Opinion: Equally sacred lives


Published: 11-15-2023 6:00 AM

Oge Young, MD, lives in Concord.

Thank you, Dan Weeks, for your thoughtful My Turn titled “In Search of Our Shared Humanity” two weeks ago (Monitor, 10/31). While mourning the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians, the writer pleads with us and the rest of the world not to take sides.

In the wake of a U.S. policy promising “unwavering support of Israel,” he asks instead that our leaders’ response be balanced and just, treating Palestinians as human beings who deserve protection alongside Israelis. Quoting J Street, a pro-Israel and pro-peace organization, “This conflict cannot be resolved by military force, but can only be resolved by guaranteeing the rights and aspirations of both peoples.”

More than a half-century ago, I might have been more optimistic about the resolution of this deep-rooted conflict. At a youth hostel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, I met a sad young Jewish woman whose fiancé was killed in the Six Days War (June 5-10, 1967). She had escaped Israel to mourn, unable to partake in the jubilation after her country’s decisive victory. There was no joy for her in Israel’s successful expansion. She had lost a loved one and her future with him.

In the sacred violence and glorification of war, lives are lost. In addition, the psychological costs of war to surviving soldiers and civilians, including children, are immeasurable. A close high school friend returned from the war in Vietnam, carrying home his memories of bombed villages.

Air support provided his troops protection, but when he came to these villages, there were only unarmed dead and wounded mothers, children and old men. My friend almost took his own life before he found sobriety.

A few years ago, I asked a third-year Palestinian medical student who was with our practice for her OB/GYN clerkship, how she felt about Israel. Her family lived in Gaza. She bluntly said, “Dr. Young I hate the people who killed my brother and cousin.” She left no room for conversation.

How many more family members has she lost? I worry that recently she could have been killed working in one of the hospitals bombed in Gaza. Her intention was to return and serve the Palestinian people following her training in the U.S. The words of my medical student wreaked of the thirst for revenge.

Dan Weeks warns us that with the “indiscriminate destruction of Gaza, from the rubble there will surely emerge future generations of anti-Israel extremists.” How can we quench this thirst for revenge without resorting to violence? As the most powerful nation on earth, a healthy start might be to stop feeding our military-industrial economy and begin feeding the oppressed people in this world.