As human beings witnessing the death, destruction, and suffering in Gaza, we alternate between anger and despair. Any human being witnessing the deaths on Oct. 7 of innocent men, women and children in Israel experienced the same. It is our destiny in life to go from moments of pleasure and happiness to moments of agony. We lie today on a bed of nails, but we will do everything we can to get everyone back on beds of feathers.
The carnage we are witnessing in Gaza must end. We can no longer allow this black hole of anger and viciousness to obstruct the rays of hope. From this swamp of inhumanity, we must find a fresh spring of courage and compassion to wash away the darkness of nightmares and start dreaming again, for dreams are associated with hope. Over our long human history, we have experienced the worst of humanity as we have experienced the best.
I would like to refer to the dream of one Martin Luther King, who said: “I have a dream that one day … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.” It is our common dream that, as humanity, we can live as equals, care about each other equally, and that the suffering of one individual or group of individuals moves us all equally. When that light comes, even the blind man will see it, for even invisible it can be sensed.
We must ensure we all learn the lessons of Gaza so that together we can illuminate a new universal torch of hope.
The carnage we are witnessing in Gaza must end. We can no longer allow this black hole of anger and viciousness to obstruct the rays of hope.
We are hearing that Israel and Hamas have agreed to an exchange of prisoners and hostages. Hamas will release 50 Israeli and foreign hostages, and 150 Palestinian women and children will be released from Israeli prisons in the initial phase. Each one of these people will have experienced moments of fear and loss of hope, and as they recover their freedom, perhaps their common experiences can be shared to build some understanding and compassion on the suffering both sides have experienced. I can see the setting up of an association in which these hostages and prisoners would be encouraged to freely join, sharing their experiences, entering into a healing dialogue, and demonstrating to us all the compassion and understanding that can come out of all the horror and carnage.
The same idea could also be applied to families of victims on both sides. Out of such a process, those who chose to could hold a common press conference calling for peace and sharing their understanding with the world. We need to support dialogue, peacebuilding, and the sharing of experiences in every way we can. A common experience of hurt can be a powerful force to build bridges of understanding. As Voltaire once said: “What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly — that is the first law of nature.” Let this common experience bring Israelis and Palestinians together rather than rip them further apart, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s project of Truth and Reconciliation healed a deeply divided South Africa.
Anger and despair are powerful, but passing emotions while making amends and reconciling can nourish our souls for life. We must expand our horizons to work together, making a dark sky bright and allowing the sun once again to shine on us in comfort and reassurance. This is something we must do not only for Israelis and Palestinians, from human to human but also as humanity facing up to what we have done to our planet.
Our common bond of humanity, especially of those who suffered loss of hope and imprisonment, must become the new light of hope, releasing the rest of us from our mental prisons. In the wise words of Archbishop Tutu: “Having looked the past in the eye, having asked for forgiveness and having made amends, let us shut the door on the past — not in order to forget it but in order not to allow it to imprison us.”
• Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He led the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981 and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.