On March 30 of this year, and leading up to May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s establishment in 1948, protests began in Gaza demanding for the homes of Palestinians to be returned after they have been taken throughout the years by Israeli forces. 70 percent of the 2 million people who live in the Gaza strip are refugees who had their homes taken or fled the Israeli army.
One of the big motivators of the march is also to protest Trump has announcement about the US embassy is moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is highly controversial because Palestinians claim it as their capital and Jerusalem is a holy city for the world’s three biggest religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Since the protests began, 113 Palestinians have been killed, including 15 children, a doctor and an Associated Press reporter, Al Jazeera reports. So far 12,000 Palestinians have been injured, more than a 3,500 from live fire, including 6 Palestinian journalists and 16 paramedics. (For names and photos of almost all killed on both sides in 2018 look at https://israelpalestinetimeline .org/2018deaths/) The list of dead is expected to rise as more die from their wounds. There are no reports of any Israeli injuries, civilian or military.
The BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, said that there is shock in Gaza about the killings because although they expected casualties they did not expect so many.
On Monday, May 14, Hamas spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said that 50 of those killed were members of his organization. It is not confirmed that they were members of the armed aspect of Hamas.
This violent incident is just the latest chapter in a long conflict between Israel and Palestine (for more information, read the accompanying SLAMedia article reviewing the history of the conflict) — and it’s one that has a direct effect on the SLA community. Below are reports from students who have connections to both sides of the conflict.
Junior Ayala Silverman spent the first semester of this school year in Israel. She was there visiting family and learning about her people’s history, as she is Jewish. She spent the majority of her time she was around the capital of Israel, Tel Aviv. However, towards the end of her visit she visited many other parts of Israel, including the border along the Gaza strip.
She said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected her family, though not directly.
When I asked her what her ideal solution to the conflict was she said that she believes that Jewish people have the right to the land but that it is wrong to say that Palestinians do not have the right any land. She believes that Palestinians should get land for their people, though she did not specify where.
She says that sharing the land would be ideal as she believes it would solve a lot of the problems. When asked how she felt about a one country solution she said that it would be hard for her as she has been taught that the land is Jewish land and she believes that Israel has rights to it but she is willing to support a one country solution if it would lead to peace.
Silverman said that she feels that most of the people in the United States who talk about the conflict do not know about both sides and they just talk based on the news that they have seen, not what they have seen in person. Something that would be very hard for most Americans.
I then asked her if she believed if Hamas and the Israeli government should be charged with war crimes and violations of human rights to which she responded that Hamas should definitely be.
To the idea of the Israeli forces be charged she says that they have committed the crimes “but it’s not as bad a people try to make it seem.” She said that it is made to seem that “IDF are people who have no morals,” and that it is not the case. They are just trying to get the protests under control from her perspective.
I finished the interview with asking if she felt the Israelis response to the protests, which includes using live fire and tear gas, was justified. She believes that a response is justified and said that the shootings “Is justifiable if the Israeli soldiers got hurt or there was a chance of them getting hurt.” I then informed her that there have been no Israeli civilians or soldiers reported injured and asked how she felt about the various Palestinians who have been shot on camera not being aggressive and some with their backs turned to the Israelis running away.
Silverman responded by saying “When someone is running away there is no reason to shoot at them, because they’re leaving. They can’t really do anything if their back is turned.”
Sophomore Amani Harb is half Palestinian through her father. While she has not visited Palestine, she does feel the effects of the conflict through her family which are in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank.
She said that everytime she hears of what is happening to the Palestinian people it hurts because she feels that they are her people. She commented that it’s “crazy stuff.”
Harb said that she’s not sure if there is a realistic solution, but suggested that the US could take a role in it by possibly boycotting Israeli products. She said that the US can’t really do much though, because Israel makes a lot of products for the US and they need their support. The US also benefits by Israel being a strong country in the middle east as it is one of its best allies in the region.
She said “It would be nice if they [Israelis] could just take their land. The land that they actually own and just be happy with that, instead of trying to take ours.” Harb just wants Israel to stop occupying Palestine, she says.
When I asked if Israel and/or Hamas should be charged with war crimes she said she couldn’t speak on Hamas as she does not know much of them but she believes that Israel should be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. She referenced to the killing of unarmed civilians in Gaza and referred to it as “murder,” which made “no sense” to her and was wrong in her opinion.
Senior Chuckie Copeland feels loosely connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he is Jewish and his parents have friends in Israel. He also has visited Israel once a couple years ago.
His family friends in Israel had both their sons serve in the Israeli army, as it is mandatory for all Israeli citizens when they turn 18. They were in service, he says, during the Gaza riots in 2014 and one of them was injured during his military service. He says that the way that he has been personally affected is when people tell him “Fuck Israel,” because he is Jewish, “Even though,” he says “I have very little relation [to Israel].”
“In this time there has been established Muslim dominated nations, as well as Christian and other religion dominated nations. And Israel is the only, you could say, Jewish dominated nation in the world therefore I think just as a basic principle because there are other nations of other faiths Israel should exist as well. That’s not including any claims through the bible or whatever. On the other hand, Palestinians that have been there also have their right to exist their.
When I asked what the ideal solution for him is he said having Israel as it is but he understands there is a lot of push back and he thinks that a two state solution would be possible but that it would require help from Egypt. He thinks that for a two state solution a part of land could theoretically be carved out of Israel and Egypt to make a larger piece of land for the Palestinian people.
When I asked what he thinks is the most realistic solution, he responded “Israel as existing” because of the current situation. However, he doesn’t know for the longer term because he thinks someone is going to get attacked in the long term but he doesn’t know of a realistic long term solution.
Copeland responded to the question of how he feels about the US being involved by saying that they were involved for political reasons and not religious or right to exist ones. He pointed out that when Israel was formed they were pro-democracy and pro-US which made the US want them as an ally in the Middle East as the Cold War was occuring at the time. Copeland also said that he feels that the US supporting Israel is not the worst thing in the world as the US has “done more things of a heinous nature.”
The interview was finished off with Copeland saying how he believed it is fair to charge both Hamas and the Israeli forces with war crimes and crimes against humanity as suggested by some UN reports, acknowledging that the IDF has done some questionable things and Hamas has fired rockets into Israel.
Copeland also noted that the whole conflict is tough, as it involves “thousands of years of conflict.”
Sophomore Naseem Hameid is Palestinian, and his family lives in the Gaza strip. He has visited Palestine several times and can seen at school wearing a hat with the Palestinian flag.
He started off the interview by calling the whole conflict stupid as it is fighting over land and that only some of it is actually sacred land to both religions.
Hameid said that he has asked his mom, who is Palestinian, why don’t Palestinians just give Israel the land and go somewhere else. He told me his mom responded by saying “No. This is where we grew up. This is where we live. This is where we’re from. We can’t just abandon our home.” He says this is something he understands and respects.
I asked him if he thought his any of his family members were involved in the protests as they live in the Gaza Strip. He says that he doesn’t think so because most of his family thinks its stupid but he says that it is possible that distant family could be but he does not know. He feels confident enough to say that his uncles or cousins are not involved in it though.
When I asked what the ideal solution to the conflict is for him, Hameid responded by saying that he thinks it should be an agreement for land and government where both sides are involved in choosing. He thinks that in the solution process history must be looked at to look at how everything formed. He supports a two countries being formed, but believes that Palestine should get more of the sacred land.
When I asked what the most realistic solution to him is he responded by saying “There really isn’t one because all they keep doing is fighting a war.”
When I asked how he felt about the US being involved he said “I feel that they’re on the Israeli side and they are not really helping people that are actually dying.”
To the question of whether Hamas and Israel should be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, he said that both should be charged as they are both killing people, committing these crimes and its not humane in his mind.
Most Recent Developments
On Friday May 18, the United Nations voted to send a international war crimes probe to Gaza after Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief, called Israel’s response to the recent protests as “wholly disproportionate.” The council voted 29 in favor, two opposing and 14 states abstained from the vote.
The resolution that was passed condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.”
Israel condemned the resolution and the United States responded by saying that it showed the councils bias against Israel.
This vote will lead to a “independent, international commission of inquiry” into Israel’s actions and a report will produced next March.