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Opinion | What Happens When We Lose Sight of Our Shared Humanity

I’m astonished by a survey finding that 51 percent of American 18- to 24-year-olds say that Hamas’s killings could be justified. Have they seen the butchery committed by Hamas?

We’ve already also observed deadly threats to Jews and assaults on them, and posters of Israeli hostages have been torn down. A 6-year-old Muslim boy was murdered in a Chicago suburb in what police say was a hate crime: The boy was stabbed 26 times. I fear there’ll be more of this.

This is a path that leads nowhere, and that’s one reason I hope Israel will rein in the bombing and pursue more surgical strikes, while avoiding large-scale urban combat. Whatever you call the Gaza war so far, it is not surgical. The Economist found, based on satellite imagery, that 13 percent of Gazans have had their homes damaged in just three weeks. While the number of dead in Gaza is difficult to pin down, and many bodies are probably still uncounted in the rubble, Unicef now calls Gaza “a graveyard for thousands of children.”

The Oct. 7 Hamas attacks understandably shattered Israel: President Biden noted that if you adjust for population, the death toll was the equivalent of about 15 Sept. 11 attacks. It’s also true, as my colleague Ezra Klein noted in his podcast, that Gaza has suffered the equivalent of about 400 Sept. 11 attacks.

More children have been reported killed in Gaza in the past three weeks than in all global conflicts together in the entirety of last year, Save the Children notes. By the count of the Gaza Health Ministry, which is under the Hamas government but whose figures are roughly accepted by humanitarian agencies and in the past have been used by the State Department, a child has died on average about once every 10 minutes in the war so far.

And the Gaza war is just getting started.

I don’t think this is politically sustainable for Israel, or morally sustainable for America as we provide weapons used to kill and maim civilians. Nor do I believe it will be effective at protecting Israel.

“To kill terrorist leaders without addressing the despair of their supporters is a fool’s errand and produces more frustration, more despair, and more terrorism,” Ami Ayalon, a former leader of the Shin Bet security agency, wrote in his 2020 memoir.

When we see a Doctors Without Borders video of a 9-year-old boy having his foot amputated on a Gaza hospital floor, without adequate anesthesia, as his sister looks and waits for her own surgery, how can we not feel the same revulsion we felt watching Hamas videos of attacks on Israelis?

We can’t undo the mutilations and massacres inflicted by Hamas on Israel three weeks ago, but we can avoid maiming and killing Gazan civilians over the coming months.

If the dehumanization I encountered in Israel and the West Bank was profoundly depressing, I was inspired by those on both sides who press for reconciliation and peace. A Palestinian nurse from Jenin, Mohamed Abu Jafar, whose 16-year-old brother was shot dead by Israeli forces on the street in front of his school, is an example.

“The conflict will not be resolved in military actions,” he told me. “Because they can’t kill us all, and we can’t kill them all.”

The Biden administration says it welcomes a humanitarian pause, and it should push for this more resolutely as an occasion to provide medicine, water and food to civilians while also seeking at least a partial prisoner exchange. It should also ask Israel to refocus its warfare more narrowly on Hamas itself, because every extra bomb that hits civilians digs us deeper into this crater of hatred and will make it more difficult to ever clamber out, look into one another’s eyes and find a path to peace.

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