Conflict between Israel and Palestine has been steadily increasing over the past few weeks
Almost two weeks ago, Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa mosque, wounding 158 Palestinian worshippers. The violence continued into this past week, with Israeli soldiers showing excessive force by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at worshippers, who threw stones and launched rockets at Israeli forces in return. The conflict escalated as Israel launched air raids in the central Gaza strip on April 21.
The al-Aqsa mosque is located in Eastern Jerusalem and is important to both Muslims and Jews. A law passed in 1967 bans any non-Muslims from praying at the site of the mosque. Tensions are especially high right now since Ramadan and Passover coincide during the same month.
A day before, ultra-right nationalist Israeli protesters gathered near the mosque, chanting “death to the Arabs” according to reports from Al Jazeera. This is just one example of how the situation in Palestine and Israel is at a dangerous place.
UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet provided a succinct explanation for why the conflict has escalated in April.
“The situation in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, triggered by threats of forced evictions of Palestinian families; the heavy presence of Israeli Security Forces and violence around the al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan; the severe escalation of attacks from and on Gaza; and the shocking incitement to racial hatred and violence in Israel have all led to vicious attacks and mounting casualties in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel.”
This statement illustrates Israel’s part in creating the conflict. Oftentimes, Israel and the West use the militant group Hamas to justify the Israeli army’s shocking cruelty toward Palestinain people, acting as if they are merely trying to defend Israel.
Although Hamas has engaged in violence and acted in ways that, in part, prevented both parties from moving toward peace, Israel is the one occupying Palestinian land, which they forcibly took from Palestine in the mid-twentieth century.
This is only a very brief summary of the history, but provides some of the context needed to understand the present conflict. In 1917, Great Britain gained control over Palestine and allowed Zionist groups to settle in Palestine.
The conflict surged in the 1940s, and from 1947 to 1948 there was a Civil War in Israel. There were casualties on both sides, but the Palestinians ended up suffering more because they had to either become refugees or stay as second-class citizens.
During the Civil War, the Israeli military resorted to tactics of terror as a way to get Palestinians out of the country. From 1948 to 1949, around 80 percent of Arabs were forced from their homes in Palestine, which is now referred to as the al-Nakba conflict. Only 20 percent of Palestinians remained.
For those who are allied with Israel, such as the US, the history of Palestine is one that is not talked about nearly enough in classrooms and communities. The stories we tell about Israel and Palestine erase much of the struggle and violence that Palestinians faced from colonization.
It also erases the fact that the Israeli government and military continues to occupy Palestine today through unjust means. Israel is often seen as the ally of the US fighting against Palestinian terrorists, which is enough justification for the violence that Israel commits against people of all ages.
Considering that the US is not ready to face their own history as a colonizer who also committed violence and attempted to destroy the lives of iIndigenous people in this country, it is not surprising that the US government and many of its citizens seem to either not understand or not care about Palestine.
Take a hard look at what’s happening in Palestine. There have been casualties on both sides, yes, but the harm done to Palestinians goes deeper than just the recent conflict. Their lands, homes and places of worship are being taken from them, often through violent means.
No one appears to be safe from Israeli soldiers, be it a child or a grown man. People around the globe need to start truly seeing what is happening in Palestine and realize the injustice of the situation instead of simplistically pitting Palestine and Israel against each other by always insisting it is Hamas or groups of violent Palestinians starting the conflict. It is so much more than that. Where is your rage, tears and sadness for Palestine?