Like many people, I have been very troubled by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially in the wake of the recent media bombardment of the horrific stories of Palestinian suffering and accusations of human rights violations. Initially, I found myself sympathizing with the Palestinians. I heard the stories reported on every major news network of innocent civilians brutally murdered, hospitals and schools targeted for air strikes by Israel, and I read the numerous Facebook posts of the occupation of Palestine and the attempted genocide of these people. But this struck me as very odd. Maybe it was the word genocide that first made me look deeper into this conflict. After all, it was the Jewish people who were the subject of attempted genocide by the Nazis in the 20th century. Would a people who had been so recently subjected to the atrocities of Nazi Germany really be willing to commit the same offenses and equate themselves with the same type of behavior?
Next, I found it strange that a country, which had never before been known for this type of shocking and oppressive behavior, would suddenly react this way, even following the horrific kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens by the radical Islamic Resistance group, Hamas. I decided to research what was really going on for myself.
I found out very quickly that it was difficult to get unbiased information. Almost all the major networks were reporting, in my opinion, a negative view of Israel and portraying Hamas as a legitimate political group. I read stories that advocated for the necessity of Hamas as political leaders for Palestine, and alarming reports of the victimization of innocent Palestinians by Israel. I decided to learn a little about the origin of the land dispute between the two countries.
I did some fact-checking and researched some basic history of the land in dispute and the history of ownership, which in my opinion, is not all that relevant. I think both people groups should be able to share the land in peace, but it is significant in uncovering true intentions and whether peace and freedom are the actual goals of either party. I am including a link to this article on the saga behind the land conflict because it explains in simple terms a fairly accurate history of the Israeli people and how they have responded. I don’t pretend to portray this article as unbiased, but I have confirmed the major facts as historical. The Historical truths behind the Israel – Palestine conflict.
But from this and other sources, I have pieced together an idea of why they both feel entitled to the land. In a nut shell, the Jewish people occupied the area during ancient biblical times and were displaced through a number of circumstances, but the current “conflict has been going on since the early 1900s, when the mostly-Arab, mostly-Muslim region was part of the Ottoman Empire and, starting in 1917, a ‘mandate’ run by the British Empire” (Fisher). Then a movement called Zionism began as an effort among mostly European Jews to establish a homeland of their own in the land of their ancestors following an escape of anti-Semitism originating in Nazi Germany. Britain promised them a very large chunk of land that includes what is Israel, including Palestine, today. It also included Jordan. They were not long in residence when violence between the Jews and Arabs in British Palestine began. Britain decided, after promising the land to Israel, to instead sell some of it to Arabs. “In 1947, the United Nations approved a plan to divide British Palestine into two mostly independent countries, one for Jews called Israel and one for Arabs called Palestine”(Fisher). This is called the Two-State Solution. “Jerusalem, holy city for Jews and Muslims, was to be a special international zone” (Fisher). This part of the plan never came to fruition. Arabs claimed that Britain had no right to give the land to Israel and invaded in 1948. Israel ended up giving up a great deal of the area, even though they were able to protect themselves from the usurpers, and gave back Jordan and much more to obtain peace. They kept a fraction of the land they were given even though they were the victors in most of the conflicts. They gave up control of the Gaza Strip as well. After being attacked again, Israel took back control of the West Bank in order to protect its borders from the almost constant attacks.
They have been in conflict ever since. In the past several years, Israel has been criticized for occupying Palestine, blocking Palestinian access to imports and exports as well as to certain farmland. Honestly, in light of the near constant attacks and the willingness of Israel to give up the majority of land they were promised and still attempt to live in peace, I began to sympathize with Israel. However, that would still not excuse the massacre of the innocent or human rights violations, so I decided to look into the group in control of Palestine, Hamas.
I found out that Hamas is not a legitimate political group at all. They are indeed terrorists and religious fanatics without a doubt. I even read their charter, which was so disturbing, it sent chills down my spine. According to Vox, Digital News, “Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has waged war on Israel since its 1987 founding, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks. It seeks to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. It also governs Gaza independently of the Palestinian Authority, but it may have just found a way to reconcile its differences with the other major Palestinian faction“ (Vox). Additionally, “in 2006, Hamas won a slight majority of the seats in the Palestinian Authority legislative elections. But Hamas refused to accept previous deals that the PA had made with Israel, leading it to de facto secede from the PA and to govern Gaza independently from the West Bank-based PLO” (Vox). To corroborate that Hamas really just wants to destroy Israel under any circumstances, and is truly not interested in peace, I located the Hamas Charter and found that all this is likely true.
From the Hamas charter: “But the Jews will not be pleased with thee, neither the Christians, until thou follow their religion; say, The direction of Allah is the true direction. And verily if thou follow their desires, after the knowledge which hath been given thee, thou shalt find no patron or protector against Allah.” (The Cow – verse 120).
“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with” (Hamas Charter). This couldn’t be more clear. They do not intend to come to a peaceful agreement with Israel, they do not mind sacrificing innocent lives to destroy them, and they will never stop attacking them.
I also found a BBC News article describing Hamas: “Hamas is the largest of several Palestinian militant Islamist groups. Its name is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, originating as it did in 1987 after the beginning of the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“It originally had a dual purpose of carrying out an armed struggle against Israel – led by its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades – and delivering social welfare programmes.
“But since 2005, it has also engaged in the Palestinian political process, becoming the first Islamist group in the Arab world to gain power democratically (before forcibly taking control of its stronghold of Gaza).
“Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, EU, Canada and Japan due to its long record of attacks and its refusal to renounce violence under the group’s charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel” (BBC).
With that said, I believe, through my research, that Hamas is putting their own countrymen at risk, intentionally, to raise sympathy for their cause and to turn the tide of public sentiment against Israel, and it is working remarkably well. Hamas has vocalized many times that sacrificing even millions of Muslims to exterminate the Jews is an acceptable sacrifice. Through the interviews of people from both sides on National Public Radio (NPR) and examining history, I believe that Israel would live in peace with Palestinians if they were just left alone. In my opinion, Israel has no choice but to prevent Hamas from accessing tunnels into Israel and to stop them from firing rockets into their populated cities and farms. Because Hamas chooses to locate weaponry, soldiers, and fire rockets from schools and hospital windows, strategically endangering their own people, what choice does Israel have but to fire on these locations? I realize that many Palestinians do not support Hamas and wish to live in peace, and those that do, often believe they must, but I don’t believe that Hamas does anything but harm to them. The average people are truly victims. However, I feel like Israel is being demonized because they are better at defending themselves than others are at attacking them. The fact that there are so many Palestinian casualties compared to Israel is not as much a moral issue as an issue of superior military capability.
But let’s look at what set off the most recent violence. Three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas. There has been some dispute over whether an independent Palestinian group or Hamas was responsible, but Hamas claimed credit for the murders. “Hamas has repeatedly praised the kidnappings, but Arouri, the group’s exiled West Bank leader, is the first member to claim responsibility. Israel has accused Hamas of orchestrating the kidnappings and identified two operatives as the chief suspects. The two men remain on the loose” (NPR). I heard rumors that Hamas was actually not responsible, and I found an article entitled “Israel Admits Hamas Didn’t Kidnap 3 Israeli Teens After All;” however, no where in the article did it quote any Israeli official admitting this. Instead it reports, “Frenkel reported that kidnapping three Israeli teens would be a foolish move for Hamas. International experts told her it was likely the work of a local group, acting without concern for the repercussions” (DNA). This is hardly evidence. This article was actually written prior to Hamas claiming credit, but that didn’t stop its spread across social media. Either way, with Hamas’ agenda, it makes little difference since they praised the attack anyway.
Here is an excerpt of an interview on July 30th on NPR with Ari Shapiro and Emily Harris, NPR news correspondents, regarding an Israeli bombing of a school in Palestine. Emily Harris reports that civilians were killed during a ceasefire in Gaza, but according to this story, Israelis warned Palestinian civilians not to be in this particular area at least ten days prior to the attack, told them it was still not safe to return, even though a ceasefire was in effect. Harris states, “Hamas continued to shoot rockets into Israel – at that time about two dozen according to the U.S. military. And the cease-fire came with caveats. The military said it would not apply in places where Israeli troops were already operating, and it also said that Gazans should not go back into areas that the Israeli military had earlier told them to leave. So it was a little unclear exactly what the cease-fire meant. The information about it was distributed from the military mostly through Palestinian media. There weren’t any leaflets dropped. On occasion during this war Israel’s has dropped leaflets showing specifically where to go – what areas are considered safe” (Harris).
Later, when rockets were launched from the direction of a UN school, fire was returned and several people were killed in their classrooms (NPR). NPR is the only actual news site I have found that gives unbiased factual reports about both sides of this war. I have listened to social scientists and college professors from both Palestine and Israel and both corroborate much of this same information. You can listen to or read past news stories to determine for yourself the truth of what is going on over there. One article specifically talks about Hamas winning the social media war through their Twitter campaign, yet all I see on social media is the complaint that Israel is hiring students to use Facebook for propaganda purposes. I don’t know if this is true or not, but is it any different from the propaganda films playing at the beginning of every matinee in America during World War II? It did not make fighting to stop the genocidal Nazis any less worthy of a cause.
But despite the fact that Hamas clearly believes in endangering and sacrificing innocent lives in a quest to destroy Israel, I needed further evidence that they were purposefully using the gruesome deaths of Palestinians as a tool to garner support for their cause and to create a negative image of Israel. I found several articles on a terrorist manual on urban warfare that is reportedly used by Hamas. “On August 5, the Israeli Army released copies of an official Hamas manual that it discovered in the Shuja’iya neighborhood of Gaza, where one of the fiercest battles of the war was fought.
“It’s titled ‘Urban Warfare,’ and it was produced by Hamas’s Shuja’iya Brigade. The manual includes detailed instructions on how to use the civilians of Gaza against Israel. It explains how because of Israel’s concern about civilian casualties, Hamas can use the ‘presence of civilians’ to its military advantage. Having civilians nearby causes the Israelis ‘(1) Problems with opening fire; (2) Problems in controlling the civilian population during operations and afterward; (3) Assurance of supplying medical care to civilians who need it.
“The ‘Urban Warfare’ manual also emphasizes the benefits of damage to civilian property: ‘The destruction of civilian homes: This increases the hatred of the citizens towards the attackers [the IDF] and increases their gathering [support] around the city defenders (resistance forces [i.e. Hamas])’” (the Algemeiner). This information was also confirmed by the IDF directly, which I realize is obviously not unbiased. However, the existence of this manual is not in dispute.
I realize that some people think that the greater power (Israel) should show restraint, but I believe Israel has shown restraint when history is taken into account. I also like to put myself in others’ shoes to see if I agree with their actions. For example, imagine for a moment that Denver was Israel and Gaza was Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs had grievances with Denver and Colorado Springs had access to Denver through tunnels, then began setting up military forts in hospitals and schools, and fired rockets at Denver from these buildings; Denver would not want to fire on schools, civilians, and hospitals, but they would have little choice if the opposition’s own military had no regard for their civilians.
I believe that Israel has been magnanimous in their show of restraint throughout history, even in willingly relinquishing land promised to them by the British government, and then sold to Arabs instead, willingly giving up more and more land all the time, and only taking back the West Bank to protect their borders. Arguing who lived there longest or who is indigenous is rather petty, in my opinion, when one side, who actually has a legitimate, staked claim, is willing to share and live in peace, but the other side will not. I’m sure there are people who can contradict some of these facts, and others who can contradict the contradictions. I am not a history expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do not believe that Israel has ever previously acted to promote genocide, and I do not believe that is what is happening now. However, they do have the unfortunate experience of being targeted for extermination again, and I’m sure this plays into their willingness to protect themselves at all costs.
Furthermore, Israel is a progressive country, supporting human rights in general, and specifically gay rights and women’s rights. In contrast, Palestine and Hamas do not support human rights and personal freedoms, least of all, religious freedom. Would you rather be a Christian in Gaza or a Christian in Israel? Which would be safer? How about a gay man? A woman? When looking at it from this point of view, it is obvious that Israel is who we should support, and Hamas must be stopped. I am shocked that so many people in the free and civilized world would support a terrorist group like Hamas and judge Israel by standards that they themselves would never meet. Moreover, I am frightened and mortified by the blatant anti-Semitism I am seeing articulated on social media. It is almost like entering a bizarre, alternate universe where Nazis had Facebook. Some people who are against Israel on these issues are promoting the death of Jews as a race, making blanket statements about what kind of people the Jews have always been, and suggesting that they do not have a right to survive. Of any political dispute I have seen in my lifetime, this one disturbs me on a level of which I have never previously experienced.
Let me be clear. I do sympathize with innocent Palestinian civilians, and I do believe they are victims, just not of Israel. The irony of this situation is that the Jewish people are being accused of Nazi-like behavior when once again, they are being targeted with anti-Semitic sentiment and extermination. Do the research yourself, do not be told what to believe by social media or the biased news stations. FOX is biased to the right, and NBC to the left. CNN maintains an illusion of balance, but refuses to report on almost anything controversial. Dig a little deeper, especially when you are suspicious. I did because I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. Hamas needs to be stopped. I stand with Israel, but make up your own mind.—Christina Knowles
- Beauchamp, Zack. “Everything You Need to Know About Israel-Palestine.” Available: http://www.vox.com/cards/israel-palestine/hamas/ August 6, 2014.
- BBC News. Available: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522 Updated: July 11, 2014. Accessed: August 29, 2014.
- “Captured Hamas Combat Manual Explains Benefits of Human Shields.” Israel Defense Forces Blog. Available: http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/08/04/captured-hamas-combat-manual-explains-benefits-human-shields/ August 4, 2014.
- “Conclusive Proof that Hamas Uses Palestinians as Human Shields.” The Algemeiner. Available: http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/08/07/conclusive-proof-that-hamas-uses-palestinians-as-human-shields/ August 7, 2014.
- Digital News Aggregate (DNA). “Israel Admits Hamas Didn’t Kidnap 3 Israeli Teens After All” Available: http://topinfopost.com/2014/07/27/israel-admits-hamas-didnt-kidnap-the-3-israeli-teens-after-all. July 27, 2014.
- Fisher, Max. “9 Questions About the Israel-Palestine Conflict You Were Afraid to Ask.” Available: http://www.vox.com/2014/7/17/5902177/9-questions-about-the-israel-palestine-conflict-you-were-too. July 17, 2014.
- “Hamas Admits To Kidnapping And Killing Israeli Teens.” Associated Press via NPR. Available: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/22/342318367/hamas-finally-admits-to-kidnapping-and-killing-israeli-teens Aired: August 22, 2014.
- Hamas Charter. Available: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp. Accessed: August 24, 2014.
- Harris, Emily. NPR. Available: http://www.npr.org/2014/07/30/336603374/a-market-and-a-school-come-under-fire-during-a-violent-day-in-gaza July 30, 2014.
- Siegel, Bob. “The Historical Truths Behind the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” Communities Digital News. Available: http://www.commdiginews.com/world-news/a-history-lesson-on-israel-and-the-palestinians-22281/ Updated: August 26, 2014.