Tweeting a War: While we watch from afar, are we complicit?

Sunset near the Tent of Nations / Nassar Farm, West Bank, June 2010. Photo by Jason Miller.

I read with great relief about this week’s 72 hour humanitarian cease fire in Gaza. I pray that it is for good. I went to Israel and the West Bank as part of an innovative dual-narrative tour with Israeli and Palestinian guides in 2010, during the middle of the Gaza Flotilla incident and have been interested in the conflict there ever since. The last month has been a particularly strange experience trying to keep up on the latest news. Rather than checking news outlets, I’ve been getting twitter notifications on my phone from young Gazans on the ground—16 year old girls and 20-something college graduates, reporting directly on what’s happening there, usually right before I make dinner or go to bed.

As I read the tweets that will soon give me nightmares-I wonder how it’s possible that so many ordinary citizens who seemed to have lost life’s lottery still try to remain hopeful despite the death and destruction. Most Palestinians are just ordinary citizens, who want to live a normal life like anyone else, and yet, it’s easy to dehumanize them as the “other” because of the nature of the government in Gaza. Hamas gives Israel the justification it needs for civilian causalities. No longer are people in Gaza human beings, but rather, human shields (a debunked myth), collateral damage, or worse, which makes it much easier to justify bombing schools or places of worship. As with most instances of war, it is civilians who end up suffering the most and can do little about their own plight.

When the Gulf War started in 1991 and was broadcast on CNN, it fascinated the American public, able to watch far away bombings from the comfort of their living rooms. War once again became theater, like the days of old, only this time, it was much more distant and detached. Drone warfare further dehumanized acts of war, almost making it like a video game. Most Americans never have to face wars up close—war is for foreigners in far off places, or for poor Americans who enlist, not “us.”

Middle East politics involves feuds and grudges that have existed for centuries, and lately, they’ve made strange bedfellows. As John Stewart so aptly pointed out recently, the United States supplies arms to Israel, and also to Qatar, who then sells them to Hamas. If the United States is selling weapons to both sides in the name of our country’s chosen god, the almighty corporate dollar, does that make Americans complicit in acts of war? What about when we buy products from corporations which make money from war profiteering or when we pay our taxes to the government? And perhaps worse, have we forgotten so much about our shared interconnectedness as fellow human beings that we simply no longer care about innocent people being killed half a world away?

Each night before I go to bed, I have to turn off my phone, to keep it from buzzing all night and reminding me of the horrors of war, at least for a few hours. But before I do, I remind myself of Pope Francis who recently alluded to the words of St. Francis of Assisi and said:

“Now, Lord, help us! Grant us peace, teach us peace, guide us toward peace. Open our eyes and our hearts and grant us the courage to say: ‘no more war!’; ‘with war all is destroyed!’ Instill in us the courage to perform concrete actions to build peace…. Make us willing to listen to the cry of our citizens who ask that our arms be transformed into instruments of peace, our fears to trust and our tensions to forgiveness.”

Pope Francis is right: working for peace is never in vain. We must keep those trapped in the horrors of war, no matter who they are, in our thoughts and prayers.

And may we continue to examine our own lives, speak out for peace, work towards justice, and always remember that we are all members of the same human family.

Jason Miller is FAN’s Director of Campaigns and Development. Follow him on twitter @419in703

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Published in: on August 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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