Tag Archives: empathy

Hate kills, we kill

Hate kills. Racists, bigots, anti-Semites, you and I kill.

We may not put our fingers on the trigger, but we must shoulder some responsibility for these killings. Until we do, they will continue, just like clockwork.

The names and ages of the most recent victims, killed within days of each other, are circulating on social media. #WeWillNeverForget

But we will forget; most of us with no connection to the victims will not be able to remember their names this time next year.

Gregory Bush

Gregory Alan Bush

Maurice E. Stallard (69) and Vickie Lee Jones (67) were both killed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky on Wednesday (October 24). Gregory A. Bush (51) has been arrested and the crime is being investigated as a hate crime. The innocent victims are black, the perp is white.

Robert Bowers

                       Robert Bowers

On Saturday (October 27), while praying in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joyce Fienberg (75), Richard Gottfried (65), Rose Mallinger (97), Jerry Rabinowitz (66), Cecil Rosenthal (59), David Rosenthal (54), Sylvan Simon (86), Bernice Simon (84), Daniel Stein (71), Melvin Wax (88) and Irving Younger (69) were shot and killed. Robert Bowers (46) faces 29 federal charges involving hate crimes punishable by death. He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.  (Watch CNN videos here.) The victims are innocent Jews, the perp is white.

The following day, Sunday (October 28), while playing near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, an Israeli airstrike killed three young Palestinian teenage boys. Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed (14), Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher (13), and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari (13) “were apparently involved in placing an improvised explosive device” near the fence, the Israeli military said. Their parents deny that the boys were involved with any militant activities.

Succumbing to the “he said, she said” arguments about what these boys were doing on the Gaza side of the fence on Sunday distracts from the fact that an extrajudicial killing took the lives of three young teenage boys who posed no danger to the Israeli military monitoring the fence. The victims were innocent young Palestinians, the perp was likely a white Jewish member of the Israel Defense Force perhaps acting on orders from other white Jewish members of the IDF. Since I can’t show you a picture of the perp, I’ll share a photo of the victims in Gaza. 3 boys killed

These killings on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday have much in common, although Americans might not understand the similarities after watching the mainstream media.

Let me explain.

  1. All of the perps are filled with irrational hate and fear of the “other”.
  2. All of the victims are innocents caught up in a larger hate-filled narrative.

Most thoughtful Americans will easily acknowledge that the perps who killed the two Blacks in Kentucky and eleven Jews in Pennsylvania are deranged madmen — White Nationalists consumed with hatred and fear of the “other”. Clearly, Robert Bowers is an anti-Semite. Some may not be able to draw the connection between all three massacres because (1) the US mainstream media portrays the victims in Gaza differently from the victims in the US, and (2) feeling empathy for the “others” in Palestine may be more difficult than feeling empathy for Americans.

“But that Israeli fighter pilot wasn’t acting out of rage or hatred,” you might say. “Presumably he was carrying out orders from above.” 

Hatred and fear of the “other” is not limited to the individual who pulls the trigger, it can rear its ugly head at the highest levels of government.  Call it Trickle Down Hatred (TDH).

Eleven Jewish community leaders have said that Donald Trump is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he decides to “fully denounce white nationalism”, following a shooting in a synagogue on Saturday.

The group are all affiliated with the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership, a liberal movement made up of “tens of thousands” of progressive Jewish members across the US, according to its website.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the leaders said in an open letter to Mr Trump. See here.

Americans have been watching in horror as Trump’s hate-filled nationalistic rhetoric eggs on his base. The same has been occurring at the highest levels of government in the State of Israel. For many years, Israeli leaders have openly expressed their fear and hatred of Palestinians. They regularly talk about the perceived demographic threat where Palestinians outnumber Israelis, and condone actions designed to dehumanize the Palestinians on a daily basis, and even openly call for the death of Palestinians (eg. an Israeli minister calling for the death of Palestinian mothers who give birth to little snakes).

Naftali-Bennett

Naftali Bennett

Most recently, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far right wing Minister of Diaspora Affairs, drew a parallel on Sunday evening between the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman and Hamas. (See here.)  Without any hesitation, Bennett casts Palestinians (ALL PALESTINIANS) as the “other,” a certain death sentence if a child is playing too near the fence.

 “Unequivocally I say that just as in Lebanon and Syria, those who cross the fence are shot. They are not 12-year-old children — they are terrorists. Those who launch balloons from Gaza must be shot . If we do not shoot them, they will multiply. We must put an end to it.”  (See here.)

The victims, whether Blacks and Jews in America or Palestinians in Gaza, represent the “other” that threatens the dominant narrative and must be eliminated. It makes absolutely no difference that a lone madman was the perp in two cases and the government of Israel sanctioned the perp’s airstrike in the third case. The same fear and hatred of the “other” motivated each of these killings.

“But how,” you might ask, “am I responsible for these hate-filled killings?” 

“I don’t hate Blacks or Jews, and I don’t have any feelings about those people in the Middle East.”

What is the opposite of hate?

Many will say it’s love, but I suggest that it’s really empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  And without empathy, we each run the risk of being complicit in the actions of those filled with hatred.

It takes real courage to empathize with another. I’m not Jewish, I’m not Black, I’m not a Palestinian. So at one level, I might think the hatred and violence perpetrated against them doesn’t touch me. Can I move beyond the superficial feelings of sympathy for these victims, and pull empathy from deep within my core? What does it take to fully and sincerely empathize with another?

  • Vulnerability — I must be honest with myself and recognize my prejudices, biases and blind-spots. I’m not the epitome of acceptance, love and understanding that I might wish to cloak myself in. This may be the hardest part of nurturing an empathetic soul.
  • Inquisitiveness — I must be willing to question myself and others, to learn from others, to pay attention, and to continually reassess what I think I know about the “other”.
  • Stepping into the shoes of the other — I will never be Black or Jewish or a Palestinian, but making the attempt to understand and experience the world in their shoes is important and a necessary step for building the empathetic soul. At a minimum, it requires respect for the other.

I believe the atrocities we are witnessing in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Gaza and elsewhere can be directly linked to mankind’s undeveloped empathy for the “other.” We may know how to put a man on the moon, but we haven’t evolved sufficiently to put ourselves in the place of the “other.”

And if you believe that the connections I’ve drawn between the victims in the three tragedies described above, are somehow a false equivalency, then I suggest you go back to step one and make yourself vulnerable to learn about the Palestinians and the horrific events occurring there daily with our tax dollars.

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands

speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, People, Uncategorized

The Goal versus the War

Trump’s policy of separating young children from their parents when they cross the border has galvanized Americans of all stripes to stand up and fight back. I’m just as appalled but I think we have an opportunity here to really wake up and smell the coffee, and I’m afraid most of us don’t see it.

Flouting the law, and lying about it, has been this Administration’s modus operandi since January 2017. Disdain for human rights, disregard for environmental protections, and disgust for the social safety net have all been blazingly transparent.

The actions at the US-Mexico border are not unexpected, and certainly not in isolation. When a protester’s sign in El Paso caught my attention – “All People in All Countries have Value” – I realized here’s a chance to connect the dots.

Palestinian children have value, Syrian children have value, Yemeni children have value, just as the children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have value. American children sleeping on the streets hungry have value. We may not be able to improve the lives of every child, but we can certainly refrain from doing harm to these children around the world, including at our southern border.

Closed 2

Here’s our opportunity to expand our wellspring of empathy and activism consistent with our country’s highest values and ideals.

For years, Israeli forces have used U.S. made weapons and munitions in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law: Hellfire missiles, tear gas, Apache helicopters, White phosphorous — even militarized Caterpillar bulldozers. Our tax dollars are killing Palestinian children “of tender age” just as directly as we’re caging young immigrant children like animals.

Most recently, Amnesty International identified US-made Remington M24 rifles being used by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians during protests along the fence with Gaza. Over 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands critically injured, including paramedics, reporters, and children.

23472746_1518214138214284_7274524142973981851_n

Changing this Administration’s policies at the border might be a short-term goal, but educating and motivating Americans to advocate, vote and demand that our government reflect our deepest held values for all children is the war that needs to be fought and won.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

All People Have Value

 

Kids and signsTrump’s policy of separating young children from their parents when they cross the border has galvanized Americans of all stripes to stand up and fight back.

Governors (Democrats and Republicans) are refusing to deploy their state’s National Guard to the border; television journalists are shedding tears on camera; mental health professionals are telling us about the long-term trauma these children will suffer; and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are telling the Administration to end this outrageous policy while proclaiming that “America is better than this!”

Marchers gathering 3

Protests were organized in many U.S. cities this week. I joined 500+ people in El Paso to March about 1.5 – 2 miles to the detention facility where many immigrants are being processed through the system after their children are removed and taken somewhere else. We chanted, yelled and some swore while the national and international media captured our stories.

By every measure, this action was successful, and Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso must be recognized for its effective organizing efforts.  Within 24 hours, President Trump had signed an Executive Order ending the separation policy.

Was it the media attention, or the Governors’ actions, or Congress, or a combination of many actions that caused Trump to reverse course? We may never know. But I have no doubt that when Americans are aroused and angry, we can move mountains.

All People in All Countries Have Value

Then why aren’t Americans aroused and angry over our government’s funding and support for Israel’s systematic killing, maiming and traumatizing of Palestinian children in Gaza?

If “All People in All Countries have Value” — how do Americans not recognize and become incensed with our government’s complicity in Israel’s war crimes?

[This isn’t the blog post to explain or convince anyone about Israel’s war crimes, but I acknowledge that lack of education may be part of the answer to my question.]

If Rachel Maddow and other journalists started crying on camera when reporting about American-made (and American financed) bombs falling on Palestinian children in Gaza, would that move anyone?

If a few Governors proclaimed their distaste for U.S. priorities, such as allocating $3+ billion each year to Israel’s war machine while cutting social programs at home, would that move anyone?

If there were simultaneous demonstrations and marches in large U.S. cities protesting Israel’s willful and deliberate killing of Palestinian children, would that move anyone?

Probably not.

Most humans (not just Americans) have a finite wellspring of empathy which seems to be doled out sparingly, as though we’re fearful that the well might run dry.  Immigrant families crossing the southern border with their children? That we can get our hearts and minds around. Palestinian families half way around the world, not so much, even though our government is directly responsible for the suffering of both.

Love Thy Neighbor

1 Comment

Filed under Media, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

I’m not pro-Palestinian

“I’m not pro-Palestinian.”

I uttered those words a few nights ago in response to a very good friend from Gaza who was sharing his thoughts about the characteristics of the activists who are “pro-Palestinian.”

I realized right away how provocative my words sounded, and how they might be misunderstood.  I also knew why my friend from Gaza labeled me “pro-Palestinian.” He’s like a son to me.  If I could shield him from the atrocities he and his family have experienced at the hands of the Israelis, and particularly the Israeli military, I would.

But my love, concern and compassion for my Palestinian friend, and many other Palestinians, doesn’t make me “pro-Palestinian.”  The label doesn’t fit me because being “pro” anything often implies one is also against something, in this case Israel and Israelis.  The world is not black/white, good/evil, wrong/right.  It’s so much more complex than that.

Being “pro-Palestinian” might imply I’ve selected a tribe to cheer for — the Palestinians — and rejected the other tribe.  In fact, I reject tribal allegiances altogether.

Being “pro-Palestinian” often raises issues of “loyalty” and “deference” and “submission” to the Palestinians and to whatever framing of the “conflict” they’ve chosen.  I’ve learned this by watching and listening to self-identified “pro-Palestinian” activists over the years.  My loyalty is not to Palestinians or to any of their many factions. I will learn from them, but I won’t defer or submit to their framing of the “conflict.”

On the other side ….

Friends, family and colleagues who self-identify themselves as Zionists or “pro-Israel” are hurt and angry that I’m not in their camp. I don’t accept their framing of the “conflict” and I reject their tribal loyalties. If I’m not with them, I must be against them, is the subtle message they often share with me.

One Jewish “pro-Israel” American rationalizes my odd opinions about Israel-Palestine by telling me — “You’re not Jewish, you’re not Palestinian, so of course you can’t understand what’s really going on over there.” — That compartmentalizing might comfort her unease but it only demonstrates how people need to understand the world by putting people in boxes.  I refuse to do that.

Instead, I seek to understand the complexities and the gray shadows cast in the region.  I try to shine a light on the things I learn, and on the things that the mainstream media callously and deliberately ignores.

I try to understand the “other” — both Israelis and Palestinians. I try to learn empathy.

This 28 minute NPR broadcast (March 22, 2016) “What happens when you empathize with the enemy?” is powerful. My Palestinian friends who reject “normalization” may reject the ideas shared by the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian professor regarding empathy but for everyone else, I think there is alot of wisdom here for open minds on both sides.

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/471283599/471350322

This week on Hidden Brain we ask, what happens when you empathize with your enemy? Why does reaching out to another tribe make our tribe so angry? We talk to Avner Gvaryahu, a former paratrooper in the Israeli army, who angered his fellow Israelis for talking about his work as a soldier. And we talk with Mohammed Dajani, a Palestinian professor who now lives in the United States out of fear for his life. His crime? He led a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz to try to help them understand the Holocaust. We also share an excerpt of a one-man play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Aaron Davidman.

 

Thanks to Libby and Len Traubman from Palo Alto, California for alerting me to this NPR broadcast.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, Video