I’m a teacher. In Israel-Hamas war, the best lesson is to stand up for all innocent victims.

Even when there is great pressure to take sides, stand up for innocent civilians no matter their origin, CPS civics teacher Froylan Jimenez writes.

SHARE I’m a teacher. In Israel-Hamas war, the best lesson is to stand up for all innocent victims.
A Palestinian child, injured during an Israeli air strike, receives treatment in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip Oct. 13. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have died since Palestinian Hamas militants entered Israel in a surprise attack, leading Israel to declare war on Hamas.

A Palestinian child, injured during an Israeli air strike, receives treatment in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip. Oct. 13.

Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Like many other high school history teachers who feel compelled to address the recent loss of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives in the Israel-Hamas war and have high-level classroom discussions, this topic presents both a challenge and an opportunity to educate others about standing up for something bigger than territory, war or backing the right side.

While political context and historical background information are absolutely necessary for this complex discussion, I realized that the best lesson for students and the general public was simply to understand that all civilian people deserve to live peaceful lives, all humans deserve dignity, and all terrorism and deadly retaliation anywhere should be condemned.

Most recently, as we saw images and news stories of horrific murders and kidnappings of Israeli civilians, there was a well-deserved outcry of support for those victims and their families. People were quick to get behind the “Stand Behind Israel” camp because it seemed natural to stand behind and reinforce sympathetic sentiments for people anywhere in a time of tragedy.

Opinion bug

Opinion

As these events unfold, and we now see Palestinian civilians also killed in retaliation, there are calls for a “Free Palestine” bloc because innocent Palestinian civilians, including dying children and other helpless victims stranded without water, food, electricity, and other basic human necessities, merit recognition.

Focus on human suffering

Is it possible to support both Israelis and Palestinians? Is it necessary to pick a side when innocent people are dying and human suffering is glaring across the region?

By far, one of the most important things to understand in this war is how easy it is to confuse and conflate the political actors involved. Hamas is a terrorist organization and political-militant group that governs Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The millions of Palestinian people are not all Hamas followers, just as the millions of Israeli people are not all followers of the Likud coalition government in control of Israel.

This distinction is important because often the Hamas-Israel war and terrorist atrocities against innocent civilians get lumped together as the people of Israel versus the people of Palestine. This erroneously assumes malice by association and escalates matters as two nations are branded by the inhumane actions of militant groups.

The Hamas terrorist attacks are exactly that, terrorism against innocent Israeli people that should be condemned. It’s logical and warranted that those responsible for those despicable acts should be found and held accountable.

Likewise, any military retaliation, including airstrikes against the people of Palestine, that causes innocent civilians to die and suffer is also reprehensible and needs to be condemned. Additionally concerning is that often the weapons used are made and funded by the U.S., which leads to American taxpayers indirectly contributing to these efforts.

Both the people of Israel and Palestine should be able to defend themselves and advocate for their defense but not at the expense of taking the lives of innocent human beings.

Some may say that solutions in this seemingly endless cycle of aggression will be hard to come by, and it may get uglier before it gets better. One thing is certain: Draconian military operations and terrorism have gotten us to this point.

Reconsidering the parameters by which Israeli occupation functions, to make it less restrictive and more humane, could be worthwhile.

My advice is simpler: Even when there is great pressure to take sides, stand up for innocent civilians no matter their origin; be mindful to separate heinous acts of terrorism and paramilitary groups from the goodwill of others in that region; and be open-minded to hearing multiple perspectives on a complicated topic that can teach all of us how to be kinder and more humane to each other.

Froylan Jimenez is a civics teacher in Chicago Public Schools.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

The views and opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chicago Sun-Times or any of its affiliates.

The Latest
Mr. Woo, who became a Chicago cop in 1969, is remembered as one of the department’s first Chinese American officers, and co-founder of the Asian American Law Enforcement Association.
The four Northwestern educators are charged with obstructing police during the protest. Those arrested questioned the timing, and the potential chilling effect on academic freedom.
Monday’s storms knocked down transmission towers and scattered wires across Interstate 55 near Channahon.
King Arthur already had a robust mail-order business, which makes up 30% of its sales, and it’s been sharing recipes and baking tips online for years.
Here are a few ways you can tweak your diet to help eat your way to a calorie deficit, or at least make it harder to go overboard on them.