In heated arguments, the most “nuanced” position always seems to reign victorious. Juxtaposed with parochial, black-and-white ways of thinking, evoking nuanced signals that your stance takes into account every moving part, point of view and potential rebuttal to an issue. And while it does follow that truth — an abstract concept shaped by the night-infinite contradictions affecting the concrete world — must also be nuanced, it is also possible to weaponize the veneration to undercut the severity of situations that aren’t so complicated under the guise of fairness and neutrality. Such is the case with the world-historic disparity in violence committed by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people compared to vice versa. The tragic and escalating war in Gaza has fully demonstrated the differential in both firepower and destructive intent between the Israeli occupation’s internationally-supported military and Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza Strip; however, appeals to nuance and a passé “it’s complicated” principle in media and popular discourse only serve to obscure the reality of the occupation’s century-long assault on Palestinian lives and self-determination.
“Largely right but lacking nuance.” This is how Green Party presidential candidate Cornel West characterized the critiques of pro-Palestine students at his former employer, Harvard University, in an interview with Politico published Oct. 10.
Last weekend, student organizations at the renowned Ivy signed a letter produced by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” concentrated on the Gaza Strip. The letter attributes the escalating war in Gaza that has resulted in over 2,600 Palestinian and 1,400 Israeli deaths to the State of Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians, which includes tactics from “systematized land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings.”
PSC’s rhetoric, undersigned by 30-some Harvard student organizations, is extremely pointed — but not without reason. In the week since the letter’s publication, the occupation military has devastated the densely-populated Gaza Strip with a blockade on food, water and electricity; the forced relocation of over one million people living in the northern half of Gaza to the south, stretching scarce resources among twice the population; and indiscriminate airstrikes on evacuation routes and multi-generation family homes. The bombings and blockade leave a specter far beyond immediate casualties. More than 1,000 people, dead or soon to be, are believed to be trapped under rubble by the government of Gaza as a result of a ruthless bombing campaign. Hospitals in Gaza, including those immobilized in zones ordered to evacuate by the occupation military, are running out of power and supplies to treat the mass influx of patients.
Underpinning rampant violence against the Palestinian civilian population is flagrant racism and warmongering among Israel’s leaders. President Isaac Herzog expressed that “an entire nation out there” is responsible for deaths in Israel, rendering the fleeing, deprived masses of Gaza as enemies of the state. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated, “We are fighting human animals,” establishing the dehumanization — and thus dispensability — of Palestinians as the government’s unofficial policy.
Aided by U.S. support for its advanced military, the occupation can exert virtually one-sided force against the civilian population of Gaza — as well as the West Bank, where settlers and occupation troops have killed almost 50 Palestinians in order to seize Palestinian land amidst the wartime chaos. It is undeniable that Hamas is responsible for widespread death among civilians — albeit not to the extent that many atrocity propagandists decrying unverified accounts of “beheaded babies” claim. However, the international emphasis on Hamas overshadows completely how Palestine has continuously experienced forced expulsion from their homes, extrajudicial murder, strangulation of its economic capacities via a militarized blockade and bombardment of civilian centers by the occupying Zionist state.
Normally a staunch critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian people to the point that it jeopardized his professorial career at Harvard, West voiced the understandable concern that between the occupation military and Hamas, “neither has a right to kill innocent people.” But in stating something so obvious for the sake of “nuance,” West and other progressive political voices are equivocating the unilaterally-imposed genocide and apartheid conditions for which Israel is responsible by placing these egregious actions on the same level as the (imperfect) acts of Palestinian resistance to them. This is absolutely an abuse of nuance.
Nuance is understanding that Gazans view Hamas as a valid means of resisting the abject horrors of Israeli settler-colonialism. Nuance is understanding that the presumption of innocence is granted to civilians illegally settling in occupied Palestinian territory bordering Lebanon and within the West Bank itself. Nuance is understanding the context around violent Palestinian resistance, not jettisoning it entirely to save face with apartheid and ethnic cleansing apologists. In the face of historic violence against a caged-in and dispossessed nation of people, it is not only acceptable, but necessary, to declare some things as uncomplicated and stand unflinchingly with those bearing the harshest consequences. The genocidal tactics of Zionist occupation and blockades do not deserve the good graces of nuance.