By Miriam Hauertmann
Since the first long-range rockets reached Jerusalem on the 10th of May, I have carefully followed the 11-day fighting between Hamas and the Israeli forces. An outburst of violence, which is said to be the most severe in the recent history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
To be completely honest, I knew significantly little about this matter until this late escalation of the conflict. Even now that I have started researching and am trying to catch up on current events, it is challenging to keep up and wrap my head around the region’s complex past. I am aware that, as a German citizen, with no direct affiliation to the area whatsoever, I am privileged enough to choose whether I want to make this conflict part of my scope of interests. Furthermore, I realize that growing up in a country with a high standard of national security, news of conflict and human suffering can seem distant and hardly relatable. With the spread of standardized images of distress and hardship within vulnerable communities and individuals, human suffering has become a common and widely accepted phenomenon.
My initial idea for this piece was to write about anti-Semitism, questioning why advocating for Palestinian human rights may be anti-sematic. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized that any opinion concerning Israel-Palestine could be seen as antisemitic. Adding a European context, more precisely a German context, voicing any opinion on the conflict can easily turn into a slippery slope. The fact is that on both sides, civilians have suffered and are suffering direct and indirect consequences of this war. Moreover, whole generations have been exposed to physical and psychological trauma by a conflict characterized on the surface as a territorial dispute. At its core, however, it encapsulates identity and self-determination.
With Hamas on one side, running an authoritarian and military-led regime of the Gaza Strip, the EU, the US, Canada, Japan, and Israel have listed them as a terrorist group. However, as Palestinian politics are majorly fragmented, Fatah represents the Palestinians in West Bank, whereas Hamas leads the Gaza Strip. On the other side, Netanyahu’s 12 year-long, right-winged governance is representative of Israelian politics. Nevertheless, recent elections show that not all Israelis support his ideology and that a right-winged stance of the country does not align with all its population. Similarly, neither Hamas nor Fatah can be viewed as the sole representative of the Palestinian public.
This highlights that in a conflict that is as complex as Israel-Palestine, nothing is just black or white. The toxic mentality of “If you are not with us, you are against us” does not stick as the real issue lies in finding a solution that relieves the suffering of all involved. Through debates whether the free Palestine movement is intrinsically antisemitic or views that are convinced that standing in solidarity with Israel means automatic anti-Palestinian freedom, it seems like we get caught up in the black and white surface. Instead of trying to find solutions, we are absorbed in arguing our point of view and preoccupied with proving the other side wrong.
Ultimately, innocent civilians bear the burden of this conflict, caught in the crossfire between two extremist views. It is the international community’s responsibility to recognize that as long as these kinds of thoughts are upheld, the suffering will continue. In the end, what should matter the most is not being either pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, but rather and simply being pro-human life.
Cover photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona
Miriam Hauertmann is a documentary photographer and visual storyteller, whose work focuses on migration and environmental issues such as climate change. She is currently specializing in humanitarian action to broaden her understanding of contemporary crisis and their approaches. In her work, she aims to use the camera as a tool of empowerment; the photographic process itself to act as inspiration and form of communication between the photographer and the photographed.