South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

OPINION: They are people not numbers

How to talk about the war in Gaza

1300 Israeli civilians were murdered in an attack on Oct. 7 conducted by the violent organization that has attempted to govern the Gaza strip known as Hamas.  

We are approaching a time full of ferocious blood thirst and sheer paranoia that has not been seen since the post 9/11 Bush era, and much like that era, people are once again using pointless violence to justify further pointless violence. 

This is not something any one of us is responsible for, and it’s not something we can stop, but one thing we can do is educate ourselves. This will help our fellow Israeli and Palestinian peers feel safe on campus, and it will also help to limit bigoted and hatful attacks against our fellow Americans, which are already beginning to happen. 

I cannot, and will not, attempt to come up with a simple definitive solution for the issue, and anyone who claims that they have one is either ignorant, lying, or both. What I want to do is help clear up some misconceptions and some talking points that I have heard, because this is a topic that I have seen numerous people get racist and antisemitic about, even when they don’t mean to be. 

This conflict is so complicated and has lasted so long that I can’t give an accurate summary here. Any summary I could give would just feel reductive, so after you finish reading this, I implore you to try your best to educate yourself as best you can on the background of the conflict because you are going to be hearing about this for a while. Vox put out a ten-minute video recently which could be a good place to start. 

The first point that I want to emphasize is that criticism of the Israeli government is not antisemitic, but it can easily become antisemitic very quickly. Saying that the Israeli government is responsible for the routine ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people is not an antisemitic statement; however, substituting “Israeli government” for “jews” is. In fact, any time someone uses those two terms synonymously, that is antisemitic because it assumes that all jews owe their allegiance to Israel. 

Also saying the Israeli government is entirely under the thumb of the United States, or that Israel is somehow involved in a larger conspiracy to control the middle east and take over the entire region is also antiemetic. This is because it feeds into the “Jewish puppet master” stereotype. 

You can also criticize the status quo and not be anti-Israel as a concept. You can think that Jewish people should have a country where they can feel safe from genocide and other religious persecution, while still thinking that the actions of the current administration are horrific and inhumane. 

I have heard people refer to some Jewish people as “self-hating Jews” because they don’t fully support the Israeli government. This is extremely gross and absurd. Criticism of Joe Biden and the American government is not considered an attack on the American people, so it doesn’t make sense for that sentiment to be applied to any other country. 

Criticism of the Israeli government does not excuse the any of the violent atrocities that Hamas have carried out and criticizing Hamas does not justify the disproportionate damage that has been done to Palestinian civilians. Hamas only came to power due to the chaos and instability caused by the Israeli government in the region.  

Just looking at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA), the number of fatalities from 2008 to 2023 in the Gaza strip alone are more than triple the number of Israeli fatalities in total at the time of me writing this. While the numbers have absolutely changed since, it still highlights the fact that Israel has been punching down to displace Palestinians. 

Gaza has also been described as “an open-air prison” according to organizations such as Human Rights Watch. This is important because I have seen people victim blame Palestinian civilians for not leaving. People don’t leave the region because they support Hamas, they don’t leave because they physically can’t. 

Instead of calling for a violent response for this needless terror attack, it would be in everyone’s best interest if we looked at why people felt like they needed to do this in the first place to prevent further death and turmoil. I am not saying that the people who carried out this attack shouldn’t be held responsible for it, but I will say that innocent Palestinian civilians should not be the ones to pay the price.  

It will also be important for people to be vigilant in the news that they consume, because even the most reliable sources have not been great at covering the intense complexity and severity of the issue. It’s going to be extremely important to not take anything at face value, do your own research, and in some cases, wait a few days for all the information to come out before repeating it to your friends or online followers. This will help curb the spread of misinformation. 

We are on a path towards a lot of unavoidable death and destruction. We need to remember that when we see death tolls on T.V. or our social media feed that those aren’t just numbers, but real people. People who didn’t ask for any of this. They have families and people who love them just like you and I, and they are about to be needlessly gunned down or blown up over a war they had no say in starting. Israeli or Palestinian, a lot of people are going to die for nothing, and we should remember that before calling for any more violence. 

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Jack McCarty, Entertainment Editor

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