We live in an age of extremism. Our politics is marked by right-wing and left-wing, with little room left for moderates in the middle. "Whose side are you on?!" is said with an accusatory exclamation mark, since too often it is unthinkable for someone to be on both sides; you've got to choose one or the other.
This is why I admired an essay in the November 6 issue of TIME by Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, "The world's job during the war."
Harari says that while currently both Israelis and Palestinians are too filled with pain to be able to empathize with the suffering of the other side, it is the job of outsiders who are not in such extreme pain to keep alive the quest for peace.
Hamas' crimes cannot be justified by blaming them on past Israeli conduct. Two wrongs don't make a right. There is much to criticize Israel for -- for holding millions of Palestinians for decades under occupation, and for abandoning in recent years any serious attempt to make peace.
However, the murder of the Kutz family and the many other atrocities committed by Hamas were not meant to restart the peace process, nor are they likely to end the occupation. Instead, the war Hamas launched inflicts immense suffering on millions of Palestinians.
In its war against Hamas, Israel has a duty to defend its territory and its citizens, but it must also defend its humanity.
Palestinian civilians deserve to enjoy peace and prosperity in their homeland, and even in the midst of conflict their basic human rights should be recognized by all sides. This refers not only to Israel, but also to Egypt, which shares a border with the Gaza Strip, and which has partially sealed the border. As for Hamas, it and its supporters should be excommunicated by humanity.
The aims of the Gaza War should be clear. Hamas should be totally disarmed and the Gaza Strip should be demilitarized, so that Palestinian civilians could live dignified lives within it and Israeli civilians could live without fear alongside it. Until these aims are achieved, the struggle to maintain our humanity will be difficult.
Most Israelis are psychologically incapable at this moment of empathizing with the Palestinians. The mind is filled to the brim with our own pain, and no space is left to even acknowledge the pain of others.
Many of the people who tried to hold such a space -- like the Kutz family -- are dead or deeply traumatized. Most Palestinians are in an analogous situation -- their minds too are filled with pain, they cannot see our pain.
But outsiders who are not themselves immersed in pain should make an effort to empathize with all suffering humans, rather than lazily seeing only part of the terrible reality. It is the job of outsiders to help maintain a space for peace.
We deposit this peaceful space with you, because we cannot hold it right now. Take good care of it for us, so that one day, when the pain begins to heal, both Israelis and Palestinians might inhabit that space.