I'll be the first to admit that the Palastineian- Israeli conflict is complex, and if there was ever a simple solution, it's probably not going to be on the table for years to come, after recent events.
Claims of (mostly British) Colonialism, anti-Jewish sentiment, 'original inhabitants' and other heated opinions collide and tangle, and there is no simple answer. In arguing over fine details, we lose sight of the big picture. Demands for a clear divide obscure the fact that conflicting truths can exist simultaneously.
The biggest problem, however, is, was and remains Hamas and extremist terrorism.
A Little Background...
Israel has changed hands multiple times. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Syria, Byzantium, an assortment of Calipates until the Ottoman Empire took over... it wasn't until after the First World War, where the UK administered the area as the Mandate of Palistine (from Syria Palestinia, the name given to a seafaring people, used by the Romans to refer to the greater Middle-East) on behalf of the League of Nations, that the country was actually referred to as Palestine. The British Mandate was, from the beginning, to establish a home for the Jewish people, without infringing on the rights of the locals.
Between World Wars, there were actually restrictions on Jewish migration to Israel, even as increasing discrimination in Europe - particularly in Germany and Eastern Europe - North Africa and Asia saw Jews fleeing in ever-greater numbers.
In 1936, the Palestinians were fed up with British rule, and revolted, which the British government shut down harshly. The first suggestion of a two-state solution was in 1937, but didn't actually happen until 1947, when the newly-founded UN approved Britain's withdrawal from the Mandate and imposed the partition.
Muslim and Arab states rejected the plan, and Civil War erupted, lasting until June of 1948. At the same time, now that there was a "Jewish State", over 1,000,000 Jews were killed or forcibly expelled from Arab and Muslim nations, most having to leave property and possessions behind.
Arab attempts to remove Israel from the map, and Israel pushing back, continued through to 1993, including several short-lived wars. The Palestinian Authority was established in the wake of the Oslo Peace Accords, and proposals for a Palestinian State gained momentum. Shortly after, Jordan recognised Israel as a country through a Peace Treaty.
This was tested by multiple violent uprisings and suicide bombings from Palestine against Israel, until 2004, when Israel withdrew* all settlers from Gaza, leaving behind all infrastructure. This included airports, hotels, water treatment plants, housing... everything needed for Palestine to grow into a state. In 2005, they withdrew from four settlements in the West Bank.
*Withdrawing, in this case, meant forcibly resettling their own people out of Gaza and back into Israel, at considerable effort and expense.
The Rise of Hamas
In January of 2006, Hamas, which had formed as part of the 1987 uprising as the Palestine Chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood that later parted ways after disagreements over the use of political violence, was elected as a minority government.
In June of the same year, they launched a cross-border raid into Israel, which was repelled, even as relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority soured. There have been no elections in Gaza since then, and over half of the population has never had the opportunity to vote.
In 2013, Hamas moved to declare Gaza independent.
The Current Conflict.
On October 7th, Hamas launched another co-ordinated attack on Israel, battering down the border wall and attacking a Peace Festival full of teenagers, families and tourists. At the same time, but not reported until later, attacks were launched into multiple Kibbatz, small communities in Israel's south and near the border.
Part of the reason it took so long for those secondary attacks to be reported is because entire communities were massacred or abducted.
Over 1,400 people were killed, and over 200 more abducted. In terms of population comparison, this is the equivalent of over 50,000 US citizens.
Hamas didn't attack military instalations, but deliberately targeted civilians. Women, children, and the elderly. Mutilated bodies were paraded through Gaza to cheering crowds. Children and babies tortured before being shot or burned.
There are recordings of Hamas militants celebrating their actions. I don't care if you bend backwards far enough to twist yourself into a pretzel; this is unjustifiable.
Yet, all around the world, people are proclaiming themselves as supporters of Hamas! I hope that this is due to a lack of understanding. I fear that it isn't.
It's ok to be pro-Palestine. They're inter-generational refugees who keep getting promised better by the other Arab nations, only to be hung out to dry. They're stuck between a rock and a hard place, because their oppressors are their own government, and there is no way to vote them out. In a genuine oppressive state, rising up against the government oppressing you is no easy thing.
You can't be pro-refugee without feeling sympathy for Palestinians, and wanting a better life for them. Pro-Palestinians doesn't have to mean Anti-Israel, and vice versa.
But here's the thing: You can’t be pro-Palestinian without acknowledging the prime surces of their misery are Hamas themselves.
Hamas as a Government
When Israel withdrew from Gaza, they left behind some of the best infrastructure in the world at the time. Water and sewage pipelines, treatment plants, hotels, schools, hospitals, housing. All Gaza had to do was maintain it. Rather than doing so, Hamas dug up the pipelines to make missiles and let the infrastructure fall into disrepair, doing only basic maintenance.
Some of that infrastructure was damaged in the previous conflicts that Hamas started against Israel, and wasn't repaired afterward, despite UN and International funding to do so.
Gaza recieves billions of dollars per year in foreign aid, more than enough to build more water treatment plants and other infrastructure, and invest in agriculture. They could have built civilian bomb shelters in advance of the 5 different conflicts they started (and lost) against Israel. They could have invested in jobs, small-business grants and social programs.
Instead, they use that money and supplies to build the "Gaza Metro", the network of under-city tunnels that Hamas Militants shelter in. Imagine if they'd used those funds to build an actual Metro network, or schools, or social safety nets?
Ironically, that led to Israel supplying water and electricity, under the principle that the average Palestinian doesn't deserve to suffer for having a useless government. Now that Hamas provoked war, however, that's off. If Palestine wants to support Hamas, then Hamas can support Palestine.
Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has fired over 35,000 missiles into Israel, killed over 2000 men, women and children in missile and suicide bomb attacks.
They have constructed dozens of tunnels into Israel - not to bring in food or medicine (Israel allows tens of thousands of trucks full of food and aid into Gaza every year) - but for one purpose only; to launch attacks into Israel.
Why Is Israel Ignoring Calls For A Ceasefire
This is a little more politically murky, but the short answer is: because Hamas is still firing missiles into Israel, and because that would be surrendering their rights as a nation.
In essence, agreeing to a ceasefire would be the same as agreeing that they have no right to self-defence after being attacked.
If Hamas wants a ceasefire, they need to stop first.
If any other country in the world was attacked, a significant number of their population killed or kidnapped, would you tell them not to retaliate? Would you say "Don't go rescue the hostages, you'd be invading!"? Would you cry "Don't go after the people who killed over a thousand civilians, what if civilians get hurt?"
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, did the allies of the USA say "Oh, don't retaliate, that'll just make things worse."? No, they did not. So then why should Israel?
While I do think the death toll is horrible, it's also important to note that it could have been much worse. Compare the Ukraine-Russia war, where Russia was NOT interested in preserving civilian lives. Casualties of both dead and wounded in March 2022 were 3-5 times higher than what has been reported in Palastine so far.
Israel did their due diligence by warning Gazans to evacuate out of the city, multiple times. Most refused, and the ones who tried were turned back by Hamas blockades and guns.
Israel is using technology to find and target Hamas tunnel systems, rather than firing rockets at any building in Gaza. Unfortunately, Hamas deliberately builds their bunkers under mosques, schools and hospitals for exactly that reason. It's human shields again, dialled up to eleven.
Furthermore, it is the duty of BOTH parties to avoid talking the fight into civilian areas, not just one. If military forces blend in with and hide behind civilians, THEY are responsible for the increased collateral damage. It was true with the IRA, and it's true with Hamas.
As the elected Government of Palastine, Hamas doesn't seem particularly interested in looking after its people.
Why Is Nowhere Allowing Palestininan Refugees?
In Long Form: No neighbouring country is willing to take the risk, because refugees are rarely numbered in the dozens, but in the thousands or even millions. It's impossible to properly police that kind of number during a crisis. You either let all of them in, or none of them. Giving even one Palastinians refuge risks Hamas coming in and stirring up trouble.
How do we know this? Because it's happened every other time Palastinians were admitted as refugees.
Jordan gave the Palestinians refuge in 1967. They created militias, caused civil unrest, then tried to assassinate the king and take control of the country.
Lebanon gave them refuge in 1970. They tried to take over the country and plunged it into a civil war that killed 250,000 and destroyed the country.
Kuwait gave them refuge. They then helped Saddam Hussain when he invaded the country.
You know the phrase "Once bitten, twice shy"? Thrice Bitten, Closed Borders. Welcome to the Consequences of your own Actions.
Egypt has recently allowed medical evacuations, but only under the assurance that those evacuees will return to Palastine as soon as they are healed. Hamas already attempted a Coup in Egypt once, Egypt isn't willing to risk a second one, or Hamas setting up a new base in their backyard.
What Comes Next?
Honestly, I wish I knew.
Hopefully, Hamas can be pressured into allowing the evacuation of civilians. Perhaps a resolution can be found. Perhaps Gaza can allow elections again, and vote in a government that actually cares about governing and protecting the population.
There's a lot of uncertainty, and no one knows which way the pendulum will swing.
We can only hope that whatever happens, it isn't drawn out.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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