In the early hours of Friday the 21st of May, news reports circulated that a ceasefire between the Israeli army and Hamas in the Gaza Strip was coming into effect. Bringing an end to a difficult and controversial 11 days of violence which had left more than 250 people killed (most of which residents of Gaza). Thousands of Palestinians have returned to what was once their homes, and the Israeli army allowed medical personnel access into the affected areas. Despite the ceasefire showing signs of holding, hostilities still remain quite high within the region. That being said, a full end to the conflict might not be so close as to what most would hope for.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the country’s bombing campaign of Palestinian armged groups had killed “more than 200” fighters in the Gaza area. Including 25 senior commanders, to which he labelled the campaign as an “exceptional success”. Meanwhile, Hamas also claimed their own “victory” as the group’s political chief Ismail Haniya pledges to rebuild Gaza.
World leaders around the world also reacted to the ceasefire. Russian and Chinese leaders called for a return to peace talks. US President Joe Biden was quoted as saying that he believed there was a “genuine opportunity to make progress” – while stressing on his commitment to continue working towards it. The EU urged on working towards a “two-state solution” and that it would be the only realistic approach.
Columnist for the Washington Diplomat, Eric Ham, said that the latest military action between Israel and Hamas had started a change of perception towards Israel among some of the lawmakers in the US. He wrote that what we see now are a number of Democrats who are “willing to come out and speak in very openly critical terms of Israel and Israel’s military aggression or response”. Even saying that it’s “something we would not have seen from Democrats even five years ago”.
It isn’t something new that there are two narratives within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One narrative says that the Israeli armed forces are acting accordingly as most nations would – defending themselves and their civilians from imminent threat.
In the other narrative, the Israeli army’s continuous bombardment and occupation of Palestinian land is yet another crime made on the people of Palestine – the retaliation is but a reaction of years of oppression. These two narratives are often pushed through different mediums, they come from different voices, include different facts, and in doing so, there is just no way for it to be reconcilable.
With that being said, discussing what’s happening in Israel and Palestine is important. However, it must be done in a way without any Antisemitic or Islamophobic remarks. The Israeli army doesn’t represent all Israelis or Jewish people and Hamas doesn’t represent all Palestinians or Muslims.
As we go on social media and we witness (or take part in) all sorts of discourse about the issue, it should be put on the forefront of our minds that we can show our solidarity with the Palestinian people and hope for the end of the violence without being Antisemitic.
The violence seen in Gaza and Israel this week is by far the worst since 2014 where an Israeli army operation resulted in casualties on both sides: 2,251 Palestinians were killed (1,462 of them civilians) along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians.
In the second week of May this year, the Israeli government announced that the defense forces would be intensifying its assault on Gaza as the conflict intensifies. News reports indicate that at least 122 people had been murdered in Gaza, and eight in Israel since the fighting started. The tally continues to change throughout the crisis. On the 18th of May, Reuters reported that about 42 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike (10 of which being children).
The conflict is a struggle between two national movements that fight for sovereignty and control over land found between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Looking into the timelines that are so often skewed and misinterpreted, most timelines indicate that both have experienced exile from their homeland and are both attached to the same land. The two also emphasize on having security fears and each consider to be the victim of the ongoing conflict.
Various world leaders have expressed their different views on the situation. While the US Democratic party is so oftentimes inching towards the left on domestic (and foreign) policy issues, the Biden administration has instead highlighted “Israel’s right to defend itself”. US president Joe Biden was quoted in saying that he did not see a “significant overreaction from Israel” – while he failed to mention a word about Palestinian casualties.
Over in the EU, the conflict is very much dividing opinions of leaders and policymakers. As the fight gets worse, Israel demands stronger support from Brussels and calls for more condemnation of Hamas, who the EU already consider as a terrorist group. The Palestinians see the EU turning a blind eye to the numerous violations of international law, and the decades of illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
Bernie Sanders was quick to voice his strong opinions on the situation. In a guest opinion column in the New York Times, he referred to the “Israel has a right to defend itself” statement repeated time and time again. He made it clear that no one is arguing that Israel (or any government for that matter) doesn’t hold the right to self-defense. Yet, he points out, why is nobody asking “what are the rights of the Palestinian people? And why do we seem to take notice of the violence in Israel and Palestine only when rockets are falling on Israel?”
Is there really a place for a “both sides” approach to see the conflict?
Again, there are always different narratives to the sides. On one hand, many point out that this is a conflict that neither side can ever really win. Hamas rationalizes the attacks on Israeli land by citing the fight against Zionist colonialism, Israel responds by saying that the attacks are the struggle against radical Islam terrorism. On the other hand, while both sides suffer casualties – to quote John Oliver’s viral video talking about the issue, “one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world”. Not to mention having the backing from international powerhouses such as the US and the UK.
Going back to the start of the recent escalation of violence, we can’t ignore the fact that Palestinian families residing in Jerusalem’s area of Sheikh Jarrah had been under the threat of eviction for years, often putting up against a system created to force their displacement.
Over these past weeks, Israeli settlers have intensified their efforts to evict them. This has been going on for a long time, as the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the acts in Gaza make life for Palestinians all the more difficult.
Scholars, commentators, and analysts have suggested that the conflict may comes to a point where only both sides will consider two options:
– The first is to negotiate and come to an agreement of peaceful coexistence that may divide the land into two viable states.
– The second one is where one side attempts to maintain control of all the land at the expense of the other side.
From a “both sides” approach, one can argue that many powerful actors acting both inside the two sides and outside prefer to favor the second one. Again, the conflict isn’t something new and it isn’t something that happened by random.
While humanitarian or grassroot organizations continue to urge for an end of the occupation on Palestinian territory in hopes of a stop to the violence, international governing bodies such as the Biden administration are just repeating the same moves as their predecessors: hoping for a cease-fire that would eventually bring a sense of calm to the region.
But how long will that calm ever truly last?
Yes, Israel – any nation in that matter – has a right to defend itself. Yet world leaders need to understand that it can’t and shouldn’t be the main statement to end discourse over the issue when they haven’t even considered what the rights are of the Palestinian people are.