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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Any life lost is still a loss

Published: November 16, 2012
Section: Opinions

I was in a hotel room outside of Jerusalem when Osama bin Laden’s death was announced. The response of my peers on my gap-year was mild and vaguely patriotic. Sitting on my lumpy rented bed, I watched as status-after-status-after-status appeared on my Facebook news feed. They hailed the Navy Seal team that killed bin Laden and the joy Americans felt with bin Laden’s demise.

I am as uncomfortable now as I was then with loss of life. As tensions and violence in the Middle East escalate, casualties result. On Wednesday, Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas military chief was killed by Israeli forces. I do not try to argue whether his death was justified. The reactions to his death that I have witnessed on social media, however, make me uncomfortable.
So often today, the loss of life is marginalized. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans have lost thousands of their brothers and sisters. But Afghanis and Iraqis have lost much more.

During the past decade, as the death toll came in each day, we became desensitized to it. In middle school when the 2,000th soldier was killed in Afghanistan, my orchestra teacher wrote the number 2,000 on the whiteboard of her classroom with frowning faces drawn in the zeroes and tears falling from squished eyes. It was as hard for me then as it is today to comprehend that number and see it for what it truly is: thousands and thousands of families that have been destroyed. Thousands and thousands of families who are war’s casualties. That number has grown exponentially today. The news anchor announces the latest number of bodies from the war, then moves on to another, trivial, piece of news.

Most students here are privileged. It is harder for us to connect the reality of war to ourselves, because of this. I have spent a significant amount of time in Israel. I know more American-Israeli soldiers than I do American soldiers. Out of all the people I have met in my life, I only know one person who is in the military and we are not close. I am very detached from America’s current wars and as the casualties stack up, I am not personally affected. My grandfather was a soldier in the Korean War, but Veterans Day was never anything special growing up. The role of the military in my life has been limited to rare sightings at the airport and my brother’s video games.

Yet, even in my detached state from my hotel room in Jerusalem I watched the happiness espoused by my fellow Americans at the death of another person. Yes, Osama bin Laden was responsible for atrocious acts that killed thousands of Americans. But I still felt that rejoicing in his death was wrong. The loss of life, regardless of whose life it is, is not something to be celebrated with champagne and dancing.

In the same way that many Americans expressed outright glee toward bin Laden’s death, many of my Jewish peers are displaying that same happiness at Jabari’s death. When Jabari was killed on Wednesday morning and my pro-Israel friends promoted the IDF poster, which displays Jabari’s face with the word “eliminated” stamped in white on the red backdrop, I became incredibly uneasy. It was in bad taste for the IDF to create such a poster and in even worse taste that some of my friends continue to promote it online. Despite all the horrible things that Jabari did in his life, his death is not something in which we should revel.

There are undoubtedly many people who disagree with me and I respect their right to believe so. I will not deny that America’s killing of bin Laden will remain a proud moment in American history, as Jabari’s death will for Israel. But there is a vast difference between being patriotic and being crass and inconsiderate. We need to be knowledgeable of the privilege in our own lives: that many of us will not have to deal with the potential tragedy of army husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.
Our inexperience should not allow us to become hateful and inconsiderate of human life, regardless of the life lost.