospitals? Of course not. It’s too easy to shout pointless nonsense when one’s own life is not actually bound up in the conflict. It’s much harder to bind one’s own life to the conflict and live a position, rather than safely posting it on Facebook and feeling self-righteous.

From my perspective, the Palestinians in Gaza and the Israelis living in the towns near Gaza have all been screwed by both Hamas and Israel. From my perspective, everyone on both sides of the Gazan border who thinks that violent retaliation to provocation is a good idea is endangering millions of lives. Everyone in this part of the world has reason to feel afraid, angry, and vengeful, but no number of reasons will ever justify further violence.

And this war is doing nothing but increasing support for Hamas among the Palestinians and increasing support for the right-wing parties among Israelis, further polarizing the population and whipping up the flames of hatred all around. There is no such thing as justified violence. What Hamas has been doing to their own people and to the residents of southern Israel is unjustified. What the Israeli government has done to their own people and to the residents of Gaza is unjustified.

So I’m trying very hard to not get sucked into the path of repeating useless statistics that don’t actually increase anyone’s understanding of what’s going on. I’m trying very hard to read as many opinions as possible on this war and the terrible history that brought us to this day, in the hopes that I can understand better the repeating patterns that perpetuate violence. And I’m hoping that somewhere in Israel and somewhere in Palestine, there are people who are much smarter than I am who will rise from this mess with clear visions of how to break this awful cycle and begin to seriously work for peace.