Read the following headlines:
“Israel and Hamas agree to 72-hour ceasefire”
“The Obama administration is furious with Israel”
“Israel resumes attacks on Gaza”
The spate of recent news on Israel’s conflict against Hamas has taken over newsstands and social media alike. Even celebrities have now become experts in contemporary foreign affairs, as a flurry of Rihanna supporters passionately defended their starlet’s ephemeral #freepalestine tweet against the equally passionate and equally numerous supporters of Israel’s actions.
Israel is bombing UN schools. Hamas is using human shields. Bloomberg wants everyone to visit Israel. Rhianna is praying for Palestine. The modern American is confused, and rightfully so.
This past month, I completed a scientific research internship under the Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. After weeks at the Institute, our group of 80 international students was presented with millennia of Israeli history and archeology, marveling at its ancient ruins while scampering from north to south as we dived in the Dead Sea and prayed in Jerusalem. Coincidentally, the timing also marked the start of this recent conflict.
I’ve watched the Iron Dome intercept rockets directly over my head. Shrapnel has fallen in multiple places on Weizmann’s campus, including the swimming pool and the front of the Physics building. Some ISSI participants have gotten minor injuries from running to the shelter early in the morning. Our parents constantly called us, begging us to come home.
Despite these conditions, what intrigued me most were the conversations I had with college-bound Israeli students, PhD candidates serving as lab technicians, and my scientific mentors, who were as cosmopolitan as any individuals I have yet talked to.
Interestingly enough, the opinions that were presented were neither the polemical “Burn Hamas to the ground” nor “Israel’s inhumane actions should be internationally condemned”, but one rooted with careful consideration of history and both sides.
Israel, following its 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza, thought they were leaving the Palestinian Authority in control but, after winning an election, Hamas took control. The people of Gaza elected Hamas, a leadership that literally states in its mission that it was “committed to Israel’s destruction.”
Recently, the Palestinian Authority unified with Hamas and they have stayed unified throughout this Hamas attack on Israel. Because of this, Israel clearly knows that any more land given to Gaza would become launching pad sites used for more terrorism against Israel.
The question for Israel now is not land for peace but land for terror.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza had worldwide support. However, when it backfired and Israel fell victim to Hamas raining rockets into Israeli towns, the world sat back and watched. Silently. It was something the Jewish people had come to expect.
“Okay”, then one might reply, “but Israel’s recent reaction has gone overboard: too violent, too much, too quickly.”
However, imagine al-Qaida controlling the area on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border. What would Arizona react? Obviously, a military motion would be provoked.
Now imagine the missiles directed at U.S. border cities are being fired from the most densely populated civilian areas, purposefully, to deter any response to take out the rockets because they would certainly lead to significant civilian casualties. Of course, the civilian casualties would be exploited to engender a public opinion victory for the terrorists. Would this necessarily mean that retaliatory bombs can be indiscriminately fired at the opposing side? Given Israel’s military power, especially with its ability to carefully control counter-attacks, the current situation becomes even more confusing, and disheartening.
While social media does remain a platform to express one’s opinion, it is demoralizing to the general public intellect to hear the unfounded, highly-prejudiced criticisms directed to both Israel’s response and Hamas’s actions.
Many have called on Israel to exercise either proportionality or restraint despite the unyielding and indiscriminate missile attacks on its civilians. Which begs the question: should a nation defending itself do so in a manner in which its casualties are expected to equal those against whom they retaliate? And correlatively, should it be criticized or condemned simply because its capability to administer punishment exceeds that of the belligerent who initiated the hostility?
While the conflict drags on, so does the public’s fascination with its events. Whatever the outcome, however, one thing is certain: Rihanna’s tweets do not make her an expert on foreign affairs.