Counseling and Mental Health Service Chief Touts Shorter Wait Times for Mental Health Appointments
Wexner Foundation Cuts Ties with Harvard after ‘Dismal Failure’ to Condemn Hamas
At Sunday Vigil, More Than 1,000 Mourn Victims of Hamas Attacks, Stand in Solidarity with Israel
AI Model Based on Harvard President Gay Allegedly Included Instructions Invoking Racist Stereotypes
Harvard Sciences Dean Stubbs Says Generative AI is ‘Top of the List’ of Challenges
To kill a child is a terrible, unjustifiable thing. To kill many, for enough years that their younger siblings and their children, too, will grow in the shadow of that fear, is an unforgivable sin.
Roughly half of Gaza’s residents are under 18 years old; so too are a number of the Israeli hostages and casualties from last week’s escalation. That, legally speaking, makes them children.
The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee — in whose name I don’t write this op-ed — has condemned the ongoing onslaught of violence against civilians, young and old, Palestinian and Israeli alike. They have condemned, too, the thousands of innocent deaths that prefaced the current tragedy.
The spilling of innocent blood is never a welcome sight; it seeps into the ground, crimson stained, and taints those standing on it with resentment and loathing, with despair and anger too heavy to carry. That is and has been the story of the region since the dawn of the colonial project; that is and has been the story of Gaza’s besieged residents for years.
Opposing violence against civilians is and must remain a core and unalienable part of the PSC’s mission. Avoiding further loss of life and achieving a political resolution that guarantees basic rights for the millions denied them must be the motivating force behind the struggle for Palestinian freedom.
Opposing violence, however, must go beyond regretting its specific manifestations, beyond the loathing of individual bullets, no matter how loathsome they may be. Condemning an attack without addressing, or even trying to understand, the factors that triggered it only lets the stain grow; it is no better than responding to violence with thoughts and prayers while refusing meaningful reform. It’s an exercise in virtue signaling, a social media-attuned flattening of a hideous reality — one unlikely to save the next generation of innocents.
For any cycle of violence to end, its root causes must be ascertained and addressed.
Those structural factors are the same today that they were before the attack — the same they have been for decades of internationally recognized illegal settlement-building and occupation by Israel, the same that have led international and Israeli human rights organizations alike to characterize the current legal regime as one of dispossession and apartheid, the same that preside over forced evictions of Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlers, the same that produce a steady stream of dead Palestinian civilians and children without sparking any meaningful outrage.
Israel treats Palestinian lives as disposable; Palestinians, denied their right to return to their homes (and, in Gaza, largely denied even the right to exit their narrow, resource-starved strip) have suffered that truth in their own land for far too long.
There are no explicitly labeled terrorist attacks against Palestinians — because an onslaught of constant, state-sponsored, unbridled terror is their daily reality, one common enough to fail to elicit headlines. But you don’t need headlines to feel pain. Grief can be a lonely endeavor.
Children can, and do, die without anyone looking.
Gaza was broadly acknowledged to be the world’s largest open-air prison well before the attacks, subject to an aggressive blockade for 16 years that prevented most of its inhabitants from leaving the strip. Israel’s increasingly far-right government had escalated attacks on Palestinians within and beyond its borders, storming the holy Al Aqsa Mosque, accelerating the annexation of territories and settlement construction, and dehumanizing Palestinians while seeking to deny them statehood. A people was refused their own land, their own nation, within a polity that seeks to govern them only as a disempowered, defeated minority.
The toll from the incoming escalation will almost certainly be more unforgiving on Palestinian lives, following the depressing path of the last seven decades.
Collective punishment, a war crime in its own right, now seems virtually unavoidable. Israel’s president has already deemed an “entire nation,” even civilians, “responsible” for the bloodshed; the country's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, has enacted a “complete siege” of Gaza to ensure, in his own words, that “no electricity, no food, no fuel” can reach a region home to roughly 2 million Palestinians. Gallant has also, ambiguously and revealingly, declared the nation’s enemy “human animals” who will be dealt with “accordingly.” “Accordingly,” in this context, can only mean slaughter, an accelerated path to genocide.
And children are rarely excused from genocide.
It is thus precisely because we all abhor violence against civilians — precisely because we want to escape the cruel cycle of bullets and barbed wire — that we all must acknowledge the factors that triggered Hamas’s attacks. We all must bring the root causes to the forefront of any conversation. Failing to do so would entail abdicating any possibility of resolving the current conflict — looking the other way, and foolishly praying for better decades.
To quote Israel’s paper of record, hardly a stranger to the depths of Jewish grief: The bloodshed is “the clear responsibility of one person: Benjamin Netanyahu,” who has created “a government of annexation and dispossession” and embraced “a foreign policy that openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians.”
I agree. To kill a child is a terrible, unjustifiable thing. But to allow the cruel cycle to continue, to sustain the institutions that enable the continuous oppression of Palestinians and feed unending violence — that, too, is an unforgivable sin.
Guillermo S. Hava ’23-’24, a former Crimson Editorial Chair, is a Government and Philosophy concentrator in Winthrop House. He joined the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee as an organizer in the fall of 2023.
Editor’s Note: Readers should note that pre-moderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.
—Cara J. Chang, President
—Eleanor V. Wikstrom and Christina M. Xiao, Editorial Chairs
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.