The tide of the Israel-Hamas war will turn only when all — or at least most — Israelis will be dismayed by the suffering of Palestinians and when all — or at least most — Palestinians will be dismayed by the anguish of Israelis, when more Israelis start to mourn the death of Palestinians and more Palestinians do the same for Israeli dead.

The killing by Israeli soldiers of three hostages who had escaped from Hamas captivity and were waving a white flag has traumatized Israelis and diaspora Jews alike. Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza from Israeli bombings and military incursions outrage Palestinians and their supporters across the globe. Too many on either side speak to themselves as if the other side didn’t exist or isn’t relevant. These have become expected parallel norms.

They are also a clear indication that we, all of us, are in danger of losing sight of — if we have not already done so — our common moral compass and our common humanity.

Many of us realized well before the wholly preventable deaths of three former hostages, and of the thousands of Palestinian civilians killed as a result of Israeli bombardment, that this war, like all wars, is certain to result in tragedy.

It should not have taken a “60 Minutes” interview with one of the former hostages, Yarden Roman-Gat, to remind us of the horrors she and those of her fellow captives fortunate enough to be rescued underwent and that the remaining hostages continue to undergo.

It should not have taken videos of Palestinians in Gaza cheering and jeering at the kidnapped hostages on October 7th to remind us that the Hamas terrorists enjoyed — and continue to enjoy — support among far too many in Gaza’s civilian population.

But Israelis are also not allowed to forget that the thousands of civilian men, women, and children killed in the Israel-Hamas war, now in its tenth week, did nothing whatsoever to deserve their fate.

And Israelis must also ask themselves and their political and military leaders: Have there been Palestinians trying to surrender who got shot? After all, it was only after the killing of the hostages last Friday that Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, found it necessary to declare publicly that the army’s rules of engagement mandate that individuals waving a white flag who put down their weapons and raise their hands should be taken prisoner, not fired upon. “What if it is two Gazans with a white flag who come out to surrender? Do we shoot at them?” Halevi asked. “Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Even those who fought and now put down their weapons and raise their hands — we capture them, we don’t shoot them.”

We are in a seemingly unending cycle of despair, exacerbated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bellicose promise to “fight to the end.” It’s one thing for Netanyahu to be willing to go over a cliff in order to stay in power. It’s quite another when he threatens to take all of Israel along with him.

And then there is Hamas senior official Ghazi Hamad, who proclaimed on Lebanese television that October 7th was just the beginning, and that the terrorist organization would launch “a second, a third, a fourth” attack, culminating in Israel’s annihilation. “Everything we do,” he added defiantly, “is justified.”

A Reset Needed

We are way past the flashing red light and blaring sirens stage. A reset on all sides is urgently needed.

Israeli and diaspora Jews should not become inured to the fact that with every passing day, more Palestinian civilians die through no fault of their own. Even if we understand — and agree with — Israel’s need to remove Hamas as a threat, this war cannot be prosecuted at any cost. By the same measure, Palestinians and their supporters should neither rejoice at the savage killings, brutalization, and rapes of Israelis that occurred on October 7th, nor call for an ultimate Palestinian victory “by any means necessary.”

Those of us who profess to subscribe to the Abrahamic faiths must by definition accept the proposition that all human beings are created in — or bear within themselves — the divine image. This includes the Israeli Jewish children and infants murdered by Hamas on October 7th and the thousands of Palestinian Muslim children who have died in Gaza in the 10 weeks since that terrorist attack.

Simply put, any Muslim who cheered at the murders and rapes of Israeli Jews on October 7th defiled the Quran and Allah, and any Jew who does not unequivocally condemn the killings of Palestinian civilians by extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank and does not mourn the death of Palestinian civilians in Gaza defiles the Torah and Adonai.

With respect to settler violence on the West Bank, I am referring specifically to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and members of his ultraright Otzma Yehudit party, who have been riling up the settlers consistently since entering Netanyahu’s government a year ago. Ben Gvir also wants the war to continue full force, advocating for the execution of Hamas terrorists even if it costs the hostages their lives.

Kickstarting an Earlier Stall in the Peace Process

I have actively supported the Palestinian demands for national self-determination for more than 40 years. Thirty-five years ago this month, I was one of five American Jews who broke a long-standing taboo by meeting in Stockholm with Yasser Arafat and other senior leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Our purpose in accepting the invitation from Swedish Foreign Minister Sten Andersson, knowing full well that by doing so we would invoke the fury of the Israeli government then headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as well as much of the organized Jewish community, was to try to kickstart the then-comatose Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The result of our meeting was the PLO’s first public acceptance of Israel as a state in the Middle East, a necessary step toward Arafat’s subsequent formal recognition of Israel.

At our first meeting on Dec. 6, 1988, I introduced myself as an American, as a Jew, and as the son of two survivors of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen who had come to Stockholm “out of concern for the State of Israel and the people of Israel.” At this moment, Arafat interrupted me to say: “That makes two of us who are concerned about the people of Israel. Do we also have two who are concerned about the future of the Palestinian people?”

Regardless of the sincerity of Arafat’s expressed sentiment — and I, for one, am deeply skeptical — that idea must form the foundation for any future interaction between Israel and the Palestinians. If there is to be a common future — and we had all better pray for it — both sides must be motivated at least in part by a concern for the political and social stability — and as fellow human-beings, the inherent well-being — of the other.

The late legendary Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban explained that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not a conflict between right and wrong but a conflict between two rights. This conflict will not be resolved by military means alone, even though military means against Hamas were necessary to prevent a recurrence of October 7th. In due course, both sides will have to revive a version of the diplomatic and political process that began at Oslo, whether Netanyahu and his acolytes like it or not. “I don’t think that only peace talks will bring security,” former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a recent interview, “and I don’t think that only a military hit will give a long-term solution.”

In order to make a return from the brink of disaster possible, supporters of Israel must speak up, loudly, when the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank are brazenly violated by extremist Jewish settlers, often with military support ordered by their ultranationalist government patrons​ such as the aforementioned Ben Gvir. ​They must also let it be known that they are moved by the suffering and deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza throughout the present war and want that suffering — and the killing of far too many civilians — to come to an end.

At the same time, Palestinians and their supporters must understand that calling for a Palestinian victory “by any means necessary” is tantamount to promising a repeat of October 7th or worse. They must also condemn a resort to terrorism in any form against Israeli civilians, abandon their often blatantly antisemitic rhetoric, and repudiate anyone who threatens violence against Jews.

These imperatives may seem utopian, especially as the war continues to rage, but they remain imperatives nonetheless. And perhaps, just perhaps, last week’s tragic killing of the three hostages, the continued captivity of more than 100 others, and the dead infants found in an evacuated Gaza hospital might serve as a wake-up call that everything that can be done to minimize the horrors of war not only should but must be done.

IMAGE: A small group of people gather to observe 15 minutes of silence during an interfaith vigil to mourn the lives lost since the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel, marking one month, outside The Jaffa Gate on November 7, 2023 in Jerusalem. According to organizers, the event gathered Palestinians and Israelis: Jews, Christians and Muslims, and called for “peace and coexistence.” At the time, the death toll in the October 7th attack was estimated at 1,400, later revised to 1,200, with 240 held hostage, and Israel’s subsequent bombarding of Gaza reportedly had killed more than 10,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, a figure that has since climbed to almost 20,000, with 129 hostages still believed to be held. The Israel Defense Forces say more than 400 soldiers have been killed in the ongoing war. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)