Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Despite profound political and social fractures, unity regarding Hamas terrorism has mostly coalesced in Israel, the U.S. and Minnesota.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz formed a national emergency government as Israel reels from an attack that killed about 1,200 people — including at least 14 Americans — with about 150 taken hostage (again, including U.S. citizens) by Hamas.
In Washington, President Joe Biden didn't equivocate in calling the attacks what they were: "pure, unadulterated evil." Reflecting 50 years of having Israel's back, Biden promised "urgent action" to help America's enduring ally in the Mideast. On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, even amid bitter divisions, Congress has rallied on a bipartisan basis to politically and likely economically aid Israel.
And leaders from St. Paul joined mourners in St. Louis Park on Tuesday night at Beth El Synagogue in remembering the victims at an event billed as "Solidarity for Israel." Describing the scale and scope of the attacks, Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said, "It's sobering, it's somber, but it's the truth: Saturday was the single largest loss of life for Jewish people since the Holocaust."
Speaking at the event, Gov. Tim Walz said there was not "an inch of space" between the assembled elected leaders about what Israel should do to defend its people, and that "If you do not find moral clarity about what was seen Saturday morning, you need to re-evaluate where you're at."
Walz wasn't speaking directly to the Twin Cities chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. But Ken Martin, the chairman of Walz's DFL Party, was doing just that when he described their "statement of solidarity with Palestine" as "appalling."
The statement, released on Tuesday, speaks of being "heartbroken" over the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, described by the DSA (and many other observers) as the "world's largest open-air prison." Heartbreak is an appropriate response, given the deplorable conditions of the teeming strip, where deprivation of dignity among other life-affirming necessities should be unacceptable to the whole world.
But the statement blamed only Israel and did not acknowledge Hamas — which the U.S., European Union and others rightly consider a terrorist group — as also complicit in imprisoning the population by terrorizing those who call out its extremism and governance failures since it won legislative elections in 2006 and violently drove out the more secular Fatah in 2007.
And, more important, the DSA statement did not even mention the Hamas terrorist attack, of which U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said: "The more you learn about these sickening atrocities, the worse it gets."
What the statement did include was this conclusion: "We are resolved to proclaim 'From the River, to the Sea, Palestine will be free!' today and until liberation."
Martin said via social media that "'From the river to the sea' is a chant used by extremists to support the destruction of Israel. It is appalling to embrace this rhetoric in this statement, which also doesn't acknowledge the slaughter of Israeli & American civilians. This is disgusting."
Martin's disgust may match that of other DFL leaders but apparently doesn't match party policy, since several of the seven City Council candidates (five in Minneapolis and two in St. Paul) endorsed by the DSA are also endorsed by the DFL. What's more, Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar, a DFLer, was the only member of the Minnesota congressional delegation who did not sign on to a bipartisan resolution supporting Israel "as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists," although she did post her condemnation of the attacks on social media.
Martin's party needs to reckon with the growing influence of the DSA in the DFL, a party which under Hubert Humphrey jettisoned fringe elements, just as Republicans under Harold Stassen pushed back against isolationists.
This rare moment of unity will no doubt be tested in the coming days as Israel tries to root Hamas out of Gaza. Especially since so many innocent lives have or will be lost as Hamas is interspersed within civilian areas. Those advocating for restraint should be heard out: Loss of Palestinian lives is just as tragic as the loss of Israeli or American ones. And many of those lives lost reflect the fact that most Gazans — especially the roughly 1 million children — have nowhere to go. And half of them already were in dire need of humanitarian aid, according to UNICEF.
That's a point that was not lost on Martin, who later said of the terror attack and the need to also protect Palestinian human rights that people "can hold two truths at once."
The DSA statement failed to do that, only focusing on the Palestinians' plight.
Others should not repeat this mistake. Instead, they should hold basic humanity — of Palestinians, Israelis and everyone affected — as their compass in commenting on the tragedy enveloping the Mideast, and the world.