50 Years of Fear: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
On Wednesday, June 8, 2016, two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a popular market and restaurant area in central Tel Aviv, killing four people and injuring six. On Sunday, January 8, 2017, a Palestinian driver rammed a truck into a crowd of Israeli soldiers, resulting in the deaths of four people, while 17 others were injured. On Thursday, March 30, 2017, known as Land Day or Yom al Ard in Israel and Palestine, conflicts arose at a “tree planting activity,” in which the Israel Defense Forces, IDF, left 45 Palestinians wounded. On Friday, March 31, 2017, Israeli soldiers shot a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, and then denied access to Palestinian rescue services, blocking off entrances to the area.
This June (2017) will mark the fiftieth year of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its territories. For the past 50 years, Israelis and Palestinians have been attacking and retaliating against each other every week. Aside from big events that make it into Western newspapers, most instances are not featured in Western media sources and can end up undocumented. Although violent activity has been a factor of daily life in Israel and Palestine for nearly 50 years, unjust and illegal action, by both sides of the conflict, has increased rapidly in recent months.
Over 1,000 homes and other buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been destroyed by Israeli authorities in the past year under the claim that the occupants did not have the nearly impossible to obtain legal permits for the buildings, resulting in the homelessness of 1,593 people. In the first several months of 2017, 24 Bedouin homes have been demolished in the Ma’ale Adumin area, as well as 11 in a village near Kfar Saba, and numerous in Umm al-Hiran.
As of October 31, 2016, the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine had received “150 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by the PA (Palestinian Authority) security forces and 204 such complaints against Hamas [the Gaza authority] security forces.” Meanwhile, the Israeli military advocate general received over 500 complaints regarding 300 incidents that took place during the Israel-Gaza fighting in 2014. These complaints result in virtually no response or investigation into the alleged crimes.
The violence and the accusations go back and forth. Palestinians launch rockets and mortars toward Israel and Israelis respond with military blockades. Israelis use fire or rubber coated bullets against Palestinians, and the Palestinians hurl rocks. There are violations of human rights on both sides of the dispute. However, with a forced occupation, discrimination and harm is felt more aggressively by many Palestinians. Human Rights Watch reported that 70% of the Gaza Strip’s population of 1.9 million people depend on humanitarian aid. Yet as the conflict is pushed into its fiftieth year, many are no longer concerned on a regular basis, because conflict is almost expected. However, some are still concerned and working to minimize additional deaths on top of the 10,000 plus Israelis and Palestinians who have died since the beginning of the occupation in 1967.
Progress was made in terms of formally finding a resolution to the violence on Wednesday March 29, 2017 at the 28th Arab League Summit. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, described the summit as a “success” with “clear” conclusions. The leaders reached an agreement to “work to relaunch serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations…based on the two-state solution,” which recognizes both the Israeli and Palestinians states as sovereign entities.
There are others who are working toward a more peaceful Israel-Palestine as well, such as the New Israel Fund (NIF). NIF is a non-profit organization that donates money to different organizations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and it is focused on supporting peaceful political and humanitarian solutions and providing aid to those in need. Its mission is the achievement of equality for all persons, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; the acknowledgement and protection of human rights and opposition to discrimination and prejudice; the recognition of the duality of Israeli society; the creation and maintenance of a just and peaceful society within and around the state.
While some have put the Israel-Palestine conflict on the back burners of their minds, and even though various leaders and organizers are working toward a peaceful end to the occupation, there is still violence everyday. On Wednesday March 29, 2017, a Palestinian was killed by police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City after attempting to stab a group of police officers with a pair of scissors. On Saturday April 1, 2017, a Palestinian was shot and killed after stabbing two civilians and a border policeman in the Old City of Jerusalem. On the same day, to revenge the assassination of Mazen Fuqaha, a former top official in Hamas, accredited to Israeli forces, the group declared it would inflict “intensive action against Israeli agents in the coming hours and days.” Even though events are no longer broadcasted in the news everyday, it does not mean that they are not still occurring, or that people are being harmed, and injustices have occurred. For more information about the conflict, refer to media sources that are directly impacted by the events, such as Haaretz or Al Jazeera. Additionally, for ways to get involved in helping, visit the NIF website, where you can donate or volunteer directly or contact one of the specific organizations.