Ever since my first of many trips to Israel, in 1976, just three years after the Yom Kippur war, and only nine years after the Six Day War in which Israel gained the territory known as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, filled with millions of Palestinians, as well as the Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula (since returned to Egypt), I have known that it was untenable for Israel to hold onto these occupied territories with millions of Palestinian residents, and maintain its stature as both a Jewish and democratic state. I was only 17 years old, but the demographics were obvious even then, and they have become even more obvious since that time.

Yet, here we are, nearly 50 years after my first trip to Israel and the cycle of terror and retribution continues unabated, with the latest horrendous Hamas attack and slaughter of hundreds of innocent men, women and children and the yet to be concluded Israeli onslaught of Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world. Things have only gotten worse. Though humans like to call themselves the most intelligent creatures on Earth, watching what is going on in Israel and Gaza right now, it hardly appears that humans are intelligent at all. Of course, there are many intelligent Israelis and many intelligent Palestinians. Yet, the prevailing willingness to slaughter each other’s innocent civilians with no reasonable outcome in sight can only be described as idiotic.

While I have felt I needed to write something about the latest chapter in this seemingly never-ending conflict, I have tread cautiously because I see no point in simply adding to the noise out there and I see a lot of noise. There is so much one-sided nonsense on both sides that it is sickening. Moreover, I know that anyone reading this might decide I am taking the wrong side. To them I say, I am on the side of peace and justice. I am on the side of innocent children.

For those who believe Israel can do no wrong and is the only victim here — and I have friends and family both inside and outside of Israel who feel this way — I scratch my head and wonder, where do you think this latest onslaught of Gaza will end? Do you really think Israel can continue to keep millions of people trapped in a tiny desert enclave with insufficient food, water and electricity, without new terrorists lashing out once again? I have seen memes of Golda Meier stating that you cannot negotiate with those who kill children. So, as both sides kill each other’s children, the slaughter continues because both sides refuse to negotiate with each other.

For those who believe the Palestinians are the only victims, do you actually believe that innocent festival goers, many of whom were not Israelis, many of whom have worked tirelessly against the Israeli government’s policies which dehumanize Palestinians, deserved to die? Do you really think that this horrible slaughter of innocents will bring freedom to Palestinians? Did Hamas do anything to protect innocent Gazans from the slaughter that it knew Israel would foment against Gaza after its horrific attack?

I know that anyone reading this might decide I am taking the wrong side. To them I say, I am on the side of peace and justice. I am on the side of innocent children.

Fortunately, there are heroes on both sides who understand that repeating the never ending cycle of attack and retribution will only end in more death and suffering, and that there is no end to this cycle. But it was not until I read this Facebook post from Israeli Gadi Algazi, that I understood how each side justifies this never ending cycle of pain and death. While I encourage you to read his eloquent post yourself, in summary, this horrific cycle continues because each side considers the other barbarians. Once you dehumanize actual human beings and simply consider them barbaric, then there are no rules which will hold you back from slaughtering them.

It is a fairly remarkable end product of decades of propaganda that there are Israelis and in fact, many around the world who can consider innocent Palestinian children barbarians such that they have no compunction about starving them and killing them. Indeed, even Egypt has adopted this stance as it refuses to open its border with Gaza for fear of what? Apparently, Egypt does not want to let barbarians into its country, regardless of whether they are babies.

At the same time, it is a similarly remarkable end product of decades of propaganda that there are Palestinians and others around the world who can consider innocent Israeli children barbarians such that they have no compunction about putting a bullet in their heads. This horrific trope that Israelis deserve to be slaughtered because of how they treat Palestinians is not only immoral (perhaps amoral) but has proven to be self-defeating, only resulting in more slaughter of innocent Palestinians and a continuation of the denial of their rights.

Of course, not everyone is taking one side or the other and not everyone considers either Israelis or Palestinians barbarians. So, how can those of us who know that there are too many innocent victims to continue this never-ending cycle of slaughter and retribution, respond in the face of such madness?

I have learned long ago that for me to provide advice to Israelis or Palestinians is pointless. They are living in the terrible world created by their terrible leaders and it is not for me from thousands of miles away to tell them how to fix their problems. However, I can provide advice to Americans and American leaders.

First, American leaders must refrain from adopting the barbarian mentality that perpetuates the slaughter of innocents on both sides. Recently, Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, along with 54 other members of Congress wrote a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that models an appropriate U.S. response. To begin with they are clear that they:

unequivocally condemn Hamas’ shocking and horrifying terrorist attack on Israel. This is the worst perpetration of violence inflicted on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Our hearts are with those who were tragically killed and their loved ones who mourn their loss. We also continue to hope for the safe return of those who were taken hostage by Hamas, including American citizens, and stand ready to support your Administration in bringing them home.

They go on to state that:

As efforts are made to rescue hostages, we urge those carrying out military operations to follow international humanitarian law and protect innocent civilian lives on both sides.

The letter is well worth reading in its entirety, but these priorities are worth pointing out, urging the U.S. to:

  • Communicate that Israel’s response in Gaza must be carried out according to international law and take all due measures to limit harm to innocent civilians;
  • Work to quickly restore the delivery of food, water, fuel, electricity, and other life-saving necessities to Gaza to ensure that innocent civilians have the basics needed for survival;
  • Collaborate with regional partners to establish a humanitarian corridor to enable the delivery of such life-saving necessities and to allow Palestinian civilians and foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, to seek safe haven outside of Gaza;
  • Publicly discourage any hate crimes and backlash against any American—including Jews and Muslims—including by communicating to the American people that Hamas is not the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people are not Hamas;
  • Ensure that supplemental funding requests to Congress include humanitarian assistance for both Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis.

Finally, the letter concludes that:

the US government and the global community must continue the tough work to achieve lasting peace in the region. The future and safety of Israelis and Palestinians are intertwined. We cannot achieve lasting peace and security for Israelis without addressing the humanitarian crises in Gaza and the West Bank.

To those who feel helpless in watching each side slaughter the other side, I encourage you to support those on the ground who are working together as Israelis and Palestinians to end this madness from the inside. These groups refuse to accept the dominant propaganda that the other side are all barbarians. I know the leaders of Standing Together and the Parents Circle of Bereaved Palestinian and Israeli Families for Peace, and just as Irish mothers from both sides brought peace to Northern Ireland after so many years of horrific conflict, I believe that with our support, these groups can accomplish what no Israeli or Palestinian politician has ever accomplished — peace and justice for both peoples and an end to considering the other as barbarians.

This article originally appeared in the Wisconsin Examiner, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: [email protected]. Follow the Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.