Op-Ed by Rachel Black
This piece originated on Rachel's personal blog, Contemporary Conversations, on December 4, 2018.
In my previous post, I examined Taglit (תַגלִית)-Birthright Israel, and explored the problems that reside within the presentation and format of their trips, particularly with Palestinian speakers, or rather, a lack thereof. I also mentioned current groups that are actively trying to include this representation and these perspectives in the trips to better round out the trip and create an accurate depiction of Israel.
This post is not meant to detail the entire history of conflicts that have ensued between Israel and Palestine. However, I want this post to be as transparent and accurate as possible, so I will provide some back story for those unfamiliar with the conflict. Because there is so much complexity to the First and Second Intifadas, I do not feel as though I would accurately explain them, and though integral to the conflict, are not what I am choosing to solely focus on in this post. I will also incorporate my own commentary, which are purely my own words.
This debacle (which is not sufficient enough of a word to cover the violence experienced and bloodshed lost, as well as the sheer loyalty both states feel for their nations), dates for the Jewish people, back to the Torah, also referred to as the Old Testament. The land that is now controlled by and referred to as Israel, to some of the Jewish people, is believed to have been promised to them by God, and belongs to them by extension of this biblical declaration.
However, for Palestinian individuals, the land that is now under Israeli control belonged to them preceding 1948. Individuals had been living on such land for centuries before the legal declaration of land had been presented to the Jewish people and had been acknowledged as a Jewish state succeeding World War II and the Holocaust. It was not until, November 29, 1947 when “the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end” (Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State). It was believed that supporters of the resolution and reclamation of lands for the Jewish people had significant power over the Palestinians because they were primarily supporters from more industrialized nations (Khalidi).
As an American, for me, this particular situation is difficult to consider without likening it to the acquisition of land European settlers took from Native Americans. Despite this, for many, it is difficult to remove the biblical component from the rationalization of a Jewish state, which has been a major element of conflict. If I were not Jewish, I am not sure what my relationship with Israel would have looked like when I was younger, and what it looks like now, especially in regards to this procurement of land.
Many decades later, a similar issue has been transpiring, “there are now about 500,000 Israeli settlers living among some 2.6 million Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank” (Hayun). Many countries consider these settlements to have “no legal validity”, and believe that they are in violation of international law, threatening security, as well as impeding efforts to promote and create peace between the nations. This is problematic for Palestinian individuals, because they are experiencing a takeover of their land again, without the Israeli settlers and government receiving legal ramifications for such settlements. The Israeli government is not planning on putting a pause on the construction of such settlements, and due to these actions, has created further tensions between the states, and hindered any progress on resolutions through peace talks.
Which begs the question, what is the IDF actually defending?
As in any area, there may be some level of lawlessness or disorder, and this is true within Israeli settlements within Palestinian land. Some Israeli individuals who live in these settlements perpetrate violence and hate crimes targeting Palestinians, and have not received repercussions for their actions. These instances are hidden and displayed as implicit acts of destruction, or thought of as misdemeanors, as the “cases of abuse toward Palestinians, looting and destruction of property have been the norm for years” or “these incidents are still described officially as “extreme” and “unique” cases” (Breaking the Silence). As a result of this, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is currently under fire for not adequately reprimanding the perpetrators for their crimes. Furthermore, “most senior IDF officials seek and assist in the development of the settlement, while blatantly ignoring the actions of (Yitzhar) residents and the residents of the surrounding outposts, which have included attacks on security forces” (Zargarian via Magid). It seems the problem lies instead in the IDF itself, and protocol that has normalized and promoted not acting upon Israeli settlers’ acts of violence and terror. In May of this year, the IDF killed 52 people, and injured 2,400 in unprovoked attacks against Palestinian protesters. However, the IDF rationalized these deaths because they considered these individuals to be terrorists, not peaceful protestors, which begs the question, what is the IDF actually defending?
The most recent act of violence between Israel and Palestine that warranted military intervention, has been the rocket launches in October. It was unclear which party the missile came from within Palestinian lands, but due to the range, was believed to have come from Hamas. In retaliation, Israel then sent several fighter jets with targets aimed for Palestine. As a result of these airstrikes, seven individuals were killed.
Resulting from Israeli occupation, IDF violence and protocol, and warfare, it is hard for Israelis or Palestinians to consider other options in order to create peaceful relations. But, it is important that agreements are deliberated on or compromises are reviewed, as taking any step is significant progress in trying to mend the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, and in fostering new global relationships as well.
The specific issue that I will be discussing on this blog for the next few months is the conflict between Israel and Palestine, particularly during and after the Second Intifada. I will highlight how my experiences surrounding this issue have changed, and what organizations and resources can be used for educational purposes. I will also include other narratives different from my own, existing in different environments regarding this issue. Additionally, I will highlight Birthright and their exclusion of Palestinian narratives in their program, and why that is problematic.