19 October, 2021

The Humanitarian Collective

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The Recent Events in Israel-Palestine, Explained

Guest author Yasmeen Masoud breaks down the circumstances in Israel-Palestine with history, context, and a discussion of Palestinian identity.

If you have a device and any social media platform, you’ve likely seen a rapid increase in posts related to the Israel-Palestine situation. It would be impossible for me to properly detail the events and dates of every clash between Israel and Palestine over the past 73 years––that would require me to write a book series. While this situation’s history is most definitely extensive, the situation itself is not as complex or nuanced as some like to believe, most using this supposed “complexity” as an excuse to stay silent about it. Rather than providing a long history, I’ll explain recent events in the regions and cover some common questions and arguments by describing the reality of the situation in Israel-Palestine. 

Starting from the beginning of 2020, Israel has been issuing illegal eviction notices to Palestinians in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah located in East Jerusalem. These evictions would make way for extremist Israeli settlers to steal the homes of the Palestinians that have been living there for decades. Keep in mind, the concept of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is not new; such settlements have been constructed since the 1900s. Israel is directly built on Palestinian suffering, with millions of Palestinians being kicked out of their homes and made refugees at the hands of the Israeli government. They can accomplish this with bulldozing, bombings, sham courts, and Western support. In the same week, mobs of extremist right-wing Israelis had been walking through the streets of Palestine chanting “Death to Arabs.” In light of these evictions and mobs, peaceful Palestinian protests began to urge the Israeli government to not move forward with the evictions. As always, these protesters were met by the Israeli occupation forces with violence, baseless arrests, and skunk water, a form of sewage water that obstructs one’s breathing ability, causes nausea, and violent gagging along with vomiting. During the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, as Muslim Palestinians were in the middle of their salah (prayer), Israeli occupation forces attacked the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli occupation forces used weapons to violently attack Palestinians, shooting rubberized steel bullets and throwing stun and smoke grenades outside as well as inside the mosque. Over 600 Palestinians were injured and in need of medical help. In light of these evictions and attacks, widespread peaceful protests broke out in Gaza and the West Bank. These protesters were also met with intense violence from Israeli occupying forces. After all of these blatant offensive attacks, Hamas, in an official statement to Israel, asked Israel to stop attacking the Palestinians, and they warned them that if Israel continued they would retaliate. In response to Hamas’ message, Israel attacked the Al-Aqsa mosque twice as hard injuring more Palestinians, causing an enormous deal of damage to the mosque, and even taking the keys away from those who manage the mosque, making it impossible for Muslim Palestinians to access their place of worship. Then on May 10th, Hamas fired 7 rockets at Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh from Gaza, injuring 1 Israeli. In response, Israel began bombing Gaza, killing 20 Palestinians, 9 of whom were children. These bombs destroyed Palestinian civilians’ homes, apartment complexes, stores, hospitals, and mosques. As of May 20th, 2021, throughout this “11-day crisis,” 1,710 Palestinians have been injured in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli government. 230 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, with 65 of them being children under the age of 14, and 12 Israelis have been killed. After 11 days of violence, (May 6th-May 21st), a ceasefire was declared at 2 am on Friday, with both sides claiming victory. 

Isn’t this all over because of the ceasefire though? 

The ceasefire changes little for Palestinian civilians. Less than twelve hours after the ceasefire announcement, Israeli occupation forces once again attacked the al-Aqsa mosque, injuring twenty Palestinians. CNN reporters claim to have witnessed people, including many screaming children, fleeing the mosque as stun grenades went off behind them. Additionally, it is important to remember that this ceasefire puts Palestinians (specifically those in Gaza) right back to where they were before, but now with more innocent people dead and homes destroyed. The United Nations finds that at least 58,000 individuals have been made homeless in Gaza. Before the recent event, two million Gazans already had limited access to basic needs such as food, clean water, healthcare, and electricity due to the Israeli blockade on the area. 80% of Gazans relied on humanitarian aid and one million live under the poverty line, with one-third of them unable to afford food. We can only assume these numbers will get higher. Now, more farmers cannot access their crops, shop owners don’t have enough to sell, and as a result, the price of food has already soared. Clean water accessibility has decreased even lower than what it already had been. This ceasefire does not change the fact that Gaza remains an open-air prison under illegal occupation

Is Israel an apartheid state? Do its actions constitute ethnic cleansing?

Throughout the majority of Israeli-occupied Palestine, Israel holds the role of sole governing power. In the rest, it exercises primary authority alongside some Palestinian self-rule. In all of these sectors, as well as in most other facets of life, Israeli authorities routinely favor Israelis while discriminating against Palestinians. The goal of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and territory has long dictated government policy, as evidenced by laws, regulations, and declarations by senior Israeli officials. Authorities have evicted, restricted, forcefully divided, and oppressed Palestinians based on their identity to varying degrees in order to achieve this purpose. These deprivations are so severe in some locations that, according to Human Rights Watch, they constitute apartheid crimes against humanity. Thinking back to Al-Nakba (Arabic for “the catastrophe”) of 1948, in which over 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes and made refugees at the hands of Israeli settlers. To this day, in towns like Silwan, Sheik Jarrah, and Jaffa, Palestinians are being illegally evicted from their homes, for Israeli settlers to come in and take them. On top of that, Palestinian civilians are detained, beat, and killed at mass rates, simply for being Palestinians. The mass expulsion and killing of Palestinians, because they are unwanted in Israel-Palestine, qualifies as ethnic cleansing.

Are anti-zionism and antisemitism the same?

Zionism has a plethora of definitions, spanning from first congress zionists (who claim Jewish people should have a state but not at the expense of any other ethnic group) to more settler colonialism zionists who derive their views from racism against Arabs. I want to focus on Zionism in its modern form and how it’s been practiced. Zionism (in its current form) is only possible through ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism, land robbery, and mass dispossession throughout our lifetime. Opposing Zionism in its current form entails opposing the injustice and settler colonialism that allows it. These rational critiques of Israel do not incite antisemitism or other manifestations of bigotry because they are directed at Israel’s policies and regime of occupation and apartheid, not at Jews as a whole. It’s also important to remember that prior to the establishment of Israel and still now, there are a number of Jewish Palestinians. The Palestinian struggle for democracy, justice, and equality, as well as the global fight against antisemitism, are also harmed when anti-zionist rhetoric is conflated with antisemitism. It also protects Israel from being held responsible for its several human rights and international law violations. To level the accusation of antisemitism against someone who considers Israel’s current state to be discriminatory, regardless of the real structural and constitutional discrimination on which it is founded, is to give Israel complete immunity. If you don’t condemn Israeli violence against Palestinians because you believe it is antisemitic to do so, you are effectively implying that Judaism stands for racism, colonialism, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing–– now that is antisemitic. There is no doubt anti-semitism is a serious issue that we all need to work together to fight against. However, conflating anti-zionism with antisemitism is dangerous to both the global movement against antisemitism and the Palestinian fight for basic human rights. Furthermore, if one is pro-Palestinian with antisemitic intentions, they should distance themselves as far away from the Palestinian cause as possible. These people are in no way representative of the Palestinian cause and simply endanger it. 

Aren’t Israelis and Palestinians just fighting over religion? 

To begin with, this is not a fight; Israel is the oppressor, and Palestine is oppressed. Zionism claims to be a Jewish movement, but its treatment of Palestinians is inconsistent with Judaism’s morals of peace, and its crimes are neither reflective of Judaism nor the Jewish population. Before the creation of Israel 73 years ago, Palestinian Christians, Jews, and Muslims all peacefully co-existed in Palestine. The Palestinian Christian community is the oldest Christian community in the world. There are many Palestinian Jews as well, like the Samaritans who reside in Nablus. All Palestinians, regardless of religion, are oppressed by Israel. Making the plight of Palestinians seem to be a religious issue is inaccurate. Israel, a group of settlers colonizing Palestine and ethnically cleansing Palestinians, is at the center of this situation. Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that aims to evict the native population and replace it with a new settlers’ society. This is not about religion; Israel is a settler colony, and Palestine is the land they are colonizing. Israel hides its crimes by claiming that it is a religious dispute, but it is important to look beyond their lies. To hide the truth on the ground, Israel spreads disinformation and even lies about its own brief settler-colonial history. Israel understands that it is much easier for people to distance themselves from a situation that has been reduced to a religious dispute that has existed since the dawn of time.

The “but Hamas” argument: 

In my experience, people have used this argument to excuse Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. The media has made it seem as if Hamas started this “11-day crisis” however the basic timeline I provided above, proves otherwise. The IDF claims to be attacking Gaza to attack Hamas. They push this claim because they know how to manipulate people. It’s easy for individuals to excuse oppression and murder when they think it is against “terrorists”. So, my point is, by claiming to only be attacking Hamas, Israel makes it so everyone turns a blind eye to the bombings and the murders. However, factually, Israel is not only attacking Hamas. The 65 children who died, just within these 11 days, excluding the 70+ years of murder, were not Hamas members. The owners of small businesses, the doctors, lawyers, and teachers that Israel killed with their airstrikes were not Hamas members. Israel can’t bomb entire cities and claim to be attacking Hamas. They can’t bomb residential buildings with the goal of attacking Hamas only to kill civilians on a mass scale. Israel is attacking innocent Palestinian civilians and using this claim as a cover-up. 

Why can’t we call it a conflict or war? 

What is happening in Palestine is settler colonialism, military occupation, land theft, and ethnic cleansing. A conflict or war implies there is equal footing, which is not the case. This is a matter of an oppressor (Israel) and an oppressed (Palestine). It’s important to note that past clashes between Israel-Palestine are considered wars, and experienced deaths on both sides. However, there’s a clear power imbalance between the two that should be noted. Keep in mind Israel has a military force (including ground soldiers, a navy, and an air force) with a budget of 20.5 billion people, and Palestine has none. Israel’s ground forces detain, beat and kill Palestinian civilians at staggeringly high rates daily. It’s not an “ongoing conflict” when one side points assault rifles at the other and illegally evicts them from their homes. It’s not a conflict when (out of “wars”) unarmed civilians are killed, or bombed in their sleep. This is ethnic cleansing. 

How is Israel even able to do this, wouldn’t the UN have stopped them if they were that bad?

The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned Israel in 45 resolutions as of 2013. Since its inception in 2006, the Council has passed almost as many resolutions condemning Israel as the rest of the world combined. In 2020 alone, the United Nations General Assembly condemned Israel a total of 17 times. One of the biggest reasons Israel has been able to break international law 28 times is because of its support from other countries built on settler colonialism, like the United States. There are five countries in the UN with veto power: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The United States is a huge ally to Israel, providing 3.8 billion dollars in aid to them annually. A single country with veto power can obstruct any action taken by the Security Council by a majority of its members. The United States, for example, regularly casts lone vetoes on resolutions condemning Israel.

Above is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Humanitarian Collective, its Editorial Board, opinion editors, constituents, or sponsors.

Sources

https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-Israel-jerusalem-076a9ec7e2bd9c065882c64a4ab820a1 https://fmep.org/media/reading/top-news-from-Israel-Palestine-may-6-2021/ 

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/21/middleeast/Israel-palestinian-conflict-friday-intl/index.html

https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18079996/Israel-palestine-conflict-guide-explainer

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/israel/palestine

https://www.idf.il/en/search/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/18/mapping-israeli-occupation-gaza-palestine https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution# 

https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080030/israel-palestine-nakba
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Yasmeen Masoud is a 15-year-old student at Horace Mann School. She grew up in a Palestinian and Puerto Rican household in the Bronx. She constantly finds herself immersed in discussions on social issues, human rights, racism, gender, sexuality, and identity. She enjoys theatre, history, and literary analysis.

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