Israel is wrong and Palestinians are right. Let’s let that sit for a moment…
Now, clearly that is a simplistic and overly reductionist statement. As reductionist, though, is the claim that Israel is right and the Palestinians are wrong. Both of these statements ignore a complex, nuanced, and layered history, which demand a fuller conversation. For this short analysis, however, I think it would be prudent to discuss some of the events of the recent Israeli-Gaza conflict.
First, the entire discussion over the epicenter of the most recent conflict, the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, has an interesting duality about it.
Israel targeted this man because he was a terrorist; he was the leader of the military wing of Hamas. This seems like it could be pretty one dimensional, an easy justification. That would be true, however, Hamas is the elected political party in Gaza. This means that, when Israel assassinated someone they saw as a dangerous terrorist, they were also assassinating a high ranking elected political leader.
In response to the death of Ahmed Jabari, Hamas fired a hundred or so rockets into Israel, killing several Israeli citizens. This I will make no apologies for, but only refer back to the context of their response.
What Israel does next is problematic. They airdrop thousands of leaflets, which inform the “citizens” of Gaza that they will be conducting airstrikes and to distance themselves from those associated with Hamas to avoid injury.
While this courtesy might seem progressive, in a territory of 140 square miles and a population north of 1.5 million (meaning a population density of about 9,000 Palestinians per square mile) with no ability to escape to Israel, where are they to go?
Next, Israel mounts what it calls a “proportional” response. Four hundred airstrikes in one night and a mobilization of 75,000 troops on the boarder. We can all make our own decision about how proportional of a response that is from one of the worlds leading militaries against a territory like Gaza.
What is especially difficult for me to swallow is the blindly one-sided rhetoric of the conflict. A refrain that was repeatedly broadcasted both from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and our own newly re-elected President Obama was that Israel has a right to defend itself.
That’s fine, sure it does, as does every country. If the United States was attacked there would be no question of our right of self defense. But, does not Gaza and the Palestinian people also have a right to defend itself?
As justification for its defense Israel cites the terror of the people in southern Israel living with the constant threat of violence and bombing. That threat is real and dangerous. I have a large amount of family who lives in southern Israel and I have heard about their fear first hand. However, also real is the threat in Gaza where over 100 Palestinians died in the six days of Israeli airstrikes.
Finally, it is currently considered anti-Semitic to deny the right of self-determination to the Jewish people, however, what is it called when a similar right is denied to the people of Palestine?
This conflict, as much as it may seem, is not intractable. Both Israel and Hamas have done things that push them further from peace. Both Israel and Hamas have created the current atmosphere of hate and violence. Both are to blame and both have paid heavily for their choices. However, there are thousands of Palestinians and Israelis, normal people who yearn for peace and not just coexistence but cooperation. This peace and cooperation is possible if only we could recognize how divisive statements like “Israel is wrong and Palestinians are right” or “Israel is right and the Palestinians are wrong” are.