“Never Again!” It’s often the rallying cry against the Holocaust ever being repeated. People vowing to not let it happen. We hear it now after Hamas’s actions on October 7.
But I heard the words “never again” from a Muslim woman in a class I’m teaching at Harvard Divinity School on faith-based community organizing. She was talking about the discrimination and targeting of Muslims that happened after 9/11 and now she is fearful that it’s starting again because of the reactions against Hamas’s slaughter of 1,400 Jews and the taking of 250 hostages. A recent estimate (11/6) put the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli bombs at 10,000, and we’re maybe only at the beginning of the war.
People want to be seen and empathized with. We see that in the strong reactions against statements from organizations, universities, hospitals, governments, and politicians that talk more about the Jews killed or more about the Palestinians killed. Talking about both doesn’t make anyone feel better, either.
Meanwhile, the “Never Again” pledge has not been fulfilled by our world when we look at subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Myanmar, et al. That’s on all of us. But I’m digressing.
I was impressed reading about the Brothers in Arms group in Israel. They are mostly veterans and reservists who have been leaders in the groups who protested in huge numbers against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s major changes to the legal system. But after the Hamas carnage, they quickly pivoted to vast relief work for the 60,000 Jews displaced from land near to Gaza, helping the military get vests and helmets, and researching social media to verify hostages’ identities. Reportedly 15,000 people a day are part of their efforts. This is impressive.
The ongoing situation brings to mind the ancient Gordian Knot fallacy – that the only resolution to a complex problem is swift and bold action. Killing civilians whether by Hamas or Israel is indefensible. But Hamas can’t be allowed to survive or they will do this again. And this leads to killing civilians in Gaza while hunting for Hamas. And that leads to inflaming antisemitism greatly in our country and abroad, and yet another generation of Palestinians who see Israel as an occupying oppressor.
We need to find ways to overcome this huge dilemma. It will take wisdom, guts, common sense, charity, empathy, and prayers. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, and from all of us. I don’t know the way forward but enough of us together do. And God made us able to do this.
Lewis Finfer is a community organizer and a Dorchester resident.