Since I've picked up a few new followers in various places, this seems like a good time to clarify what my thoughts are on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, so there are no surprises and you can unfollow me if you wish before things get ugly.

Disclaimer: I’m an educated, middle-class, left-of-center American male. You can filter everything I say through that lens if you want and if it matters to you.

First things first: if you’re looking for someone who is overtly pro- or anti- either side, you’re in the wrong place. I was trained as a historian and I’m familiar enough with the history that I recognize there are both innocent people and bad actors on both sides. If you believe your side (assuming you have one) is pristine and without guilt, you’re wrong. There is more than enough blame to go around. This is not a slam at either Israelis or Palestinians, just a recognition of the reality of all humanity through the ages. And yes, you can add the British to that.

Beyond that, I have friends on all sides—Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, non-Palestinian Arab, Iranian, etc. They’re all people, and people are complicated. Not all Jews are Israelis, not all Israelis support the current government, not all Palestinians support Hamas, and certainly not all Muslims support Hamas. And for that matter, not all Palestinians are Muslim—there’s a Christian minority—and not all Israelis are Jewish. There are also Druze and Arab Muslim citizens of Israel. And while we’re discussing how complicated it is, there’s even a fringe Jewish sect that doesn’t believe Israel is legitimate. If you think there’s anything simple in that part of the world, you have been deceived.

My side, if I have one, is peace. I’m with the unfortunate innocent victims on both sides. I believe strongly that war is a waste of human life, and that if you’re going to have one, you have a responsibility to minimize the deaths of civilians. This means that you don’t take hostages to use as human shields. This means that you don’t bomb hospitals and ambulances. This means that you don’t use hospitals and schools to hide weapons of war. This means that you follow the rules of the Geneva Convention.

But what about America, you ask? Well, what about it? If you think I’m going to defend every decision America has ever made, you’re wrong. Yes, we obliterated Dresden. Yes, we used nuclear bombs against Japan. Yes, we dropped Agent Orange on Vietnam. We dropped one million tons of bombs on Vietnam, for that matter, and we killed a lot of civilians. We’ve killed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and Yemen with drones. These actions were also horrific and wrong.

In the current conflict, I’d like to see a ceasefire. I’d like to see the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, leading to an independent State of Palestine. I’m also enough of a realist to know this is very unlikely right now. The last time an Israeli leader made a bold choice for peace, he got assassinated for it. But there will never be peace until both sides are willing to let historical injustices be just that, historical, and move forward in recognition of the current reality on the ground and with a sincere desire for their children and grandchildren to live in peace.

The Palestinians will never succeed in wiping out every Israeli. The Israelis will never succeed in wiping out every Palestinian. Even if they wipe out Hamas, the indiscriminate killing of civilians while blaming them for being in the wrong place merely ensures they will lay the groundwork for something even more terrible to arise, and the cycle will continue. And every rocket attack on Israel from Hamas-controlled territory guarantees the continued existence of Israeli hardliners who want to wipe out the Palestinians, or at least continue to deny them basic rights.

I don’t have answers. I’m not sure there are answers. But for now, just know that I am appalled at just about everyone in the conflict right now, and if you have any sacred cows, you should not expect me to respect them.

And if you’ve read this far, thank you. I really appreciate it.