It’s easy to get the facts mixed up in a topic like this. If you find errors in my narrative, please let me know (and attach a source).
The latest rage in social media in the past few weeks has been the escalation between Gaza and Israel. In this piece, I’m going to explain why it came together, why it was coming together, and why this madness needs to stop.
If you already know enough about what happened, scroll down.
It was just another normal week of Hamas firing toy rockets into the middle of nowhere in Israel, but on the night of June 12, something unusual happened: Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the occupied territories. As per tradition, Israeli PM Netanyahu blamed Hamas without any evidence.
But this time, contrary to their tradition, Hamas denied responsibility.
The next day, the IDF initiated Operation Brother’s Keeper in order to rescue the three boys. Villages and homes were raided at night by Israeli security, and the Israeli government was accused of stealing (“confiscating”) $3 million worth of property from Palestinian homes, businesses and charities. Israel maintained that the confiscations were only from sources that fund terrorism, but failed to back that up with evidence either.
18 days later, the three boys were found dead. A day after they were buried, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists in revenge. This attack, however, was nowhere as widely condemned. On July 3, Israel launched 15 airstrikes onto Gaza directed at Hamas targets (15 injuries) in response to Hamas airstrikes into Sderot, a city adjacent to the northeastern edge of the Gaza strip. However, that did not keep Hamas from firing into random sidewalks (and occasionally community buildings) in Israel.
And on July 8, without a specific reason, Israel launched an air campaign on Gaza – Operation Mighty Cliff – Known in English as Protective Edge. In one day, Israel had hit 50 targets in the Gaza strip, and Hamas declared that every Israeli is a legitimate target. From this point, it was on.
On July 15, Egypt (oh hi) officially proposed a basic ceasefire to end the war and resume ordinary trade and movement to and from Gaza. This ceasefire was readily accepted by the Israeli cabinet, but rejected by Hamas who called the ceasefire “in its current form” tantamount to surrender. Hamas countered this offer with a proposal of its own, a 10-year peace deal which demands the release of prisoners re-arrested in Brother’s Keeper, and more power to the UN in the area among other things. Israel ignored this offer, but agreed to a UN-brokered 5-hour ceasefire the next day.
As of July 18, 268 Palestinians were killed, at least 72% of whom are confirmed civilians, and 2296 were wounded, in addition to thousands displaced by damage to their homes. On the other side, Israel had a total of 2 deaths (including one civilian) and 45 injuries, 28 of them civilian. Also, some buildings were fired on with varying degrees of damage. About 48 Palestinian children were killed by the Israeli attacks, some of whom went viral. Netanyahu simply waved off the civilian loss of life, stressing that “no international pressure will prevent Israel from continuing its operation in Gaza … The leaders of Hamas are hiding behind the citizens of Gaza, and they are responsible for all casualties.”
As of this posting, the IDF had just escalated the conflict into a ground operation while stressing the above excuse, and the war is still on with the same intensity.
Why they fight
If you have a broad understanding of this too, scroll down some more.
There is a reason why Hamas is known to Arabs as The Resistance.
Arabs consider the region of Palestine a land stolen from its inhabitants; the state and nation of Israel is consequently nothing more than an occupying power no matter how long or how well it can control the land. By this logic, more nationalistic Arabs believe that Israel and the Israelis must be expelled from the holy land at all costs to make room for the return of its original inhabitants, the Palestinians. The majority of Arabs support the rocket attacks on Israel, as a way to cause fear in Israel and encourage the Israelis to leave. On the other hand, Fatah, Hamas’s #1 domestic enemy which primarily controls the West Bank, is not popular with most Arabs because they are willing to settle for a Two-State solution, which implies abandoning the land.
From the Israeli point of view, the Land of Israel is a divine ancestral right to the Jews. The region of Palestine is considered the historical homeland of Jewish people, to which they have a right of return. Israel brilliantly exercises that right through existing, but complements it by building settlements – through private or state-sponsored endeavors – that usurp territory legally under Palestinian authority; a practice hotly debated between secular and religious circles in Israel. The story of how Jews came back to Palestine in the first place and the subsequent founding of the State of Israel is a long story for another day (and it’s one that you can look up).
Stop scrolling now. Now read.
Regardless of the triviality of casualties it caused, Hamas had no business shooting into Israel. Even though the kind of rockets used by Hamas are on average about as strong as party fireworks, they are hard to control and the kind of damage they do cannot be predicted (in fact, one of the rockets fired from Gaza killed electricity for 70,000 Gazans). Still, against all odds, Hamas refuses to accept a ceasefire and Gaza continues to be pounded.
But Israel’s response, while ostensibly to punish those responsible for the attacks and create a period of relative peace in the area, cannot be labeled anything less than collective punishment. In and of itself, the proportion of civilians killed or displaced by Israeli attacks screams “state-sponsored terrorism” under the guise of Israeli counter-terrorism. It takes a smarter man than the present-day me to accurately deconstruct Israel’s motivation for this, especially considering the cost of such an operation to the Israeli economy, but at the very least the basic principle of Cost efficiency comes into play. It’s in Israel’s interest to neutralize its enemies (read: Hamas) in Gaza, but targeted killings or real precision strikes would be too expensive. The go-between is shelling, which takes hundreds of lives.
Some truths are self-evident. I could go on for much longer on how the heartless terrorism of the IDF, or the childish lack of statecraft displayed by Hamas in their willingness to keep fighting at the peril of the people of Gaza. But you’re probably smart enough to figure that out by yourself (and this post is getting pretty long).
The most important call right now is the one to cease fire. Enough lives have been lost. Israel is fighting a political war; the threat of Hamas could have been largely mitigated if they were allowed legitimacy, a notion that has been promoted by the Palestinian Authority in the form of a unity government that would recognize Hamas as the ruling “party” in the Gaza strip. Instead, Gaza is under a constant blockade because Israel refuses to recognize the rule of an Islamist group over it.
This could be avoided. The missiles can be stopped. If Israel accepts the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority over its land, if the encroachment into the West Bank is stopped, if the residents of Gaza are allowed to live a normal life, free from the shackles of the blockade and the constant fear of death or displacement, the hatred will subside, slowly but surely, and there will be room for understanding. I can guarantee you that our generation is going to die hating each other, but the next generation will be smarter.
And one day, maybe centuries from now, the humans of the holy land will live together without barriers. And the rest of the world will do the same.