It is a strange thing to see the spirit of war rising up like a patriotic demon: suddenly people want to sacrifice their lives and the lives of those they love to prove they are stronger and they are braver and more powerful than the “others.” Suddenly victory is the alcohol that makes everyone drunk. However, the only reward of victory is more death.
From my experience as a person who lost his brother in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I can testify that war is the worst idea human beings have ever conceived. Humans condemn wars all the time when they lack a reason to join. The difficult choice is when you have a reason, or a justification, to fight.
In order to feel good about the death and bloodshed of war, people find reasons to justify it. In the current conflict, Israel is responding to an attack from Hezbollah. On the other hand Hezbollah is fighting for freedom. Who is right? Who is justified? I don’t care to answer that question. In my mind, it does not matter who is justified, because in war there is no justice. King Solomon said, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
In the Arab media, every day we see hundreds of pictures of those who have been killed in Lebanon. The pictures of dead children, stiff and lifeless, can move a heartless man to sorrow, anger and the desire to avenge. In Israeli media, each day we see pictures of areas bombed by Hezbollah, along with pictures of the Israeli soldiers or citizens who were hurt or killed. Just as we see only our own dead in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in the current Lebanese-Israeli crisis each side sees only his own justification.
In Israel many people feel the world is seeking the destruction of Israel. Arabs are haunted by a different feeling, the humiliation of being unable to defend and provide for their own families. Hezbollah uses these feelings to rally the Arab public to its side and justify its attacks. Both cultures cling to survival and ethnic pride, shame and honor. Just as some view Israel’s fight against Hezbollah as defending the Jewish nation, some view Hezbollah’s fight against Israel as protecting the Arab heritage.
In the end, brave men and women go to fight and die for their “justified cause.” Fathers and brothers become heroes by dying in the battle field. But is this what we want? More heroes in our communities? What good is it to have the feeling of victory without those we love around us?
In these times, it is important for people who are against yet another war to stand united together, Israelis and Arabs together. Our war is not against each other, but against the empty justifications that drive us to kill our neighbors. It is important for our group as Arab-Israeli bereaved families to remind people of the pain that emerges because of violent conflicts. Death will not bring security or honor to anybody. Let us remember and remind others of the Proverb, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Aziz Abu Sarah