Israel-Hamas War: Choose Peace, Not Sides
Volume 4 Issue 2
January 16, 2024
Image provided by OnOurSleeves.org
As of early October, the conflict referred to as the “Israeli-Palestinian War” has shaken the Middle East and devasted Muslim and Jewish communities globally. Arguably, the conflict would most appropriately be referred to as the “Israel-Hamas War,” as it is not a war between the two countries; it is a war between Israel and a terrorist group based in Palestine. Although October 7th, 2023, marked the start of the recent Israel-Hamas War, the root of this conflict can be traced back decades. According to the Center for Preventive Action, in 1947, the United Nations implemented the Partition Plan, dividing Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The plan heightened tensions between Arab groups that opposed the plan and Jewish groups. When Israel declared independence in 1948, it resulted in the Arab Israeli war which ended in Israel’s victory. As a result, the region was divided into the State of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes. According to U.S. News, following Israel’s attacks on Egyptian and Syrian forces in 1967 was a Six-Day war that resulted in Israel gaining control over Gaza, the West Bank, and the Sinai Peninsula.
Between 1987 and 2000, there were two Palestinian uprisings against the Israeli government, referred to as Intifadas according to U.S. News. In 2006, Hamas rose to power after an electoral victory against Fatah, the previous political party. So, the question is: what is Hamas, and how did it rise to power? Hamas was founded in 1987 and is considered a terrorist organization because of its persistent violence against Israel. The organization was founded as an Islamic resistance organization to conquer Israel and establish an Islamic homeland in its place. According to the Center of Preventive Action, this organization has been governing Gaza after winning elections against Fatah and forming a government. It is important to note that Hamas’s rise to power can be attributed to the political instability of the Palestinian government. Many supporters of the organization felt that Fatah was corrupt, and they needed new leadership; Hamas was promising to the younger population that made up the voting majority. Hamas’s rise to power can be compared to that of other leaders in politically unstable countries; it is ultimately an example of history repeating itself.
Moving on to the present, a lack of understanding of the situation has caused many to view the conflict as one in which it is appropriate to “pick a side,” usually resulting in unnecessary tensions between Jewish and Muslim communities, and angry online and social media rhetoric and traffic. Even here in the US, there have been protests at schools and universities, business boycotts, and endless social media posts over people and groups being “Pro-Israel” or “Pro-Palestine.” Ironically, some of these protests have resulted in violence when that’s what people should protest against instead of favoring the individual countries’ plights. Understandably, those siding with Palestine feel that the Palestinians have been the most devasted by the conflict as they have suffered a grossly higher casualty rate than the Israelis. We can all agree that it is heartbreaking to hear about the innocent civilian lives lost in Palestine as a result of the conflict; however, the Israeli forces are not entirely to blame. Hamas has positioned itself behind Palestinian civilians, using them as a shield from Israeli forces. Unlike Hamas, the Israeli forces are not looking to cause harm to civilians, but they unfortunately have encountered them while trying to confront their target. Hospitals serve as an example of this, as Israeli forces have raided them throughout the war because of the belief that Hamas was using them as a war base.
Apart from the high casualty rates, the issue of hostages has been prevalent during the conflict. In efforts to rescue Israeli hostages, Israeli forces agreed to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for hostages. It is uncertain that they will negotiate another deal as Hamas recently announced that there will be no more hostage releases until the end of the war. To have to bargain for human life is beyond horrific, but it goes to show that the conflict has little to do with Israeli and Palestinian civilians; it is about power, and the devastation Hamas is willing to cause to get it. Not only has the war caused catastrophic conditions for Palestinians and Israelis, but it has also impacted foreigners who unfortunately got caught up in the conflict. The notion that one of these groups was living peacefully before being attacked by the other is simply inaccurate. If we are looking to support a more accurate notion, we can acknowledge that both Israeli and Palestinian civilians had their lives significantly disrupted by brutal Hamas attacks.
If you are someone without religious or familial ties to the situation, your perspective of the war may be limited to religious division and geographical conflicts, or what you have read in social media posts. We need to shift our perspective and think about the individuals grouped under the titles we hear repeatedly in the media. There are men, women, and children that make up the Muslim, Jewish, Israeli, and Palestinian communities; they cannot simply be deemed enemies because of a war they did not start. Often overlooked are the attempts at peace and cooperation among the groups. For example, Jewish people living in kibbutzim, have taken in refugees, and provided medical attention for those impacted by the war. The Nova Music Festival held on the Jewish holiday Sukkot this fall, which brought a diverse crowd together to celebrate unity and love in southern Israel, is another example. Tragically, the event intended to bring people together but ended in a massacre of civilians by Hamas. My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones and the hostages, including Americans, who have not been able to return home.
It would be unrealistic to expect everyone to support the United States’s position on the matter, but it is important to recognize that Israel is a US ally, so it is our country’s duty to aid them in their time of need. Some argue that the United States’s decision to aid Israel implies that they are against the people of Palestine, but it is important to not lose perspective when assessing the situation. The war has devastated both countries, but it is not between the countries. As Americans, we should be in support of both countries and against the terrorist group Hamas. The United States is a part of the United Nations, meaning that our country stands for the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR recognizes dignity, freedom, and peace as its core values, so as Americans, we should remember what we stand for as a country when assessing this conflict impacting millions globally. The details of this conflict greatly surpass the content of this article, so I would encourage you to inform yourself. Inform yourself to understand what the Israeli and Palestinian people are facing. We must remember that before countries and religious differences, we should support humanity. Let us choose peace, not sides.