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Sheema Khan is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

The New York Times Magazine recently convened a discussion about the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, featuring a balance of Palestinian and Jewish historians. Beginning with the 1920 British mandate for Palestine, the historians contextualized key moments leading to the year 1948. What is undisputed is that during the past century, two peoples have experienced profound human trauma. As with all conflicts, women and children have suffered greatly and continue to do so, since the brutal Hamas attack of Oct. 7, and the ensuing Israeli onslaught of Gaza.

Consider the story of two grandmothers, one Palestinian, one Israeli, both murdered in this unforgiving maelstrom of violence.

Fifty-seven-year old Hala Khreis was leading a group of evacuees in northern Gaza in January after living conditions in their neighbourhood had become intolerable. She held the small hand of her four-year-old grandson Tayem, who waved a white flag as they set off on an evacuation route deemed “safe.” Ms. Khreis was shot and she slumped to the ground; her grandson fled toward the evacuees. Despite her family’s best efforts, Ms. Khreis bled to death. Just months before, she had celebrated the engagement of her daughter, along with her son’s university graduation. Now her children are grieving deeply, their lives shattered. According to CNN, at least four other Gazan evacuees have been shot dead while holding white flags.

Vivian Silver, born in Winnipeg, lived in Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza border. Her home was burned and gutted during the Oct. 7. Hamas attack; her remains were found five weeks later. The 74-year-old peace activist had been working tirelessly to build a shared society. She helped Gazans with job training, worked to ensure fair wages for Gazan workers on the kibbutz, and transported cancer patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals. In a moving tribute to Vivian, her friend, Palestinian activist Samah Salaime, painted a portrait of a compassionate, principled woman of deep humanity, who knew that violence and subjugation would never ensure security.

Ms. Salaime has also called for a principled feminism that stands with both Palestinian women in Gaza traumatized by war and Israeli women who suffered horrific sexual violence on Oct. 7 and beyond. This is not a contest between atrocities, but rather, a moral imperative to uphold human dignity everywhere.

UN Women issued a report on the gendered impact of the crisis in Gaza: as of January, 2024, 70 per cent of the 25,000 Palestinians that had been killed were women and children, more than 1 million women and girls were displaced, two mothers were being killed every hour, and at least 3,000 women had become widows and heads of households. Menstruation products were unavailable. The New York Times reported that in March, 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza “are suffering from malnutrition, dehydration and lack of proper health care,” with roughly 5,000 giving birth every month under terrible conditions without access to pre- and postnatal care. Gazan women are losing weight during pregnancy owing to severe food scarcity.

A UN Report, based on an investigation in Israel, led by Pramila Patten, UN special envoy on sexual violence and conflict, found reasonable grounds to believe that sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred in at least three locations on Oct. 7. It also found that some of the released female hostages had experienced sexual violence, including rape and sexualized torture, while in captivity. The report is a horrific read, describing extreme brutality inflicted on Israeli women.

A panel of UN experts also found credible allegations of rape, sexual assault and threats of rape of Palestinian women and girls while in Israeli detention in Gaza and the West Bank, along with the denial of menstruation pads, food and medicine. There have also been disturbing reports of extrajudicial killings of women and girls in Gaza, and the disappearance of women and children after contact with the Israeli army there.

NDP MP Heather McPherson astutely observed that many communities are in tremendous pain. Often, it blinds you to the suffering of others. A Globe reader from Montreal, Richard Levy, showed me my blind spot. He reached out, dismayed by the lack of recognition, in my last article, of the anguish experienced by the Jewish community. He was right. I was so focused on the pain of my co-religionists in Gaza and the West Bank that I failed to see the pain in others.

Recognizing the suffering of “the other side” is not a sign of weakness, but rather, a recognition of our shared humanity. We all want human dignity, security and a better future for our children. Let’s work on healing the pain. This will entail difficult conversations that forge a path toward justice for all aggrieved parties.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that UN Women reported 25,000 Palestinian civilians had been killed as of January, 2024. The reported stated 25,000 Palestinians had been killed.

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