Mine! Mine! Mine! Praise God . . .

This is perhaps the worst thing human beings do: They take their deepest values — connection, love, empathy — simplify them down to a religion, a name (Christianity, let us say, or Judaism, or whatever) and suddenly they have a flag to wave and a “cause” to go to war for. And the blood flows. Kill the savages! Kill the non-believers! Kill the enemy! (Take their land.)

Here’s the question of the day, as Israel continues to inflict hell and starvation on Gaza, as brutal conflict and murder rage across the planet: How do we reclaim — and maintain — the integrity of our deepest values? Acting in love and connection with an “Other” is, or can be, remarkably complex; declaring the Other to be an evil being who doesn’t deserve to live not only simplifies things enormously, but allows part of humanity to connect with itself, in fear of that enemy.

And when it comes to war, the mainstream American media basically shrugs and says, well, that’s the way it is — at least when the U.S. is supplying the weaponry, if not perpetrating the actual “shock and awe” on the declared enemy. Oh God, this is insane. How do we live our values in all their complexity? How do we swaddle and caress the vulnerable future rather than hold it hostage?

Naomi Klein, speaking recently at a public seder held in opposition to the Gaza assault — the Emergency Seder in the Streets in New York City — talked of “the human tendency to worship the profane and shiny, to look to the small and material rather than the large and transcendent.

“. . . too many of our people,” she said, “are worshipping a false idol once again. . . . That false idol is called Zionism. . . . It is a false idol that equates Jewish freedom with cluster bombs that kill and maim Palestinian children.”

And war does nothing but beget war. It keeps everyone afraid. As Eran Zelnik, a history professor who grew up in Israel, who served as a young man in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, wrote: “I believe that as Jews we must embrace the universal lessons of the Holocaust and declare the ongoing events in Gaza a genocide and resist an out-of-control right-wing government that is increasingly drawing the whole region into a war.”

He adds, ironically, that “the Zionist interpretation of the Holocaust that has turned out to be not only morally compromised, but also ineffective—it has not provided protection for Jews. In fact, in no place in the world are Jews more likely to be harmed en masse than in Israel today. . .”

Zelnik acknowledges that paradox and contradiction are part of the human condition — and certainly part of the division of the planet into nation-states.

“However,” he notes, “there comes a time when contradictions can no longer—indeed must no longer—abide together in both humans and nations. For Jews across the world such a time has clearly arrived. Now more than ever we are witnessing a confrontation between the two lessons of the Holocaust, with an increasing number of Jews outside of Israel recognizing in the slogan ‘never again’ (as) a deeply universalist commitment to humanity. . . .”

For much of humanity, the time has arrived. The protest moment is enormous and growing, and so is the stop-the-protests movement — that is to say, the determination of public officials to shut down and shut up the campus protests, with students calling on their universities to divest from the military-industrial complex and the Israel war machine.

As Marjorie Cohn writes: “At this moment in history, there are two related military occupations occurring simultaneously — 5,675 miles apart. One is Israel’s ongoing 57-year occupation of Palestinian territory, which is now taking the form of a full-fledged genocide that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians. The other is at Columbia University, where the administration has asked the New York Police Department to occupy the school until May 17. Both occupations are fueled by the Zionist power structure. Both have weaponized antisemitism to rationalize their brutality.”

Noting that more than 2,300 people have been arrested or detained on campuses across the country at this point, she points out: “Israel has damaged or destroyed every university in Gaza. But no university president has denounced Israel’s genocide or supported the call for divestment.”

And the stop-the-protests movement doesn’t stop with arrests and occasional police brutality toward protesters. The U.S. House recently passed something called the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which is now slogging its way through the Senate.

Chris Anders, director of ACLU’s Democracy and Technology Policy Division, said of it: “This bill would throw the full weight of the federal government behind an effort to stifle criticism of Israel and risks politicizing the enforcement of federal civil rights statutes precisely when their robust protections are most needed. The Senate must block this bill before it’s too late.”

Well, we’ll see, won’t we? As I do my best to continue absorbing these developments, I feel an ongoing need to remain aware that this is not simply an us-vs.-them conflict — Zionism Bad vs. Zionism Good. The stop-the-protests efforts certainly want to portray it that way, psychologically zip-tying the protesters with the label “antisemitic.”

This is insane not merely because so many of the protesters are Jewish. It’s also insane because the protesters deeply, deeply want to bring the spiritual values of every religion — Jewish, Christian, Muslim and so many others — into full global play. Every human life is precious. We are — all of us — connected at the core of our being. Realizing this is extraordinarily complex. We must rid ourselves of the bombs and guns and hatred and open our hearts to understanding one another.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His newly released album of recorded poetry and art work, Soul Fragments, is available here: