The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

Israeli violence against Palestinians must end

Since October 7th, one in every 100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed. Dozens of thousands more have been injured, and many more are missing. 1.4 million people have been displaced, more than 80% of Gaza’s population. The situation is only worsening: one in four people are starving, only a third of Gaza’s hospitals are even partially operational, and those that are have almost no sanitary water with which to operate. The conflict has pushed a preexisting water crisis over a tipping point, leading to a public health crisis where preventable diseases are spreading rapidly and hospitals cannot operate safely. Although Israel and its supporters are painting the war as a war against Hamas, it increasingly appears to be a war on Gazan civilians.

Israel has responded to the Hamas escalation, the October 7th attack,  with unprecedented levels of violence. According to a January Oxfam report, this has been the bloodiest war of the 21st century, with the vast majority of casualties being Palestinian women and children. This piece will examine how Israeli policy (with unwavering support from the US) has pushed this conflict to its tipping point, and scrutinize the horrors being committed by Israel and the manner in which the US is standing in the way of international attempts to hold Israel accountable.

The region has a long and convoluted history in which both groups claim the land as their own holy land, and claim that they have the rights to it as a result of ancestral roots there. Modern history, however, has been defined by oppression of Palestinians. Oppression of Palestinians is rooted in the establishment of the nation of Israel. In 1948, Israel gained independence, following decades of military rule from the British in which they failed to deliver on their promise of a united land for Palestinians and Jews. Shortly after Israel became independent, it expelled at least 700,000 Palestinians – around 80% of the population – from their homes or forced to flee, an event known as the Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic). Zionist militias massacred Palestinians and destroyed their homes. It is estimated that 400 Palestinian towns were destroyed. The goal of establishing a Jewish state is not inherently wrong -they did so at a time where a Jewish safe haven was needed, as Jews were being persecuted around the world, and many countries were turning away Jews seeking refuge. The problem is that Israel did so at the cost of a population who had established family, lineage, community, and culture. Most of the Palestinian refugee population, now numbering around six million, have not been allowed back into their homes. Israel, founded upon the tragic destruction of Palestinian communities, would continue to oppress Palestinians for the coming decades, with significant American support. 

Following the Nakba, Palestinians continued to endure displacement, caused by Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. These settlements, illegal under international law, are sources of violence and intimidation against Palestinians. The US diverged from the international community by vetoing UN resolutions condemning illegal settlements three times. 

The oppression worsened in 2005, when a long period of tension and increased violence from both sides, as well as Hamas’ forcible acquisition of leadership in Gaza, led to Israel enacting a blockade two years later (2007). The blockade was a humanitarian disaster. The UN released a report in June of 2022 calling for Israel to fully lift the blockade, citing “concern about collective punishment and other possible violations under international humanitarian and human rights law.” The report outlines several major areas of concern. These include access restrictions imposed by Israel, like restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing water in Gaza, as well as entry of goods into Gaza, which have stunted Gaza’s economy, resulting in extremely high unemployment rates (46.6% in Q1 of 2022) as well as high poverty levels and reliance on aid (according to the report, 63% of the population relied on international aid). Another outcome is isolation from the outside world, which limits access to medical treatment and opportunities for higher education and employment. The UN report also details Gaza’s energy dependence on Israel (Gaza’s power generators do not provide enough for Gaza, which has relied on Israel to make up for the deficit). Overall, the blockade served to spread an epidemic of poverty and to make Palestinian self-reliance impossible. Instead of alleviating the economic turmoil befalling Palestinians, US tax dollars went towards the government subjecting them to those exact conditions. Although the US did supply Gaza with some aid, it was woefully inadequate, and pales in comparison to the amount of funding the US gave to the Israeli military in the same period. From 19932023, the US has contributed $7.6 billion in aid to Palestinians. In that same period, the US sent around $120 billion in funding to the Israeli military. In the meantime, Israel directly aided Hamas’ rise to power, which would lead to the October 7th escalation. 

How and why would Israel put a group in power whose goal is to destroy the state of Israel? On the surface, the rise of a violent extremist group within those circumstances (experiencing food insecurity, and economic turmoil, trapped in an area bordered by fences and open sea, having land settled upon illegally) seems inevitable. When being subjected to such conditions, with almost no reasonable peace proposals, violence becomes more common and more severe.  But on a much more concrete level, Israel directly propped up Hamas in order to further their objective of control over Palestinians. This strategy, enacted primarily by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been openly commented on by high level Israeli officials.

“The Palestinian Authority is a burden, and Hamas is an asset,” said Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister. “It’s a terrorist organization, no one will recognize it, no one will give it status at the [International Criminal Court], no one will let it put forth a resolution at the UN Security Council.” 

“Israel would be ‘happy’ if Hamas took over Gaza because the IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state,” said Amos Yadlin, former intelligence chief for the IDF, Israel’s military, in 2007.

Netanyahu’s government propped up Hamas by refraining from legitimate peace talks with the PA, and by channeling billions of dollars of funding to Hamas via Qatar, which Hamas put to use by developing weaponry and a tunnel system. 

To review: the earliest iteration of Israel was created upon ground where Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes, and many were killed. Ever since, Israel has denied most Palestinian refugees the right to return. For decades, Israel continued to build settlements on Palestinian land, with international support from the US, despite the settlements being major sources of violence which has hurt Palestinians at a far higher rate than Israelis. Then Israel subjected Palestinians in Gaza to a brutal blockade which ushered in a period of catastrophic poverty and resource shortages, and the US continued to fund Israel’s military at a far higher rate than they provided aid for Gaza. At the same time, Israel funded and supported a compromise-averse group rather than supporting the more moderate Palestinian Authority (who publicly recognizes Israel’s right to exist). 

The point is not to say that Palestinians have never hurt Israelis, or to justify violence against Israelis. This contention would simply be untrue; Palestinian groups have committed suicide bombings, assaults, and rocket strikes targeting Israeli civilians, and violence against civilians is never justifiable. At the same time, Israel has regularly responded to thrown stones with rifles. There are multitudes more Palestinian casualties than Israeli ones throughout the entire history of the conflict, an imbalance made far worse when adjusted for relative population size. Further, Israel (with the steadfast support of the US) created the set of conditions that cause radicalization and violent resistance, and where many Palestinian leaders are hell-bent on the destruction of Israel rather than on achieving meaningful compromise. 

How does the October 7th escalation play into the conflict’s history? Overall, the same trends hold true. Hamas killed 1,200 Israelies and took hundreds of hostages, to which Israel has responded by trapping, bombing, starving and displacing countless Palestinians, and targeting civilian infrastructure. 

Israel has crippled the health system in Gaza through direct strikes and deprivation of resources. Human Rights Watch reported in November that “Israeli forces on several occasions struck well-marked ambulances…These ongoing attacks are not isolated. Israeli forces have also carried out scores of strikes damaging several other hospitals across Gaza.” IDF forces have also stormed three hospitals, claiming to have intelligence of Hamas sheltering inside. As a result, only one third of hospitals in Gaza are operating, and are operating with inadequate resources (it is reported that these hospitals lack anesthesia, so patients are forced to undergo excruciating procedures – like amputations – without it). Israel has also damaged hundreds of educational facilities, dozens of mosques and churches, dozens of ambulances, and several bakeries, as well as half of all residences in Gaza. 

Reports have also detailed Israel’s lack of regard for civilian life in ‘safe corridors’ and refugee camps. Although Israel has provided ‘safe corridors’ for forcibly displaced Palestinians to move to the south, the EuroMed Monitor reports that these safe zones are in fact extremely dangerous, and civilians are regularly shot and hit by  artillery strikes. “The Israeli army’s claim of a safe passage for the displaced is part of the military tactics that it uses to attack Palestinian civilians,” the group reported on November 11. “Israeli occupation forces executed dozens of Palestinians fleeing Gaza City and neighbouring northern areas of the Gaza Strip to the central and southern parts of the enclave, despite the displaced posing no threat,” it reported later that month. Refugee camps have not been spared either. Several camps have been hit by airstrikes, including one in December that killed nearly 100 Palestinians. 

If there were any doubt that the IDF does not care about civilian casualties, consider this: US intelligence determined in December that nearly half of the bombs dropped on Gaza were unguided. To bombard a densely populated city is bad enough, to do it without attempting to avoid civilian casualties is unjustifiable. IDF attempts to justify bombing civilian targets by saying Hamas are hiding within them, or in tunnels underneath them. This argument crumbles under scrutiny: there are reports of IDF forces hitting civilian targets where there was no evidence of Hamas. Further, international law clearly requires that measures be taken to limit civilian casualties, even in cases where the opponent is among or near civilians. Dropping unguided bombs, hitting schools, refugee camps, and homes with air strikes, and killing Palestinians in ‘safe corridors’ very clearly violates these international regulations. 

President Biden recently stated that Israel is engaging in “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza. One would expect US policy to somehow reflect that viewpoint. Instead, despite Biden’s admission, he has pushed through several large packages of funding to Israel’s military, including tons of military equipment and tens of thousands of bombs. Further, the US has thrice vetoed UN calls for a permanent ceasefire since October 7th. Biden’s administration has called on Israel to take more care to minimize civilian casualties, but this is purely performative, as they have continued to send bombs to Israel, knowing they would be put to use primarily against civilians. 

The purpose of America’s long standing support for Israel’s oppressive policy is obvious. Clearly it is not for peace; Israeli policy has, again, kept the region in violent disorder for decades. The US wants a military stronghold in the Middle East, as it is a resource-rich region which the US has limited control over. It was never about protecting democracy, or keeping peace. As Biden famously proclaimed as a senator in 1986, “Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region,” which he restated in 2022.

If you have paid federal taxes in the last decade, your money has funded a military who has displaced millions, killed tens of thousands (mostly women and children), kept millions in poverty, worked to replace moderate opposition leadership with violent extremists, claimed ever increasing amounts of land, repeatedly targeted civilian infrastructure, and shown blatant disregard for civilian life, all to advance America’s ceaseless imperialist project. If you care, do something. Protest and work to create a system in which our ‘progressive’ presidential candidate is not one who disregards human life and dignity simply because he views the region as an asset towards the selfish goals of our nation. Israel has oppressed Palestinians since its very foundation. It has constantly displaced them, regularly escalated the violence, fractured the population and supported violent leaders in order to delegitimize them. This set of policies have traumatized generations of Palestinians, and endangered Israel’s own citizens, as the world witnessed on October 7th. War will not bring peace: a permanent ceasefire must be enforced, and Palestine must be free. Although it is often construed this way, the notion of a free Palestine is not synonymous with the eradication or displacement of Israelis. Rather, a free Palestine is one in which Palestinians are able to move freely; where they are granted the same rights, in legality and in practice, as Israelis; where they can return to their homes; where they need not fear being displaced, or having food and water and electricity withheld from them. For the sake of all civilians in the region, Israeli and Palestinian alike, the violence must be stopped now.