10 Signs The Israel-Palestine Conflict Is Becoming More Violent Than Ever
Israel is a tiny country in the Middle East sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea, the Sinai Peninsula, and a handful of countries that want it dead at any given time. It’s only 26,000 square kilometers (10,000 sq mi)—about the size of Maryland—but the pages of its violent history could cover every inch of its surface with room to spare. Since 1947, Israel and Palestine have been involved in an ongoing struggle over land within the country, particularly two regions known as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. And over the last few months, the already smoldering tensions between the two nations have begun to reach a boiling point.
10A Frayed Nation
If you look at a map of Israel, there’s a good chance that it will have several defined regions marked off. On the western side is a small strip that runs along the Mediterranean Sea and ends in a border with Egypt—the Gaza Strip. On the eastern edge is a large, gourd-shaped chunk known as the West Bank that juts in from the Jordanian border. In 1993, the Palestinian Authority was given control over a smattering of territories in the West Bank that cover about 11 percent of its total area. It’s designated “Area A” and Israel has the right to send troops in any time they want. The other two areas in the country—Areas B and C—are under a mixed combination of Israeli and civil Palestinian rule. The entire thing is ruled as an “occupied area,” with Israel being the occupying force.
On the other side—and non-contiguous to the West Bank—the Gaza Strip is firmly under the control of Palestine, but since 2007 it has been under the de facto rule of Hamas, an extremist political party with a majority seat in the Palestinian Parliament. The US and the European Union have labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization, while many eastern countries like Russia and China disagree. There’s a very clear split between loyalties in the Palestinian people, and since they represent nearly 20 percent of the Israeli population, it’s clear why the conflict has had trouble coming to a peaceful resolution.
9A Looming Battle
Israel is arming for a full-scale invasion of Gaza, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them. In response to Hamas’s recent attack, Israel has authorized the mobilization of 40,000 reserve troops and is actually mobilizing 20,000 of those in preparation for a ground assault in the Gaza Strip. While it’s possible that it’s just a show of force to bully Hamas into backing down, that doesn’t seem to be a likely outcome—according to Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli Defense Minister, “We are preparing for action against Hamas, which will not end within a few days.”
Israel went on to call their offensive measures “open-ended and escalating,” and has stationed troops across the Gaza border. Both governments have dismissed talks of a cease-fire, and it’s starting to look like a ground battle is going to be the next significant step in the conflict.
8Rumors Of A Third Intifada
At the end of the ’80s, Palestinian protesters sparked a series of demonstrations and riots against Israeli nationals that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Palestinians and nearly 100 Israelis. It became known as the Intifada, or “uprising.” The Second Intifada lasted from 2000 to 2005 and was both far deadlier and far more significant to the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. This conflict claimed the lives of 3,000 Palestinians and over 1,000 Israelis, many of them civilians.
Now, analysts are predicting a Third Intifada in which Palestinians will once again try to shake off the burden of Israel in the occupied West Bank. And if history is any indicator, this one will reap more bloodshed than the other two combined. Hamas has voiced its desire for a third uprising, and plenty of other countries, like Iran, are also feeling the heat of the rising turmoil in Israel.
On July 5, 2014, an amateur video was uploaded to YouTube that showed Israeli police holding down a 15-year-old Palestinian-American boy and beating him to within inches of his life. The boy’s name is Tariq Khdeir, and he was in Jerusalem visiting relatives. After the beating, Khdeir’s limp body was carried away from the camera and he was thrown in jail. According to a Palestinian group, Khdeir was jailed illegally without any charges and was refused any medical treatment for hours for the savage blows administered by the two police officers.
Why was Khdeir, a high school student from Tampa, Florida, targeted for this violent display of brutality? Khdeir was the cousin of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old who had been kidnapped and murdered in Israel earlier that week. Before and after the funeral, Palestinians stormed the streets of Jerusalem chanting about blood, guns, and the struggle of their people. Israel says that Tariq Khdeir was involved in the protests; his family says that he was just an innocent bystander. But there’s no justification for such a gross abuse of police power, no matter what your beliefs.
There’s a long, blood-stained chain of cause and effect at work between Israel and Palestine, and it’s reaching down into the hearts of the people who would normally be opposed to such obscene acts of violence. Recently, that chain has come to the stark forefront of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Tariq Khdeir was allegedly targeted because he was involved in riots over the death of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who is widely believed to have been killed by extremist Israeli Jews.
Muhammad’s death, in turn, was a revenge killing in response to three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found under a pile of rocks in a field near the West Bank. The Israeli government claimed that “[the boys] were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts,” then went on to say that “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”
And pay they did—early the next morning, Israel sent a barrage of missiles into the West Bank to the tune of 34 airstrikes. But that didn’t stop Israeli extremists from paying tit-for-tat with 16-year-old Muhammad Khdeir, and it didn’t do anything to prevent the beating of Tariq Khdeir a week later. The most dangerous aspect of the entire conflict is the war of shadows played out when extremist groups take it upon themselves to avenge their lost. While the official governments play hot potato with mortar fire, radical civilians do the wetwork in secret and leave the world with more questions than answers.
5Children Are Dying
If there’s one thing that resonates to the core of the human conscience, it’s the death of children. Neither side of the conflict seems to care. While Hamas soldiers are pulling in children as human shields or launching attacks from schools and playgrounds, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers are simply shooting down teenagers in the streets. Both armies are staging their war with complete disregard of the innocent people around them, and the result is a populace cowering under a deep-seated fear of the future.
If children are so expendable in the onslaught of this conflict, there doesn’t seem to be much hope that any other tragedy will bring the fighting to an end before one side is declared the unanimous victor. This is one of the deepest tragedies of the whole situation, but every new step brings another heartbreaking story of broken children and families ripped apart by each attack and counterattack.
4A Shaky Palestinian Government
Right now, Palestine is rife with tension on multiple fronts in the wake of the recent killings. The subsequent Israeli crackdown in the West Bank led to the deaths of four Palestinians—shot in the streets—and the arrests of hundreds who may (or may not) have been involved in the kidnapping of the three Israeli boys. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party vowed to help Israel with their raids, and that’s put him right on the razor edge of Palestinian politics.
The problem, of course, is that the people they’re searching for are all members of the Hamas party, which is comparable to Obama leading a hunt for Republicans. In February 2014, talks began for a unified government that included more Hamas influence in the West Bank; in June, those talks became reality. Now, Abbas is being attacked on all sides, with Hamas members calling him a traitor and the general public questioning his ability to lead. In recent hours, Abbas has criticized Hamas’s rocket strikes (his first such criticism in the last month of heavy attacks), although his effort may be too little too late.
3Continued Air Strikes
On July 8, 2014, the piercing blast of air raid sirens erupted across the city of Jerusalem, sending Israelis and Palestinians alike running for cover. Over the next several hours, 117 long-range missiles from Gaza slammed into Israeli ground. Meanwhile, the IDF shot down five armed Palestinians who landed on Israel’s southern coast and launched a counterattack into Gaza. Over 750 targets have been attacked by Israel in the last week, resulting in the deaths of at least 85 people, including one family that was targeted even after several people climbed onto the roof in an attempt to wave off the attack by showing that there were civilians inside.
As the violence and war crimes mount on both sides, the rockets continue to fall and hopes for a peaceful resolution fade ever further into the choking smoke. Even dimmer than the possibility of resolution is the reason for the attack in the first place. Although it’s public record that Hamas is opposed to Israel, the most recent air strike surprisingly seems to be meant as a message to the Palestinian Authority—hours before the strike, Hamas called for the Palestinian government to take up arms against Israel, saying, “national unity sometimes requires a price.”
2Clear Human Rights Violations
Regardless of who the aggressor is, indiscriminate killing is a human rights violation in any conflict. Both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict have been guilty of war crimes for decades, most of which go unrecognized and unpunished. Ever since the ’50s, Israel has been accused of the killing of civilians, forced evictions of ethnic peoples, and the torture of prisoners. In 2013, the IDF killed many Palestinian civilians during a raid on the West Bank. Palestine has also been accused of brutally beating peaceful protesters, and Hamas alone has scores of black marks on its record, including prisoner torture and executions without a trial.
But even those accusations pale in comparison to recent events. The continued bombings from both sides are indiscriminate and have led to the deaths of untold numbers of civilians. Beginning in June 2014, Israeli bombs in Gaza have destroyed at least five homes and killed dozens of men, women, and children. Casting aside any political, religious, or territorial disputes, both Israel and Palestine are violating the most basic and important human right of all—the right to live.
1Nationalism Is Blinder Than Ever
It’s one thing to soak in the statements of the media that call Palestine’s actions against Israel clear-cut “terror attacks,” but it’s another thing completely to ignore the blind nationalism that thrives on both sides of the conflict. Recently, a well-known politician in the Knesset—Israel’s legislative branch—called for the destruction of all Palestinians, a call that legally falls under the crime of genocide.
In her statement, which she posted on Facebook, she said that this was a war on all of Palestine, and that we need to destroy everything, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” She calls to slaughter Palestinian women because they’re the ones who give birth to the “little snakes.” Thousands of people have liked the post, and remember that this is literally a lawmaker within the Israeli government—how many others share the same views?
The reasons for it? Just this phrase: “Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started it.”