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The Unyielding Value of Peace: A Reflection on War and Violence

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Growing up in the Soviet Union, we were all taught that war is an unequivocal evil. This was a deeply ingrained belief, instilled in us through education and cultural narratives. However, in Russia under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, this foundational principle was turned on its head. The state began propagating the idea that war is a necessary and even noble endeavor. The rhetoric shifted to a binary view of humanity, dividing people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, with the latter being uniformly applied to Ukrainians. This divisive narrative not only fostered hostility but also led to a societal schism, pitting one part of the population against the other.

The profound impact of this ideological shift became personal when my family was compelled to leave Russia and seek refuge in Israel. The environment of fear and polarization in Russia made it untenable for us to remain. However, our move to Israel brought us face-to-face with another protracted conflict between Israelis and Arabs. The conflict, which had simmered for decades, erupted into full-scale war on October 7, following a barbaric terrorist attack by Hamas. In response, Israel launched a massive military offensive, unleashing bombs and deploying tanks.

Witnessing these events has reinforced my belief that in Gaza, much like in Russia, there are individuals who oppose the actions of their governing authorities. These dissenters often find themselves caught in the crossfire, victims of a conflict they do not support. It is imperative that societies worldwide recognize the existence of such voices and strive to protect them. Whether in Russia or Gaza, these individuals deserve our empathy and support.

The moral clarity of my Soviet-era education, which unequivocally condemned war, now seems like a relic of the past. The Russian state’s current narrative, which glorifies military aggression and dehumanizes entire populations, stands in stark contrast to those early teachings. This shift has not only distorted the perception of war but has also eroded the societal fabric, fostering division and hostility.

The situation in Gaza is eerily reminiscent of what I witnessed in Russia. In both places, the actions of a powerful few have led to the suffering of many. In Gaza, the indiscriminate bombings and military assaults have devastating consequences for the civilian population. Many of these civilians, like the dissenters in Russia, do not support the militant actions of Hamas. They are ordinary people, caught in a cycle of violence that they cannot escape.

It is crucial to recognize that in any conflict, there are always individuals who oppose violence and seek peace. These individuals often pay the highest price, facing persecution, displacement, and death. Their voices are frequently drowned out by the cacophony of war drums and the rhetoric of those in power. Yet, it is precisely these voices that we must amplify and protect.

The international community has a responsibility to advocate for the protection of civilians and dissenters in conflict zones. This advocacy should not be limited to diplomatic statements but must translate into concrete actions. Humanitarian aid, safe havens, and asylum for refugees are essential components of this support. Moreover, there should be a concerted effort to hold those who perpetrate violence accountable, regardless of their political or ideological affiliations.

Reflecting on my experiences in both Russia and Israel, I am convinced that the true enemy is not the ‘other’ as defined by state propaganda, but the cycle of violence itself. This cycle perpetuates suffering, stifles dissent, and undermines the possibility of peaceful coexistence. Breaking this cycle requires a fundamental shift in how we perceive and respond to conflict.

Peace education, grounded in the values of empathy, respect, and mutual understanding, is a crucial starting point. Societies must reject the glorification of war and embrace a narrative that prioritizes dialogue and reconciliation.

This is not a utopian ideal but a necessary step towards building a more just and humane world.

In conclusion, the lessons of my Soviet childhood remain profoundly relevant today. War, in any form, is a scourge that inflicts untold suffering on innocent people. As we witness the ongoing conflicts in places like Russia and Gaza, it is incumbent upon us to advocate for those who oppose violence and seek peace. Their voices are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a reminder that even in the darkest times, the light of hope and humanity can prevail.

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Author: Tolkachev Konstantin