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Desolation does not entail peace

By Adel Iqbal     11/14/23 10:42pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

We have lost sight of the bigger picture in the Middle East. Intensification of violence over the preceding month has shattered the veneer of an international rules-based order, promulgating the precariousness of ascertaining global prosperity, stability and peace through sui generis multilateral frameworks devised to avert the perpetuation of such hostilities. Notably, the conflict has laid bare the alarming moral calculus precluding meaningful discourse across America’s college campuses, including our own

On Oct. 7, Israeli authorities reported an incursion of Hamas militants into Southern Israel. The unanticipated attack led to the demise of over 1,200 people — the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas has attracted international condemnation for orchestrating an attack characterized as crimes against humanity, war crimes and its heinous expression of genocidal intent to destroy the nation-state of Israel.

At present, over two hundred captives, including Israeli civilians, are reportedly held in Gaza. In response, Israel has enforced a “total blockade” on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, issued evacuation orders in northern Gaza, and taken other actions, raising questions about their legality and impact at every level of governance, security and public order. While Israel asserts its right to self-defense and effective sovereignty over the Occupied Palestinian Territories under customary international law, it must also balance this with jus in bello principles. The extent and implications of Israel's occupation in Gaza, which is seeing the deadliest conflict of the five since 2006, remain disputed.

At present, humanity finds itself at the profound crossroads of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. Despite this, it seems we are preoccupied with futile discourse about “who” or “what” to condemn, which has precipitated the current-day reality where thousands of innocent civilians have been intolerably killed with “no ceasefire in sight.” As entire populations are besieged and under attack, denied access to essentials for survival and asymmetrically targeted in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship (kibbutzim and mosques alike), we must recognize the plight unfolding in the Middle East as an outcome of collective political and moral failure. 

Amid this intractable landscape, we, as members of the Rice community, must feel compelled to ask ourselves: In seeking to mitigate regional anguish, are retributive or reconciliatory means of resolution more desirable? Does it matter?

As people of conscience, we must critically evaluate whether the pursuit of retribution and the suppression of dissent perpetuate the de facto cycle of violence. Instead, we must consider the adoption of non-violent means to attain desirable outcomes that acquiesce to the supremacy of human rights. This shift only amplifies the need to neutralize performative tactics of censorship and deceit, and embrace a collective stand to the antagonistic forces of antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry. Only in doing so can we restrain the generational pandemic of inhumanity from within the hedges. 

Let me reiterate whom I implicate: the egregiously partial media, public figures and political constituents who are culpable through inaction. Destabilizing rhetoric predicated on prejudice, intolerance and sectarianism must be unequivocally repudiated; conversely, we should refrain from inadvertently conflating such acts as an implicit endorsement of retaliatory violence. Within the Rice community, the challenge to foster productive dialogue in the public arena that can withstand the weight of contention and complexity stands. This necessitates incorporating diverse perspectives in academic discourse and facilitating forums for civil debate to encourage critical yet empathetic engagement to resist interpreting the anguish of war as fait accompli. Recognizing that our tendency toward polarization is often innately emotional in nature, our primary defense today lies in our willpower. We must extricate ourselves from the devices of division in pursuit of embracing a common humanity. 

Relinquishing the superficial divisions imposed upon our societies, we must learn not just to avoid hate, but to ascertain consensus ad idem — that you are not the “others” enemy, nor are they yours. The fabric of unity and civil discourse is fractured when emotional vulnerabilities triumph rationality. This serves only our adversaries, newly enabled and emboldened, who prioritize scapegoating and xenophobia.

Now, for the sake of humanity, we must condemn war’s explicit apologists as well as their latent conspirators in this country. It is imperative to stand united with all innocent victims of indiscriminate violence. Most importantly, we cannot afford to allow global welfare to suffer the consequences of our own inaction, in a world where de facto checks and balances on violence are often subverted to notions of political and personal expediency.

It is my sincerest hope that the Rice community can transcend the limitations of hatred and emerge united on the side of humanity. Let us be among those who cooperate for the betterment of the world and not its destruction.

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