OP-ED: Anger Isn’t Enough

ACC Student Ruby Krimstein speaks about the danger of division that she has witnessed in college spaces following developments in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

By Ruby Krimstein

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel we’ve seen an precedented level of violence for the region. With news of the ongoing war, the effects of the conflict have amplified contentions beyond the warzone. Both online and in public life, it’s now common to see sympathies veer into something resembling a team sport. But this kind of dynamic flattens the real and grave conditions people are facing, and stagnates productive curiosity. Communication in this state renders a tragic, complicated, and a deeply personal issue for many, into an unwinnable war of good vs. evil.

On Oct. 7, Israeli civilians were brutally murdered, raped, and kidnapped. Yet because of the political backdrop, their deaths were immediately followed by Anti-Israel protests. Bubbles of activists praised these acts in the name of Palestinian support. One Cornell professor even claimed to be “exhilarated” by Hamas’s actions. At the time of his comment, graphic details of these actions are circulating online. Live footage taken and spread by Hamas shows how sadistic this slaughter was, and how gleefully it was committed. It was unimaginably depraved. There’s nothing exhilarating to me about rape, torture, or murder.

My views on this war are still so raw, and so deeply personal that they feel ineffable. Rather than framing my perspective around a single political force, I’m drawn to much more confusing realities. Realities like my work with Israeli children at a Jewish daycare and how, the other day, I saw a photo of a bullet-ridden entry to a kibbutz Kindergarten; its welcome sign, decorated with owl stickers and Hebrew comic sans, looked so familiar to me. 

It’s surreal and sobering to glimpse the utter mundanity of lives now destroyed. In a war of lineage, religion, and identity, I can’t tear my eyes away from the secularity of anguish. It’s clear that anguish has no bounds in this conflict; it just expands and destroys lives. 

I don’t know the Palestinian perspective as innately as the Jewish perspective, but I can’t possibly restrict my sense of horror when I see the news from Gaza. The suffering there is unbearable, and I’d be inhuman not to see that. I can’t help but want to scream at the sheer arbitrariness of faith, politics and land when it comes to human life.

But I’m not naïve. This war is a mess, and it’s not fought with reason, morality, or logic. The truth is that too many fates are interconnected and too many factors complicit in this ongoing war for it to fit in a narrow perspective.

So much of this moment leaves me exasperated, but none as much as the rigidity of thought in popular discourse. There seems to be a prevailing push towards admonition, and away from pragmatic analysis. There are certainly many forces worthy of admonition among the leaders of Israel and Palestine, but too much focus on blame flattens the immediate and more important question of safety and peace. 

As an American Jew, I can’t help but see how much gets lost in the fractured rhetoric, and I can’t help but be hurt by it. By nature, I see the world from a Jewish lens; I look at all jews as an extension of myself. The civilians of Israel are often referred to as colonizers, but most of them were born there for generations. Further, those who settled there after the Holocaust weren’t driven by colonial intentions, but to flee from genocide. I’m not arguing that this negates any detrimental impacts, but that the distinct motive matters.

So much seems overlooked that I feel unable to address, like how Hamas explicitly declared their intention to “fight Jews and kill them”, and refuted coexistence in their 1998 covenant. I personally find the Israeli far right just as complicit in the war, and many Israelis have long opposed Netanyahu, and consider settlers a rebuked minority.

It saddens me that I feel the need to explain that Israelis are not a hive mind. I feel constantly put into a state of defense because the reality of Israelis gets routinely flattened by the false dichotomy of “Pro-Israel” vs. “Pro-Palestine.” If there’s anything to glean from the brutal scope of this conflict, it’s that no side is wholly good or wholly evil. 

 The reality of peace has been constantly obstructed by the most dogmatic and power hungry forces from both sides. Neither Hamas nor the Israeli far right want peace, they want total power. Total power from either side of extremists would undoubtedly mean total obliteration of the other. 

I fear the dark side of pain and grief; the side that forges self-protection into weapon. I fear the instinct of revenge, especially in a situation fraught with grief on all sides. I believe this mutation of pain is at the core of the staunchness that led to the. Pushed too far and too long, the impulse of self-protection becomes an impulse to vanquish the “other”. I fear this very impulse is permeating society beyond the warzone, turning concerned outsiders against each other rather than utilize their privilege of freedom and safety to work together for peace.

Whatever one believes about ancestral claims, the realities of Palestinians and Israelis are knitted together. Whatever solution lies ahead, one side can’t simply be amputated.

It’s paradoxical that college campuses are major settings for political hostility. A higher education is a choice, a privilege, an effortful and expensive endeavor but, above all, it’s a pursuit of education. Universities are the last place that diverse perspectives should be shut down. Students in community college particularly know that college is not just a passive pursuit. The privilege of receiving a higher education is access to the wider world and learning by means of interacting with it. 

History is important in this conflict, but the present and the future are urgent. Engaging in this conflict is anyone’s right, but in doing so one has a responsibility not to amplify animosity. If the most important concern is the safety and long term wellbeing of civilians in danger, then anger isn’t enough and retribution is premature. If the goal is to help, then make an effort to know the function of your words and actions. Nothing about this situation is trivial. A poorly executed solution could mean the mass death or deportation of an entire human population.

At this point I’m tired of arguing. Everyone will have a different perspective founded upon their full human experience. Differences of personal grief can’t be resolved by blame, charged words, or attempts to justify violence. 

Anger gives a false sense of clarity and control. In a state of outrage, you don’t have to entertain confusion or uncertainty. Those in the warzone are angry and terrified because they are in an active fight to survive. Though one can still feel their pain beyond the warzone, we have the privilege of safety, but also its responsibility. Safety allows us the ability to think clearly and rationally, and that is far harder to access under life threatening conditions. If we care, and want to actually work to secure a better future for Palestinian civilians, we shouldn’t take our safety for granted.

*DISCLAIMER: The opinions, ideas, and beliefs that are expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, ideas, and beliefs of ACCENT Student Media or Austin Community College as a whole.