November 14, 2023

An (Incomplete) Beginner’s Guide to the Israel-Hamas War.


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More on this topic:
The Politics of Humanitarian Efforts: What I learned from Shaun King & Oprah.
Why Anti-Semitism is En Vogue.

I Do Not Believe more Children need to Die to Pay for my Family’s Suffering.

*Author’s Note: I fully realize that there is a logical and understandable disagreement over whether this should be termed as a war. I chose to write this guide to address the current status quo using terms that would be recognizable and offer resources that would allow those reading to reach an educated conclusion of their own. This was not written to push my own conclusions onto the reader. ~ Molly Murphy

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.


“Any conversation around this has to begin with empathy or we’re just f*cked.” ~ John Oliver

I’ll be blunt:

I’m a white American woman in her 30s. I live with more privilege than I’m comfortable with, but I’m also keen to understand and to be an ally. I’ve made it a point not to make snap judgements and to listen to both sides. I’ve tried to teach myself to find education on topics I don’t know a lot about before spouting out an opinion because, frankly, without doing so can just cause more harm than good.

And, if I want to be blunt, The Middle East is a topic I’ve been exposed to through close friendships and family ties, but I lacked the historical context, the full story, and the perspectives needed when the heart-wrenching events of October 7, 2023 began the current outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

I knew what I thought. I knew what I felt. 

But I needed an education. And so I read. And I listened. And I watched. And I’m here now to share with you my (Incomplete) Beginner’s Guide to understanding the historial context of the conflict and the current war.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I believe the path forward starts with asking the right questions with an open mind and an open heart. The answers start in educating ourselves.

First I listened to this podcast from BBC’s Understand for context. Was it too short? Yes. Was it extremely helpful? Yes.

There are five episodes which range from “The Palestinians” and “Israel” and leads all the way to the final episode, “The USA and Iran.”

I popped it on during a roadtrip and finished the ride feeling a lot more knowledgeable than when I started. But I still didn’t feel like I understood what was happening now. It’s okay. Call me dense. But something was missing.

I read articles from both perspectives, many here on Elephant Journal. I sought out social media posts from reputable sources. I talked to friends. I listened to the news.

I knew what was happening but I still felt a reluctance, as if I was missing a piece of the education I needed.

I said to my mom, “What I need is a Last Week Tonight to explain it to me.”

And by that, I don’t mean to imply that I depend on John Oliver to explain all timely events to me, but I truly felt he could do the topic justice and in a relatable way.

I wasn’t disappointed. Though, he did make me laugh when was honest about his inability to do the topic justice, “I know you’re thinking, ‘But, John […] aren’t you school? Well—fun fact—I’m not.  It just seems like that. I’m actually technically a comedy show. I just hide it better than most.”

So when his episode on the Israel-Hamas War aired, I watched.

I laughed. (Obviously.)

But I also cried. I’m writing this with bunched up, used tissues next to my laptop and more at the ready.

I’m not done educating myself, which is why I’m calling this “An (Incomplete) Beginner’s Guide” but I do feel like the part of my education that was missing has been pieced in. I feel that I can see the puzzle more completely now and for that, the peace-craving humanitarian inside me is grateful and I’m grateful to share a few of the resources that helped me get here.

Israel-Hamas War: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

The thoughts John Oliver left us with:

“It has to be possible to feel the pain in one community, without denying it in another. It has to be. That is perhaps the most necessary precondition for peace because real peace here will clearly be difficult if it’s going to be struggled toward as part of a larger pursuit of justice, which will in turn require an honest and uncomfortable reckoning with all the decisions that brought us to this point.” ~ John Oliver

He’s not wrong.

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