Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Perspective: Extend empathy to all who suffer from the Israel-Palestine conflict

Jewish and Palestinian communities often present conflicting histories, omitting aspects of the other’s experience largely because they have yet to engage with people from “the other side.” At times, influential figures like political leaders, educators or family members believe their people cannot grasp the complexities of holding two perspectives simultaneously.

This assumption can further unwavering support for one’s communityand sow ignorance toward its contributions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a proud Jewish student, I believe that condemning the suffering of both peoples, not solely one, is the strongest path to peace.

Amid escalating violence against the Jewish community in the late 1800s across Eastern Europe orchestrated by non-Jewish citizens, nationalists, local officials and soldiers — including anti-Jewish riots and the looting, raping and murdering of Jewish victims — my family escaped to the United States to pursue freedom, prosperity and safety.

Unfortunately, many other European Jews were unable to flee Europe before the Holocaust. The later creation of a Jewish state in Palestine gave Jews a place they could live without fear of persecution. Many Jewish people passed down the idea that Israel was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” But this story is incomplete.

During Israel’s creation, its early prime minister, David Ben Gurion, proposed a system of expansion and transport of Palestinians to neighboring Arab nations to create this haven for the Jewish people — a sanctuary for survivors of genocide. It was a land where our government would not turn against us, and our fellow citizens would not become our killers, a land where we could live. But for many reasons, compromises failed between Palestinian and Jewish leaders. Until I entered college, I only knew how Israel was a haven for Jews.

I soon began encountering stories about the war in Gaza and tragedy faced by innocent Palestinians, from the beginning of Israel’s creation to today. As my family discussed the conflict at our dinner table, I began to understand their perspectives, ranging from strong criticism of the Israeli government to complete justification. Once I was exposed to ideas left out from the mouths of others, I couldn’t ignore them.

Acknowledging the suffering of both peoples is impossible when any side justifies violence toward the other as a method of protecting their own people, instead of ending the violence altogether. Why is it that I only say Israeli hostages’ names on one side and say “glory to our martyrs” on the other? We all have legitimate calls for a haven, so why can’t I advocate for both to have one? The haven of Israel feels more like a dystopia — a place that grants my survival at the cost of another, placing its hands over my ears so I don’t hear the blasts from thousands of miles away.

Israel’s refuge saved many Jewish people after the Holocaust, but displaced thousands of innocent people. Hezbollah and Hamas continue to bomb Israel, murdering and holding innocent people hostage. The Israeli government is killing thousands of innocent Palestinians, destroying homes and imprisoning innocent people without fair trials. These disturbing truths don’t go against each other — instead, they should unite everyone toward empathy, peace and humanity. And the more that influential figures keep their communities in the dark about these realities, the greater the distrust will be when their peoples discover the truth independently.

The most straightforward lessons of sharing have been erased from my memory and replaced with selfishness, a mindset shaped by the need to survive. Instead of embracing multiple perspectives, the stories of my ancestors’ survival overshadowed the lessons of unconditional empathy. But sharing empathy is not a zero-sum game — it can be extended to all people suffering in the conflict, not just our own.

I am the new generation. My great-grandparents fled antisemitism in Europe, and now it is my time to lend a helping hand to those who still face violence and displacement regardless of their connection to the conflict. When one person shows empathy, it doesn’t detract from others’ capacity to be empathetic — it inspires more empathy and understanding. Do not fear the loss of societal support for your community by advocating for others.

It is time to stop the war. It is time to end the terror. It is time to release the hostages. It is time to end the occupation.

Reese Tolchin is a rising junior majoring in sociology.

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