Violence Plagues the Holy Land, and the US is Not Helping

Jorge Fernandez Salas/Unsplash

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

To the surprise of very few, the Israel-Palestine conflict is flaring up and grabbing the headlines.

Although recent developments are deeply saddening, I am encouraged to see so much discussion around them. In my opinion, basic knowledge of the longtime conflict is crucial among our generation, as it represents arguably the most pressing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.

I assume that anyone reading this article has heard of recent developments: hefty violence in the form of rocket barrages and bombings, alongside violent riots and religiously-charged attacks. The conflict was essentially initiated by racist mobs attacking Arabs in Israel. The hostilities have culminated in a large-scale crisis between Israel and Hamas, a militant organization that formerly served as representation for the Palestinian people of the Gaza strip, a piece of land to Israel’s southeast. Today, Gaza is ungoverned, and Hamas operates in a loose network.

The Palestinian people have had little to no representation over the past seven decades of Israeli dominance, and it is long past time for the US to acknowledge it on a broad scale. Human rights should not be deemed “complicated.”

As of late, the crisis is being settled in an Egypt-brokered ceasefire. Thankfully, valuable Israeli partners like the United Arab Emirates have offered to assist in peace efforts.

Mainstream American opinion on the conflict goes something like this: both Israel and Hamas have engaged in wrongdoing, but Hamas is a literal terrorist organization. Israel, after all, is a democracy and has a right to defend itself. But the details are complicated, so it is best to leave it to the experts.

I can certainly understand the latter point, as I have, at times, doubted my ability to reasonably analyze a global conflict. This article serves to briefly express an opinion, and a proper analysis would take dozens more pages. However, I see little acknowledgement that Palestinian lives matter.

The US is a very close ally of Israel, providing the entity with billions in military aid that has become more accustomed to targeting civilians than engaging in legitimate self-defense against terrorists. This includes a land, air, and sea blockade of Gaza that has cut off humanitarian aid. Israel is upheld as a western-style democracy in a sea of bad actors, and a force against the US foes of Iran and Syria, which have threatened its destruction.

There is no way around it: Israel’s pummeling of Gaza this year was egregious and disturbing. 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed by missile attacks. Photographs of the devastation reveal horrid tragedy: homes obliterated, children orphaned, and lives destroyed. Events like this have occurred for the past seventy years, after full-scale wars and seemingly seasonal bombings have left countless dead.

The Israeli government justifies this by pointing to Hamas’ violent activities. But one would think that such a well-resourced state could put in more effort to strategically target this enemy that is not even a fully-fledged state. Some countries made this effort in the war against ISIL, going after propaganda and global terrorist networks.

But in response to Israeli incompetence, Hamas has deliberately broken up its operations so as to confuse the enemy. Some of its leaders reside in Qatar, a safe and secure country. Israel assumed that the Gaza blockade would strangle Hamas, but it has led to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Although it comes after the human rights tragedy, the security aspect is important as well. Israel has enabled the terrorism it is claiming to be against by relentlessly promoting an occupation of the West Bank and doing little to refute anti-Arab sentiment or Palestinian suffering. In fact, this phenomenon was apparent during the ISIL crisis, as recruits from non-Muslim majority countries came primarily from places where Islamophobia is common.

This year’s crisis saw racist, Islamophobic  and anti-Semitic riots. They spread globally, including to the US. In Israel itself, Arabs constitute 1/5 of the population, so racial and religious fears have become instilled in the Israeli political establishment and in many areas of society. Palestinians within the state essentially have sub-citizen status. At the same time, Jews experience minimal discrimination in Iran, an Israeli nemesis.

Not to deny or disrespect the Israeli lives lost, but asserting Israel’s right to defend itself in these times is akin to saying “All Lives Matter” after the death of an unarmed black man to law enforcement. Regardless of what your country or other countries and players have done, any wrongdoing state must be called out and its actions addressed immediately. 

There is no justification for the aimless pummeling of Palestinian civilians, the blockade of Gaza rendering the region nearly uninhabitable and the occupation of the West Bank when Palestinians already have miniscule rights within Israel.

This holds true for many across the Middle East. US actions have often led to prolonged suffering for countries like Iraq and Libya, so anti-US sentiment in many countries should not surprise us or be met with contempt. If North Korea bombed your neighborhood due to a “strategic miscalculation,” you may feel pretty damn compelled to burn the North Korean flag. 

Think about it: if you had no government, you may turn to a group like Hamas to have any form of defense or representation whatsoever. And quite frankly, Palestinians don’t need a lecture or input about how to respond to the bombardment of their world. Palestinians are already leading the fight, especially in the US, after having their voices silenced for generations.

At the same time, the Orwellian power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US is disturbing, but resistance is growing. Jewish groups like J Street promote a two-state solution and an end to the occupation of the West Bank. A number of Palestinian-led movements are making inroads and growing in support. There are common-sense approaches to all this, that recognize the evils of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at the same time, and the injustices of Israel’s activity. The US government, and the general public, must recognize it.

A country flouted as a democracy is engaging in behaviors resembling ethnic cleansing. Many of my peers who grew up in, or have ties to, the Middle East have told me how difficult it is to experience this in-person, and deal with others’ refusal to acknowledge the realities of the situation.

US citizens and politicians must listen to those who are directly affected by all this, and those affected must lead the fight for better policies. Many have lost faith in international institutions and a two-state solution. Every voice and viewpoint must be considered in policymaking, and Arab and Muslim Americans uplifted to more positions of leadership. Much of the history of Israeli settlement and the state’s founding is overlooked, despite the violence and racism involved.

Israel has also done little to assist refugees, including many it has displaced, unlike its Jordanian and Emirati partners who have demonstrated a strong willingness to help. Turkey, too, has played a huge role in refugee resettlement.

The role of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism must be tackled, as tropes of Arabs and Muslims being violent and hell-bent on Israel’s destruction are still circulated and dictate how many Americans view the Israel-Palestine crisis.

For the time being, I am pleased to see Democrats take a harder line towards Israel, but remain deeply disappointed in the institutionalization of hardline pro-Israel sentiments. I have hope that activists will continue the fight for a just Middle East. If the US refuses to follow along, progress will be miniscule, and the cycle will never end.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

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