Written by: Mira
Edited by: Mariah
Visuals by: Ethan
The Jewish state of Israel was formed from Palestine by the United Nations in 1948. This was done despite Palestine having an Arab majority and a Jewish minority in order to give the Jews who faced persecution during the Holocaust a home to call their own. After a brief war over the newly created state, thousands of Palestinians fled to the West Bank and Gaza. There, Israel barred Palestinian refugees from going back to their homes in Israel because they were seen as a threat.
In 2007, Israel and Egypt, which border the Gaza Strip, began imposing a tight blockade to oversee Gazan borders and restrain Hamas, a militant group which Israel sees as a terrorist group, from accessing weapons. Although the Israeli government claims the blockade was enacted out of self-defense, the Palestinians of Gaza claim they have suffered restrictions on their human rights. The severe blockade limited Gaza’s access to medical aid, clean water, electricity, and economic opportunities, which has since made them dependent on humanitarian aid. Since 1948, there have been skirmishes between Israel and Hamas. But no skirmish since the 7-week Gaza War in 2014 has been as explosive as the conflict that has arisen recently.
On April 13th, the first day of Ramadan, many Palestinians went to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to listen to the prayers that were blasted from the Mosque’s speakers. At the same time, the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, was to give a speech regarding Israel’s Memorial Day at the Western Wall nearby. Fearing their president wouldn’t be heard, the Israeli government requested cancellations of the prayers which were rejected by the Jordanian government, who oversaw the Mosque and were offended by the request. Later, the Israeli police disconnected the cables of the loudspeakers, resuming the war between Israel and Hamas.
Tensions reached another high when Israeli police closed the plaza right outside the Damascus Gate that many Palestinians went to during Ramadan. As Palestinian rage was reignited, clashes erupted in front of the Gate between the police and those wanting to regain the area. After pleas from foreign diplomats and community leaders, Israel reopened the Gate four days later, but followed this action with the eviction of six Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. The Palestinians felt they were gradually being removed from their homeland since such evictions continued from when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.
The breaking point came after the Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque twice more, using rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas against stone-throwing Palestinians. Furthermore, the Israeli Supreme Court seemed apathetic when they delayed the eviction decisions. On May 10, Gaza began firing rockets towards Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes.
Ceasefire came after 11 days of fighting. By then, Palestinian property, including medical buildings and sewage systems, were destroyed. What was even more outrageous to the international community was the deaths of 61 children from the Israeli airstrikes. However, the hesitancy of international bodies to intervene and speak out against Israel’s actions show that Palestine doesn’t have much support from the international community.
All member states of the European Union, excluding Hungary, supported a statement disapproving of Gazan rocket launches, while Israel’s strongest ally in the United Nations, the United States, called Hamas’ rocket attacks “unacceptable” and praised Israel’s efforts to defend themselves. The same support was not reciprocated towards the Palestinians. The United Nations had drafted a statement condemning the death of civilians, expressing concern over Palestinian evictions, and called for Israel to stop further illegal settlements in Gaza, but never released this statement due to vehement opposition from the United States; United States diplomats claim such intervention could harm covert efforts to end the violence. The contradictions present are ridiculous: why was Israel not condemned for their airstrikes that were responsible for so many deaths? Should their airstrikes not be classified as “unacceptable” too?
Ultimately, the United Nations has failed Palestine and Israel. A body in charge of maintaining global peace looked the other way when Palestinians needed help the most, and allowed this conflict to escalate to the point of irreversible destruction regarding property and civilian deaths. Compared to previous statements issued about Israel and Hamas on the base of moral grounds, the international community’s disappointing silence regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is staggering.
BBC News. “Israel-Gaza Violence: The Conflict Explained.” BBC News, BBC, 21 May 2021, http://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-44124396.
Cai, Weiyi, et al. “The Toll of Eight Days of Conflict in Gaza and Israel.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 May 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/17/world/middleeast/israel-palestine-gaza-conflict-death-toll.html.
Human Rights Watch. “World Report 2020: Rights Trends in Israel and Palestine.” Human Rights Watch, 17 May 2021, http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/israel/palestine#.
Kingsley, Patrick, and Ronen Bergman. “After Hundreds Killed in Gaza Conflict, Israelis Ask: Who Won?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 May 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-war-ceasefire.html.
Kingsley, Patrick. “After Years of Quiet, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Exploded. Why Now?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 May 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/world/middleeast/israel-palestinian-gaza-war.html.