Many of you might be like me, born and raised in a world where peace and safety are taken for granted. Occasionally news from regions of conflicts would come to our attention, but I dare to say that we seldom understand just how horrifying those conflicts are. We don’t perceive death tolls that happened thousands miles away from us much more than merely statistical numbers.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a profoundly complex issue with many ideological and political controversies. However, I want to focus on the human cost of the conflict before and after the ephemeral cease-fire.
Over 1400 Palestinians and 60 Israelis have undeservedly lost their lives in the past 30 days. Tens of thousands more families mourn while trying to survive under a sky where hundreds of rockets fly through daily, knowing that they could be lying on the ground in any minute. Let us not use words to disguise what these numbers truly mean. My extended family counts about 30 people of whom I know, and I can hardly bear the idea of seeing any of their bodies blown apart and scattered on the street, not to mention seeing a group of people more than 40 times my family size exterminated in a month. Here is a link that records the names of the dead: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/gaza-under-seige-naming-dead-2014710105846549528.html
Replace each death with an acquaintance of yours, and I trust you will see the numbers differently.
70 percent of the casualties were innocent Palestinian civilians with no weapons, no ability to defend themselves, and no choice but to be denied the right to life. When did putting civilians in the line of fire every day become simply a symbolic demonstration of resilience? When did disproportionally bombarding innocent humans become Netanyahu’s default response to Hamas’ comparably non-life-threatening attacks? I couldn’t agree more with what Max Fisher wrote in his recent article on this conflict: “the apparent sense that their [the Palestinians] lives only matter at the moment of their death … is perhaps the most fundamental truth of the Israel-Gaza war.” Their deaths have contributed to almost nothing but the endless political stagnation between Palestine and Israel. It reminds me of a promising peace deal back in 2011 that included the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the establishment of a Palestinian state. It was a deal that promised lasting peace. Contrary to this belief, on August 1st, 2014, Netanyahu authorized a series of military attacks based on an unconfirmed kidnap of an Israeli soldier, killing dozens of civilians. Regardless of whether Hamas did violate the agreement, such retaliation has achieved nothing but the resurgence of violence and bloodshed. No justice was made. Not a single Israeli life was saved. It was as if all the killings were merely a domestic political tactic or a token used on the negotiating table.
To respond to this conflict, Pres. Barack Obama said, “If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping at night, I’d do everything in my power to stop them.” Well, if by that he means to callously apply disproportionate force against people living under an occupation and blockade when his house was well behind a mile-long defensive zone, I urge him to reconsider its position. I acknowledge that there are national interests to be considered and issues to be debated, but we can’t let the victims die in vain; we can’t afford to lose more people.
What’s more alarming is how many more tragic stories could have gone unreported. Jane Doe (name changed for anonymity), a student at MIT who resides in the West Bank, told me that not too long ago several Israeli soldiers entered Nablus, one of the safer cities in Palestine, and murdered a mentally ill Palestinian without justification. A friend of mine in the West Bank who wishes to remain anonymous has also corroborated the authenticity of this story. Jane further pointed out that many similar incidents have happened in the past, much more frequently in the less safe areas. Although the scale and truthfulness of these incidents are still to be verified, it’s sufficient for the world to notice and begin addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue effectively. None of the civilians want to lose another loved one, but the politics continue to push both sides toward this direction.
My concern for Palestinians does not mean lack of concern for Israelis. What we lack here is concern for every human life that’s been lost. Let’s hope that the latest Egyptian-mediated cease-fire will last and when we wake up tomorrow, the death toll will stop rising.
Fisher, Max. “Why 70% of the People Killed in Israel-Gaza Violence Are Innocent Palestinian Civilians.” Vox. Vox News, 30 July 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.
Blair, David. “Israel Carves out ‘dead Zone’ along Gaza Borders.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 24 July 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.
“BBC Presentation of the August 1st Ceasefire Breakdown Part Two: BBC Television News.” BBC Watch. BBC News, 2 Aug. 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.
Image Credit: Syeda Amina Trust. “GAZA Crisis July 2014.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 19 July 2014. Web. <http://flic.kr/p/ojPDeq>.