Systemic Violence

The Rice Hillel held an event recently where they brought in several IDF soldiers to talk about their diverse experiences and backgrounds. In response, the Rice Left walked out in the middle of their event. I wasn't sure how I felt about the event itself when I first read about it in my college's announcements email. I thought it was weird to have soldiers talk to us all the way in the U.S., and it seemed fishy as a political and politicized event, but I couldn't pinpoint exactly what is so wrong with it.

After reading the Rice Thresher article about the event and walkout, I reflected on the issue of systemic violence and realized what the problem is: individual IDF soldiers' experiences and stories cannot account for state-sanctioned systemic violence.

Recall all the Black lives we lost and continue to lose due to state brutality in the U.S., for example in cases where police officers are the killers. Would it suffice for communities to meet and greet several police officers and have the officers talk about how they are pro-communities and anti-violence? No, because the problem is not that individual officers are "bad apples." Instead, the problem is that the justice system itself is inherently unjust and the violence is sanctioned by the state, not because of individual impulses of individual police officers.

Similarly, hearing from individual IDF soldiers who profess their love for peace and their solidarity with their Muslim, Christian, Jewish comrades does not address the problem of Israel's systemic violence against Palestinians. This is not to say that Palestinians are all innocent and do not commit harm. What I do mean to say is that Israel's systemic violence against Palestinians who do not have a state is a bigger problem than the straw-man problem of individual IDF soldiers being depicted in a bad light. Israel has the capacity and therefore has committed more violence overall, killing way more Palestinians than the other way around.

We should promote dialogue and peace, but if the dialogue is happening at the wrong place with the wrong people directing at the wrong problem, we are just distracted from the real problem.


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