- By Seth Allard
Guest Opinion. We stacked up on the house, covering windows and doors. With a kick, I crossed the threshold – and froze. Cussing and shoving brought me back and I moved through the ‘fatal funnel’ (entry point in urban warfare). We cleared the small house and I returned to him. 9, 10 years old, unresponsive. Seizing. Were his parents killed? Flee the insurgency, our advance, or both? Skin and bones, dying of starvation, dehydration, and exposure, he did what a child might before slipping into unconsciousness – hugging himself on the floor. I don’t know if he lived. Nobody answered, “is the kid alright?” We simply continued clearing houses during our 2005 Iraq operation. My 19-year-old self knew it was wrong. The thought surfaces: there is no just war. Just war.
A disturbing trend characterizes violence in Gaza and Israel: you cannot condemn killing children. Israeli and American factions perceive this statement as existential threat to Israel and the ideological position of politicians and establishment media. Unequivocally pleading for peace makes you a target. At what point did “children should not be murdered” make you a target of hatred?
If I say crushing Palestinian children into unrecognizable shapes via airstrikes is inhumane, I am anti-Semitic, supporting terrorism, enemy to America. If I say Israeli children, stacked in piles or captured by Hamas is horrific, I am colonialist, pro-Zionist, Islamophobic. I am neither. I am a Native American, Marine Corps Veteran, mental health professional decrying the unjust and criminal nature of war, foreseeing greater injury to future generations.
Imprisoned by factionalism and unable to recognize common humanity, how can we build on tenets of truth and reconciliation? We hear Palestinian and Israeli voices and calculate how their words support or challenge our personal narratives, regardless of historical, ethical, and lived truths behind the violence. We participate in and are ruled by factionalism that sees life as selectively valuable and believes that independence is achieved through violent deaths of others, even innocent children who are knowingly killed. As an Ojibwa man and member of a Protector Clan, this war is unjust in its entirety.
Palestinian Bassem Youseff emphasizes that Israeli strategists and their backers admit that airstrikes and apartheid put welcome pressure on Palestinians to change policy and leadership. This makes Israeli tactics a textbook example of terrorism, due to use or threat of violence to force political results. Hamas and Israel both engage in terrorism.
The Israeli UN Ambassador recently called for the resignation of the UN Secretary General, who stated that Hamas’ October 7th attack “did not occur in a vacuum.” Taking the Israeli position, that the attack was completely unprovoked, is to say that human behavior occurs in a vacuum. Israel’s attacks on Gaza and bombing refugee camps, therefore, contradicting accepted just war doctrine, is an unprovoked attack on civilians based on race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality. Events surrounding October 7th are led by factions experiencing mass cognitive distortions, who believe that understanding equates excusing.
Holding the memory of the Holocaust, Jews sought safety from Western antisemitism in a deadly zero-sum game of Zionist self-determination and political marginalization, displacement, and death to all opposition. Any diplomacy is arrested by “Never Again,” casting Palestinians and peace activists as Nazis in the Israeli, and due to their strong influence in U.S. politics, American imagination. human rights advocates, “Nazis,” are fired, doxed, physically attacked, as seen in the killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy.
Hamas pursued an appalling terrorist strategy, with outside actors seeing Palestinians as pawns for regional control. Of course, having a designated terrorist organization in control of Gaza strategically subverts Palestinian autonomy. Regarded as opportunities in international and American domestic politics, Palestinians and Israelis live in historical and global realities of necropolitics. In a tragic twist, Western backers of Zionism are historically the staunchest antisemites, Christian kingdoms sending more armies to massacre European Jewish and heretical communities during the crusades than to the Holy Land. Jews often prospered among Arab Muslims, who share common linguistic and cultural characteristics – Hebrew and Arabic are Semitic Languages.
The traumatized mindset in both camps, characterized by threat, abuse, and defensiveness as the norm, was too easy for regional and global actors to manipulate. Foremost among them, American politicians and media drawing connections between Israel-Palestine violence and American perceptions of Muslims and Jews as proxy fighters in the battle for civilization and American hegemony.
While not speaking for all Indigenous people, I see the complex and reprehensible pattern of symbolic manipulation and demonizing, settler-colonialism, and apartheid as the foundation of this violence, and the parallels in the history of Turtle Island. A University College London study concluded that Euro-American settlement inflicted an estimated loss of 56 million Indigenous people, a genocide so massive it shifted our climate. We were designated as semi-human and threats to Western civilization, especially during resistance. Corralled into inhospitable, crowded spaces, kept on life support with a diet and conditions that contributed to public health crises, our political and economic power faded alongside the silenced memory of our genocide. Still, we fight through internal and external barriers to reclaim our identity and language.
But what will hatred towards a Jewish person accomplish, considering that Jews in America and worldwide are crying loudly, “Not in Our Name!” in solidarity with Palestinians and condemnation of Israeli factions. Disregarding the reality of human emotional motivations restricts our view of human vulnerabilities and strengths, reducing our dependence on relationality and reciprocity. None of this invalidates trauma but challenges us to grow within grief. We cannot heal by justifying or visiting pain on others. Peace for Palestinians and Israelis must take “both and,” not “if or” positions.
We are not ruled by our better Spirits in this Nakba – as rockets into Tel Aviv, shivering captives, disintegrated children, and blood-soaked doctors tell us. How we speak and act in addressing this loss of humanity displays our merit to future generations. “Violence is bad, but that is war” is a repeated fallacy that aligns with political agendas and racial animosities, making murder of children emotionally convenient and justifiable. We will be our own judge, as moral injury will form like cancer within combatants, news pundits, writers, religious and political leaders involved, and within American political leadership and citizenry who seek power and social advantage by supporting violent factions, apartheid and terrorism.
Fighters mustn’t surrender their sense of honor, which should align with the complete and unequivocal pursuit of life, protection of innocent peoples, and resolution of conflict. Echoing Morihei Ueshiba, a warrior is “one who serves and adheres to the power of love.” Military ethics include accepting risks to your person, status, freedom, even your life, when choosing between harming innocents or following orders. Adapted from Myamoto Musashi, “You may abandon your body, but you must preserve your honor.” Media pundits and political leaders, who pull a complex social, historical, and emotional trigger by disregarding accountability and gain a twisted sense of power and fulfillment must stop manipulating this situation and encouraging violence.
As a child, I said to my grandmother “I hate” something. An Elder and survivor of boarding schools, with a valid right to feel hatred, she replied “you cannot hate. You can dislike, you can disagree. But you cannot hate.” Be careful of those who do not practice this wisdom. How do we benefit from aligning ourselves with weaponization and deployment of words and symbols against an entire people, or doing the opposite and believing, as a retired General and combat Veteran once told me, that while there are evil acts there are no evil people? The first step in solving any problem of humanity is acknowledging its existence. It is not a perfect first step. Complete and immediate ceasefire, with sustained negotiations that weave recognition of historical trauma with emancipation and reconciliation is the goal. But if we see violence as justifiable, this goal is impossible.
There is no just war. There is just war.
Seth Allard (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) is a Marine Corps veteran, a PhD student of social work at Wayne State University. He has a master’s in anthropology and bachelor’s in history from Western Michigan University. He has published with Marine Corps University Press, Marine Gazette, Routledge Press, the Havok Journal, and Real Clear Defense. He is also a Health Policy Research Scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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