Empathy for the Other is in Short Supply
Updated: Oct 26
Now that we are two weeks into the latest round of the Israel-Gaza wars, it seems clear that people with contrasting views of the conflict are having difficulty recognizing the pain of the "Other."
On October 7, Hamas fighters overwhelmed Israel's Gaza border wall and attacked military bases and civilian settlements. They killed some 1400 people, roughly 1200 of whom were civilians, and kidnapped another 200, the vast majority of whom were civilians. Many of those slain were killed in the most barbaric ways.
Soon after, the Israeli air force swung into action, and as of now, over 3,800 Palestinians have died, with many thousands injured. Many of those are civilians; it is impossible to have a precise estimate of the civilian/military casualty ratio.
I've been watching the Facebook feeds of my friends and listening carefully to the news. I speak Hebrew, so I have been listening to and watching Israeli radio and TV and reading the paper. I can't read or understand Arabic, but I have looked a lot at Al Jazeera and the social media accounts of people living in Arabic-speaking countries.
I'm struck by what appears to be an almost entirely bifurcated market in human empathy. Each side dwells on its own civilians' horrific injuries, with almost no recognition of the other side's suffering. Each thinks the world's media is arrayed against them and that the other side's propaganda sways foreign bystanders. No one spends much time thinking or talking about the suffering of civilians on the other side of the border. As long as this bifurcation continues, I can't see how the violence can ever end.
To learn more about James Ron, please visit www.jamesron.org. You can read his publications at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James-Ron, and see his posts at www.jamesron.net, www.jamesron.org, and @James_ron01.