The Grief of War Comes Full Circle: The Essence of Race Relations

Sometimes one person can change the tide. A single life. A single story. A single face. Someone to whom we can relate, someone who we can imagine as a friend. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish may now, to his own horror, fit the profile of one who can help change the course of the violence in some small measure in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Abuelaish is an unusual man, a Palestinian doctor who reports for Israeli television. Though he lives in Gaza, he was educated in Israel, speaks Hebrew, and works in an Israeli hospital. Dr. Abuelaish has been giving Israelis daily reports on the military campaign in Gaza, and he is a man who works for peace, who builds bridges between worlds. This past Friday, he witnessed three of his daughters and a niece killed by Israeli bombs (and another daughter seriously wounded). His first panicked moments of terror were broadcast live on Israeli television.

WATCH a three minute video of this television segment.

As we all know, there is often little compassion between warring people, little willingness to recognize the humanity in one another. After all, how would it be possible to kill others if we didn’t see them as less human than us? How would Palestinians find justification for launching rockets into Jewish civilian neighborhoods? How do Jews justify bombing Palestinian civilian homes in their search for their enemy?

But ironically, Dr. Abuelaish is the face of a friend to Israelis. That very simple fact is what has the power to make a difference, to crack open hearts so that enemies begin to see one another as human, as suffering, as wanting the same things for themselves and their families.

So what if we apply this to our own wars? What if we knew the faces and the stories and the pain of hundreds of thousands of grieving Iraqis as well as we are coming to know the faces of the passengers on U.S. Air Flight 1549 (the plane that landed in the Hudson River)? What if, just as we saw ourselves in the cracking composure of the father who could return home to kiss his five year old daughter after surviving a plane crash, we could see ourselves in each relationship and family that is lost and torn and broken by war? How would “our” Iraq war be different? How would we be different?

And what if we step back and apply this to the way we war with one another figuratively? How differently would we treat people who we hate from a distance if we could see ourselves in them, and if we could actually see the shared pain we all carry within?

So this story is not simply about Israelis and Palestinians; it’s about all of us.

WATCH another video that includes reactions from Dr. Abuelaish’s Jewish colleagues.