Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

When ‘Humanitarian’ Is Not a Contest

“Humanitarian” is not, should not be, a contest between sides.
We, Gazans, Palestinians altogether, are all human, and we all deserve the best human lives. Which means, at a minimum, that no one threatens us, never mind, targets us for inhuman treatment.
If the approach not just to this war but to the whole “problem,” was predicated on that basis– that “humanitarian” is not a contest between sides but a global imperative for all immediately involved in this in any way–
EXCLUDING terrorists and their backers–
we would be far in advance of where we are now. “Now” is a sickening contest for recognition and meeting of desperate needs. For us, it is a struggle to have our agony and the untenability of Oct. 6– of continuing under constant, ongoing, activated- when- they- feel- like- it-jihadist- threat– recognized, vs concerted efforts to efface and deny– or excuse, justify, and glorify, the actions of psychopathic barbarians.
I am not hearing an inclusive, applied definition of “humanitarian.”
Not at all.
A definition for that reality– for the one-sidedness of applying the “humanitarian” standard, is:
“so prejudiced, that there is no awareness even that there is prejudice,”
when really, what I say is embarrassingly simple.
When simple things are not seen, there are blinders. Unconscious but very dense blinders. Or, deliberate ones, fun-house mirrors on the outside to distort the vision of others, so that evil which engulfs everyone continues and grows.
When this horror gets treated as a global issue for all except terrorists and their enablers, and not as a contest between human sides, we will get somewhere important.
Whatever it is that takes Israel and its needs out of the “humanitarian” equation, needs urgent attention and correction. First, vision, as in blinders of either kind off.
That is not at the expense of “humanitarian” applied to Gazans and Palestinians altogether.
On the contrary. It is a necessary element to getting anywhere other than the horrible point we are now, to somewhere with hope and a horizon.
About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.