Unpacking the Recent Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

© Josh Sager – July 2014

When discussing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I often find myself forced into a ridiculous position—I end up agreeing with right wingers who came to their positions in an absolutely wrong manner while arguing with left wingers who have come to their positions through a humanitarian mindset.

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The right wing supports Israel because they believe that the state of Israel is necessary for the start of the Christian apocalypse and second coming, both of which are positions that I find abhorrent. These right wingers don’t really care about Israel (in their mythology, the country is destroyed and all the Jews die once the final conflict begins), are unable to criticize it when it actually does things that are wrong, and have absolutely no compassion for those harmed in the long-standing conflict.

Conversely, the left wingers who support the Palestinians are doing so because they see the very real humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinians and want to make things better. Unfortunately, they have made several extreme mistakes in their thinking which has led them to buy into a false narrative surrounding the situation. To them, Israel is the evil oppressor while the Palestinians are the helpless victims, while, in reality, Israel is the only democracy in the region which is facing constant threat from a bunch of theocrats that are willing to sacrifice their countrymen to create a PR point.

We need a two-state solution, but we also need to look at this situation objectively and not just take the propaganda from Gulf State oil money at face value. Most of the anti-Israel propaganda that is polluting the media is terribly slanted and serves a false narrative. In most cases, this false narrative is created by putting a dramatic headline reporting that Israel has fired missiles into Palestinian land or has started some massive police action that has oppressed hundreds of Palestinians—buried in the story, where skimming individuals are likely to miss, is the fact that those missiles are aimed at missile sites that have been launching dozens of missiles into Israeli cities and those police actions are to eliminate the people firing the missiles.

For example, the International New York Times just ran a headline which read “Israel Presses Air Barrage and Hamas Strikes Back.” In this headline, the fact is lost that Hamas started the bombardment of Israel and that it was Israel which retaliated—yes, Hamas has struck back against this retaliation, but they were the ones who initiated force in the first place and this headline overtly conceals this fact.

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Israel is under constant bombardment and faces hundreds of missile/mortar strikes every year, but the story only starts for the media when they strike back. It is certainly true that Israel can overreact, but that is understandable given the constant assaults into their nation.

Unpacking the Conflict

Ultimately, I see the motivations for the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be described perfectly by this quote from the high-ranking Palestinian Liberation Organization member Zahir Muhsein:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

In service to an ethnic and political war against the only Jewish state, the Arab nations made an extremely cynical and immoral choice—they created a class of unwilling martyrs who would be the living face of the crusade against Israel. Rather than absorb the ethnically homogenous Arab refugees from the Arab-Israeli War (AKA the “Israeli War of Independence”), Israel’s Arab neighbors forced them into camps as refugees in order to make the argument that Israel’s very existence was evil.

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Over the years, terrorists within the Palestinians’ ranks have been created by feeding young Palestinians in a genuinely terrible situation the lie that Israel is to blame for their plight. This has created a cycle of hatred, where Palestinian terrorists strike from behind cover of unwilling human shields (they have placed missile sites in schools, mosques, hospitals, and old-age homes, among other places) and Israel strikes back, killing innocents in the crossfire.

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The Recent Kidnappings

Over the past few weeks, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has flared up and violence has escalated. In order to understand this flare up and clear up misconceptions, we need to go back to the beginning.

On June 12th, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the Palestinian territories while driving home. Their car was found burning on the side of the road and they were declared missing. In order to find these teens, the IDF performed mass raids on several villages in the area, arresting dozens, but had no luck finding the missing kids. These raids and arrests continued for days until the three teens were found dead on June 30th.

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In response to the discovery of the dead Israeli teens, Israeli nationalists became inflamed while many Palestinian celebrated and even handed out candy in the streets. Additionally, the official PA newspaper ran taunting cartoons showing three rats with yarmulkes on the end of a fishing line.

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Last week, a Palestinian teenager was killed—supposedly in reprisal for the three Israeli teens—by a group of young Israeli nationalists. This killing was particularly gruesome because they took him off of the street and burned him alive. Several days after the killing, Israeli forces captured those responsible for this killing and have imprisoned them awaiting trial. Currently, three have confessed and are facing life sentences.

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In response to the killing of the Palestinian teenager, 350 Israelis showed up at the father’s house to show their condolences and the crime was rightly criticized in the media.

Put simply, at this point, the situation should be an open-and shut case of criminal justice. A group of violent Palestinian psychos kidnapped and killed three Israeli teens, which was then followed by a group of violent Israeli psychos kidnapping and killing a Palestinian teen—both groups of murderers should be arrested, sent to jail, and kept there until they die of old age (put them in adjacent cells for all I care). To me, they are morally equivalent and both should face the harshest punishments for their killings.

Unfortunately, this is not a normal situation and things become more complicated. In response to the killing of the Palestinian teen, there were massive uprisings in the Palestinian territories and Hamas begun bombarding Israel with missiles. In response to these missiles, Israel began an air campaign against missile sites and it looks like they may begin ground operations soon.

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In the coming weeks, as we will obviously see the headlines that excoriate Israel for their military actions, I want people to remember the roots of this uprising. After Israeli teens were kidnapped by people associated with their government, the Palestinian leadership celebrated and did nothing to assist in capturing those responsible. Conversely, when a Palestinian teen is murdered, the Israeli authorities swiftly acted to catch those responsible and are currently working on a case to send them away for life, while the Palestinian leadership stirs up hatred and fires missiles into civilian areas of Israel.

The barrage of missiles from Hamas into Israeli cities has forced Israel to act in response. By any measure, one elected government firing missiles into the cities controlled by another elected government is a declaration of war and Israel has every right to react. This reaction will be condemned by the media—both because the neocons who control Israel have no concept of proportionality and because the media is biased—but the fact remains that Hamas started this escalation and they knew exactly what it would lead to.

Hamas is stirring up conflict and firing missiles as a taunt to force Israel into responding and accidentally killing civilians (an easy thing to do if your enemy puts their missile sites in schools and religious buildings). They are luring Israel into yet another PR catastrophe and are sacrificing the lives of their constituents to create the media narrative. They know that most reporting on this subject is slanted in the ways described above and are counting on this slant to avoid being seen as the bomb-throwers that they are.

 

15 thoughts on “Unpacking the Recent Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

  1. Fairly reasonable take. I highly doubt the majority of right wingers agree with you because of the religious angle though. Most American opinions fall into these two (fairly stupid) categories –

    Israel Bad, Palestine Good: Israel is bad because they are oppressive and powerful. They oppress the Palestinians and the Palestinians just want to be free. If Israel would stop being such meanies, everything would be fine. There is no Israeli Palestinian conflict, just Israeli oppression. They are big mean meanies.

    Palestine Bad, Israel Good: Israel is a Jewish country. Jews are closer to being “white” than Arabs. They are also our friends. Arabs are filthy animals who would kill all the Jews given the chance. Palestinians are lucky Israel doesn’t just kill them all.

    Like almost any issue, Americans manage to create a false dichotomy between absurd hardness with racist undertones “some people are just animals” and absurd softness “the guy with the better army is always just a big meanie! if the meanies would stop being mean everything would be fine! the victim is always right!”

    In the real world, things don’t really work this way. Victims are also capable of terrible cruelties, and our “friends” are often just as different from us as our perceived enemies. Most Americans are so insulated from this conflict that they have the privilege of creating these absurd opinions. In fact, I would venture to say that the majority of Americans’ opinion on this issue is simply a reflection of their own emotional state rather than any actuality on the ground in the region of Palestine. Examples – I am a sensitive kind person so therefore i have to side with the people I perceive as more oppressed. I am a no-nonsense hard-working hardass, so therefore I must side with the people who look the most like me, much like in prison. Nowhere does actuality and analysis factor in to the opinion.

    I often enjoy reading your stuff (even though I disagree fairly often) because you always at least attempt to rise above these sort of basic emotional knee-jerk responses.

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  2. Very interesting take. I have been guilty of leaning too far into the “poor Palestine” side myself. The death toll ratio: about 1,110 Israelis to 6,961 Palestinians since 2000, the fact that Palestine is basically a glorified mega prison with little hope of escape, the fact that they have a 40% unemployment rate and that most of the area depends on humanitarian aid. It is really easy to see Israel as the bad guy when you look at the numbers.

    But Palestine shouldn’t be absolved of their sins either, as they basically elected a terrorist group that doesn’t think Israel has the right to exist into leadership. That type of leadership is only likely to make things much worse. And of course, they’re not shy about using civilians, often children, as human shields, and they have been shooting a larger number of rockets into Israel with the intent to kill innocents, there’s just have been nowhere near as accurate or shot down.

    Now, does this mean most Palestinians support Hamas or support more attacks on Israel? Of course not, there are good, progressive movements such as BDS that are looking for a more peaceful solution. And I’m sure there are just as many in Israel that just want the violence to end as well. There is no easy solution here, but extremism on either end will only inflame tensions more.

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    • Unfortunately, the polling gives decidedly mixed news about the prospects for peace. Approximately 70% of Israelis support a two-state solution–while their dominant Likud party does not–but less than 30% of Palestinians support such a split and between 55% and 68% want a complete retaking of the land (the destruction of Israel).

      Nine years ago, Israel tried to leave Gaza and left the Palestinians their settlements, as well as some very expensive and advanced greenhouses that could have given Gaza a massive economic boost. Because those greenhouses were paid for by American Jews however, the Palestinians stripped and destroyed them, then set about establishing new missile sites. These missile sites lured Israel back into Gaza, which led to the disastrous blockade situation and the current territorial control Israel retains over the land.

      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9331863/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/looters-strip-gaza-greenhouses/#.U8OBwPldVqU

      In short, the residents of Gaza were given the PERFECT opportunity to better their situation and bring the foundations of a functional Palestinian state into reality (like the Kurds have done in Iraq), and they squandered it. Obviously, not every Palestinian is to blame for this, but it is indicative of their leadership over the past few decades.

      The death tolls are often misleading, as they fail to take into account the origin of the violence. Hamas intentionally causes the maximum casualties on its own side (something that Abbas has finally acknowledged and criticized them for: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-07-10/abbas-lashes-out-at-hamas-for-barraging-israel-with-rockets) and there is really nothing that Israel can do to prevent casualties other than let themselves be bombarded. The iron dome protects against 90% of the missiles, but they are still exploding overhead and the Israelis are constantly worrying that one day, the next missile will be part of that unlucky 10% that drops through the dome and kills their children.

      Personally, I wouldn’t take the bait, as the civilian casualties in the Palestinian territories are horrendous, fuel terrorism, and are exactly what the enemy of Israel wants. I would warn the Palestinians that any future rocket attacks would lead to an EMP deployment that would cripple any missile site (it fries the igniters on the rockets and devastates any complex missiles), but would send the area around the strike back to the stone age. Nobody would die because of this retaliation, but any affected area would have no communication, transportation, or electrical infrastructure left after each deployment (making it virtually impossible for Hamas to transport the missiles away or fire them in place).

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      • Well, I didn’t even know EMP deployment was a thing until just now. It’s a solid idea. They’ll still get shit for crippling an already poor infrastructure, but if it helps bring about peace, w/o killing people, that might be worth seriously considering.

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      • The shelling that murdered those children was completely uncalled for and heinous. Those were not human shields and Israel’s audacity to blame it on Hamas is disgusting. I cannot, in good faith, support either government in this conflict. The violence needs to end.

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  3. Can you answer me this: if a two state solution is reached, the new Palestinian state would have the right to arm itself, helped by those who need Israel as an outside threat in order to keep their own trouble makers in line. It could import sophisticated weaponry such as tanks, modern rocketry and other guided arms. Israel would then face a real armoured threat by Hamas leaders that glorify death rather than honouring life. Could any country honestly risk this? I cannot see how a two-state solution would ever work, given the Palestinian genocidal mindset. What am I missing here?

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    • I honestly don’t know how well a two-state solution would work in the long term (the Palestinians would likely fall into more chaos, tyranny, and extremist once the aid money is cut off and they are expected to act as an autonomous entity), but they are simply not a military threat to Israel. In the past, Israel has fought against coalitions of nations, with established armies, and has been victorious every time. If the Palestinians received tanks, Israel will destroy them (the merkeva tank is fast, strong, and has a portable Iron Dome called the Iron Fist); if they get advanced missiles, using them would be a declaration of war (while the Iron Dome would destroy most of them, a few casualties would be likely) and Israel would unleash its arsenal of even more advanced missiles.

      Jordan doesn’t want to mess with Israel anymore, Egypt is fragile and controlled by a more-or-less secular military junta, Syria cannot afford to fight a multi-front war against ISIS and Israel, the Gulf States may talk tough but that is all that they do, and Iran knows that any attack on Israel would be the excuse that the United States uses to come over and ruin their decade. In short, while these countries will support Hamas under the table, they will not come to their aid–and even if they did, they would be soundly obliterated by the Israeli and American militaries.

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  4. you havent a clue really. no history of the region has been given. palestine exhisted for generations , only when the british and americans set up the state of israel after ww2, a palestine that included syria etc. israelies have continually encroached on palestenian land breaking agreed pacts for peace, and have subjugated the palestinians. jews were badly treated by nazis, and that was a european wide treatment of jews for nearly 2000 years, but to turn around and treat ‘arabs’ just the same the israelies have no sympathy in my eyes, should we now complete what hitler started? i am all for the destruction of an israeli state imposed on the middle east by western (us and uk) governments. israel out of palestine now.

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    • You are the most dangerous type of misguided fool, and an anti Semite to boot (did you think that I would miss that your name is “Not a Jew In Sight” and your email is “Hamas Right”).

      The term “Palestine” is the Roman name for the region containing Israel, but the “Palestinians” were, until recently, just the residents of this land–in fact, most of them historically were composed of Jews and nomadic Arabs. The current “Palestinians” are simply the Arabs who were unlucky enough to be in a position where they could be forced into a position of unwilling martyrdom by the rest of the Arab world.

      If you love Hamas so much, I suggest that you move from the UK to one of the Arab theocracies and give their ideal a try.

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  5. i just want to say iran is not in arab land ( in your map iran is covered into arab land) ,,, there is no place for arabic people here in iran :)

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  6. Brave of you to make such a logical case regarding a discussion in which emotionally charged vitriol is most commonly regarded as the appropriate style of argument. You appear to be completely correct in this post. The only reason rocket attacks don’t kill and maim thousands of Israelis is because the Israeli government is interested in protecting its population (Muslims included), whereas Hamas uses human lives as political weapons. The double standards are immense, but Hamas seems remarkably capable of pulling at the heartstrings of cozy westerners looking for cause to support. There are somewhere in the region of 45 000 Londoners marching against Israeli strikes, and probably at least half of them are marching against Israel as a state.

    http://mashable.com/2014/07/26/45000-londoners-protest-israels-operation-in-gaza/?utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29&utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedburner

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  7. I just wanted to make the comment (I call it such because it is supported purely and simply by opinion) that I, as one of the detested, Christian, Right-Wingers, am offended by the choice to call the Bible “mythology”. I don’t mind anyone having atheistic, Buddhist, or any other type of views, but I ask that you treat all religions as the same and call Islam a mythology, alongside calling evolution a theory. I’m not calling Mr.Sager out, so to speak, in this comment, but merely making the point that Christianity is unfairly bullied around by Liberals who assume that all Christians are drooling buffoons with their fingers up their butts. Christianity deserves to be treated equally among religions, just as all people should be dealt with equally and justly.

    P.S.- My grounds for supporting Israel are not based upon the Bible, (which, fyi, refers to Israel as the Jewish people and not a nation) but rather the realization that Israel is America’s staunchest ally (albeit a relatively weak one). Knowing that they will support us through thick and thin, plus the fact that their opponents are at heart, terrorists, is enough of a reason for me to support them.

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    • Christianity is a mythology in the same way that Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Shinto, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Scientology and all other religions are–they are faith-based beliefs that are organized into religious codes. I don’t personally see any one as more irrational than any other, as they are all predicated on the same lack of objective scientific evidence.

      I never said that you personally supported Israel because of your religion, but the fact remains that a lot of evangelicals do.

      P.S. Evolution is a theory, just as gravity is, and that puts it far above any other explanation for the development of life over the years. All other explanations are simply unconfirmed hypothesis that have no acceptance in the larger scientific community.

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  8. Thank you for your equalized treatment of beliefs and religions. Although I disagree with you on the “…lack of objective scientific evidence” part as well as the comment of “…that have no acceptance in the larger scientific community”, I appreciate that you are fair in regards to your treatment of religions and belief systems.

    P.S.- If you want to disagree with me on the parts about scientific evidence and the acceptance of creationism, I would be more than happy to talk it out with you, but I’m not a strong typist, and thus I’d prefer to talk over the phone.

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