Victims and Terrorists Alike
For the past few months, there have been recurring events in the news where a Palestinian and a soldier come in contact, with the end result nearly always being the death of the Palestinian. Two weeks ago, a video from Hebron was released showing a soldier shooting a subdued Palestinian who lay on the floor. The last week of April, two Palestinians - a pregnant mother of two and her brother - were shot and killed by soldiers at the Qalandia checkpoint. Like clockwork, these events are reported by Palestinian and Israeli news channels offering two opposing accounts of what happened.
The Israeli news outlets report that the soldiers were placed in a life-threatening position and they shot out of self-defense, whereas the Palestinian news outlets report that the Palestinians were shot and killed without posing any immediate threat to the soldiers’ lives. The same live video footage of these events is used to support each narrative.
We, as Palestinians and Israelis, get caught up in this conflict, trying to convince ourselves and the other side that we are the victims and the other is the terrorist. We are easily pulled into this conflict of narratives and rush to make generalizations and justifications for our actions without taking any responsibility for our role in escalating the situation.
We may be unaware of what these words - victim and terrorist - mean, or perhaps we are unaware of the extent to which they guarantee prolonged injustices to all of us. When using these words, we ensure that those who coin the phrases and assign the terms to individuals dictate the narrative that follows, while the true victims pay the highest price. As long as we continue to support such polarizing narratives, we empower the media outlets and government spokespeople who tout their righteousness and the other’s inhumanity, and we sentence ourselves to continued injustice.
There are no longer victors in our conflict. Maram, Ibrahim, Abed and other Palestinians have lost their lives as a result of this conflict, and all their families and friends will mourn their loss for many years to come. Elor and the other soldiers whose names have not been released and who may or may not be prosecuted and tried for the killing of a human being have also lost a part of their humanity, weakening their moral, spiritual and mental health. Their families and friends will mourn this loss for many years to come.
Palestinians and Israelis continue to pay the highest price. Personal lives have been shattered, and those responsible for this situation continue to be in power. To end this conflict, we must stop trying to convince ourselves that being the victim absolves us from taking responsibility for our actions. We must focus our efforts on elevating new voices that value life and peace for both peoples. We can reclaim our power as creators.