Last night members of the Israeli navy boarded a boat manned by pro-Palestinian activists and aid workers in International waters and killed 9 non-combatants as well as wounding 30 more. The boat was aimed at the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip in order to bring greater international attention to the atrocities being committed there.
It is interesting that this should happen this weekend, as I was doing a little elective research on the Palestinean-Israeli Conflict if that shows you how much of a nerd I am. In this process I have been absolutely shocked at the situation that has been building momentum since 1917.
As a brief synopsis that does not do the conflict justice, Britain promised Israel to be a homeland for the Jewish people. This came to fruition in the years immediately following WWII as the UN Partition Plan ceded 50% more land to Israel than the originally proposed offer. This led to civil unrest in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” as well as many more Israeli-Palestinian wars that granted the Israeli’s even more land. The Palestinians now reside primarily in two segments of the Israeli state, The West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Obviously there are a number of different opinions on this. There are arguments on both sides and there have been since the creation of this state. What I hope to do is look at this through the scope of human rights.
Lets take the Gaza Strip for example, a small sliver of coast in Southern Israel that has been occupied by Palestinians. After the militant Hamas organization took over Israel has begun a resource blockade that allows for no import or exporting by the residents of Gaza. Also the government has begun to ration the supply of electricity, fuel, and water to this area. Israeli fears of Hamas led to a horrific air assault just last year on “Terrorist” locations. Said “Terrorist” locations include elementary schools, hospitals, communal wells, universities, and refugee camps. 464 Palestinians were killed, many non-combatants and children, which bumped the total to 868 Palestinian deaths by Israeli Military in Gaza for the year. This compared to 15 Israelis dead in the same time period.
On the other side of the country is the West Bank. There are 2.4 million Palestinians living in this small parcel of land that include Jericho and East Jerusalem. Israel has put up a concrete wall to separate itself from this land, even though 350,000 Israelis live in communities inside of it. Jordan has also acquired some of the land on the far Eastern side of this land, leading to further disillusionment of the Palestinian people. Governmental regime Fatah, the rival of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is in control of the West Bank and the conflict between the two factions has led to much internal stress for Palestinians.
The conflict between these two nations of Israel and Palestine has been a largely bloody and violent one. However due to Western support Israel has always had superior firepower and technology, leading to a lopsided war. In total roughly 12,497 Palestinians have been killed in various conflicts, compared to 1,484 Israelis.
There are a bevy of theological and social issues behind this conflict. However the atrocities to human rights are so blatant. Israel has violated the Geneva Convention multiple times by attacking U.N. sanctioned property and using White Phosphorous shells that led to many burn victims. However a blind eye has been turned by many Western Powers that are invested fiscally in Israel (Including the United States, which just committed 3.2 billion dollars to aid Israel over the next fiscal year).
There have obviously been a great number of human rights violations done to the Jewish people, and biblically they were appropriated the land of Israel. However it is very difficult to connect modern Israel with the nation of Israel from the Bible. Modern Israel is a secular state, only 3/4ths of the nation even claim Judaism as their religious form of expression, and the nation is primarily ethnically Jewish not religiously Jewish.
The obvious comparison for me is South African Apartheid. The exclusion of the Palestinian people for no apparent reason and the dehumanization by the Israelis makes this connection. In fact famed South African leaders Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have been attempting to bring the attention of the world to Israel, saying how similar their situation was. They have also been very proactive in bartering peace between the two in a non-violent way, which South Africa modeled so eloquently.
However the Palestinians do not have a marketable non-violent leader like Mandela or bona fide World interest in their situation. They are by no means fully innocent in this situation either; they also have propagated much of the violence.
These are a people stripped of a nation, reacting out of anger and strife. Continued Militant action by no means will quell this conflict. The only foreseeable means of moving on are either a holistic forgiveness on both sides and a commitment to peaceful coexistence, or the creation of a Palestinian state. A cycle of redemptive violence has been continuing in this nation for the past 60 years, and as technology develops the results become increasingly destructive.
Our responsibility as informed people is to understand the conflict, and to draw attention to human rights. Neither side is right, but there needn’t be a winner in this scenario. Once peace is established, then there will a victory. Until then, we are all losers.