Author’s note: It has come to my attention that this article has garnered extreme criticism from the opposing perspective. However, after a number of productive conversations on the issue with critics, and doing further research, my stance on the issue has not changed. I understand, though, that many statements were made without source attribution. So in that regard, I have made several corrections and clarifications to the article and cited sources, as noted in the revision below.
he entire world, not just the U.S., seems to be on edge lately. Along Gaza’s border with Israel, in the always-contentious Middle East, 29 Palestinian citizens were killed last week in protests against the Israeli government, mostly by Israeli snipers, according to NPR.
Normally, I leave discussing world issues to my colleague Aishwarya, but something about the Gaza protests in particular struck a nerve with me. This kind of violence doesn’t happen in America during protests; there’s no reason it should happen in Gaza, or anywhere else.
While militants from the terrorist group Hamas were among the protesters killed, a number of citizens perished in the violence as well, and thousands more were wounded, according to NPR. Among the citizens killed was a Palestinian journalist, Yaser Murtaja, who was wearing a jacket that clearly marked him as a member of the press.
Israel claimed that the protests had turned violent and citizens were being encouraged by Hamas, as an Israeli army spokesperson said to foreign press. However, there’s no excuse for shooting journalists who are clearly labeled as such, or other bystanders such as farmers, as NPR also reported. A pro-Palestinian legal organization, Adalah, called the response to the protests a violation of international law.
This isn’t the first time Israel has viciously treated Palestinians; it’s been a common occurrence for about a half-century, in both Israel itself and the occupied territories that Israel controls. Since 2000, over 7,000 Palestinians have been killed in conflicts with israel, as compared to just over 1,000 Israelis, according to B’tselem, an organization that tracks human rights abuses by Israel in occupied Palestinian territories.
However, tensions ratcheted up even further in late 2017 when America, under the direction of President Trump, announced that it would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, officially recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, according to the Washington Post. Palestinians — and much of the rest of the world — were outraged, with the U.N. soon passing a resolution condemning the U.S. decision 128-9, as the Post also reported.
While the protests last week were against Israel’s continued ban on travel from the Gaza Strip, the heightened tensions of late have likely played a hand in both Israel and Hamas’ more extreme behavior. And while Hamas has had a presence at the protests, throwing rocks and firebombs at Israel’s encampment, no Israeli soldiers have died so far, according to NPR.
Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is eerily similar to how apartheid South Africa treated black citizens in the second half of the 20th century: with segregation, racism and needless violence. A report by a UN committee of Arab countries from 2017 accused Israel of committing apartheid-like international crimes.
The U.S. response to this? Rather than further investigating whether apartheid was actually happening in Israel, America, led by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, threatened to stop funding programs perceived as “anti-Israel,” according to the Washington Post. Less than a year later, the U.S. announced the embassy move, sparking another round of protests.
Israel is responsible for the killings themselves, but the U.S. needs to examine its role in allowing their ally to continue to oppress the Palestinian people. Israel can claim it is the real victim and the Palestinians are obstructing peace all they want, but it does not really help their cause when they fire at protesters from behind a wall.