After reading Brian Arola’s Nov. 19 article, “Students clash over Middle East,” I could not help but be struck by the rhetoric of justification from both the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organizations. Arola’s interviewees are quoted not as trying to open a dialogue — as Arola misrepresented in the article’s lead — but attempting to justify the use of force, which has led to the death of civilians. Instead of engaging in a rhetoric of justification, we should be moving toward a rhetoric of humanization.
In particular, Metropolitan State University professor Manuel Barrera describes violence from Gaza as “nothing but try[ing] to maintain their dignity and to stay in control of whatever little land they’ve been conceded by the thugs of Israel.” The ongoing assault of civilian cities close to the border of Gaza, such as Sderot, needs no justification because it is simply an attempt at dignity. Barrera’s statement tacitly condones violence against Israel by dehumanizing Israel. Israel is no longer a civilized country or people but a band of violent criminals. They are no longer human, and therefore, violence against them is justified.
On the opposing side, David Axelrod seemingly justifies Israel’s violence through their desire for peace. While his argument is mostly omitted, it surely follows the logic that, because Israel wants peace, its violence is only in self-defense. While Israel has conceded territory, they also withhold building materials from Gaza and restrict movement from the Gazans. Further, Israel has a history, which continues to this day, of racial discrimination against Arabs, including Arab Jews euphemistically called Mizrahim or
When an innocent human life is lost, it is a tragedy regardless of which side they are on. A university is one of the few places someone can devote their life to the study of the human condition. Let us remember the humanity of both sides and move toward a true dialogue that rejects the current rhetoric of justification and tries to recognize the shared humanity of both sides. Both Israelis and Gazans have lost children, spouses and dear friends. There are people on both sides who are working toward peace; let us not marginalize them and their struggle by continuing to justify violence against innocent humans. Let us start engaging in a rhetoric of humanization.