On the morning of October 7th, around 2,200 rockets raced towards southern and central Israel. The rockets targeted sites like The Nova Music Festival where attendees were forcibly taken as hostages; later, at least 260 bodies were discovered. These attacks, orchestrated by the Islamist militant group Hamas, led the Israeli government to declare war and approve “significant military steps” in response to the unexpected assault.
As global outrage grew, many expressed unwavering support for Israel. However, it’s crucial to recognize that history is not confined to our attention span. Before making judgments, we must understand that the complexity of this situation requires a consideration of the historical context spanning at least the last two centuries.
History of Israel and Palestine
Beginning in the 1840s, the British viewed Palestine as a strategic Middle Eastern foothold, formalizing their interest during World War I through the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which called for a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Tensions escalated between Arabs and Jews in the following decades as a growing number of Jewish people sought refuge in Palestine following the Holocaust. Driven by a need for safety after centuries of persecution, Jewish individuals desired their own state. Simultaneously, Palestinians witnessed their own homes being forcibly taken and their land colonized, deepening the conflict. The conflict grew so large that the UK turned the issue over to the United Nations in 1947. After looking at alternatives, the UN proposed the separation of Palestine into two independent states, one Palestinian-Arab and the other Jewish. The Jewish state proclaimed its independence as Israel. In the 1948 war involving neighboring Arab States, Israel’s new army expanded its territory, leading to the expulsion or flight of about 700,000 Palestinians, constituting approximately 85% of the indigenous Arab population in the captured area, who were never permitted to return.
Over the past 50 years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has persisted with Israel constructing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 700,000 Jews now reside, despite international law deeming these settlements illegal. Israel’s policies, particularly concerning the Gaza Strip, have faced global criticism. Since 2007 Gaza has been under a stringent blockade, tightly controlled by Israel, encompassed by concrete walls and barbed wire fences.
Palestinians in Gaza endure severe restrictions, with limited access to trade, water and electricity due to the blockade. They are prohibited from entering or leaving the territory except in extremely rare cases such as urgent, life-threatening medical conditions. This situation has been described by human rights groups as akin to living in the world’s largest open-air prison.
Israel’s response to the attack
In response to the recent attack on Oct 7th, Israel has taken significant military actions, which have sparked widespread international concern. Reports have emerged detailing alleged war crimes committed by Israel, including the bombing of hospitals and deliberate cutoffs of essential services such as electricity and water supply in Gaza.
According to the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Agnès Callamard: “In their stated intent to use all means to destroy Hamas, Israeli forces have shown a shocking disregard for civilian lives. They have pulverized street after street of residential buildings killing civilians on a mass scale and destroying essential infrastructure, while new restrictions mean Gaza is fast running out of water, medicine, fuel and electricity. Testimonies from eyewitnesses and survivors highlighted, again and again, how Israeli attacks decimated Palestinian families, causing such destruction that surviving relatives have little but rubble to remember their loved ones by.”
The United States, among other countries, has been a long-standing supporter of Israel, providing substantial financial aid and military assistance. This support has generated debates and criticism, raising questions about the indirect endorsement of Israel’s military actions in the region.
The US is currently continuing its extensive financial support to Israel, having provided the country with $158 billion since World War II, surpassing aid given to any other nation. Although US officials have thus far refrained from sending troops, they actively support the Israeli military and security forces. In response to the recent Hamas attack, the US is sending guided-missile carriers, F-35 fighters and other equipment
On October 13th, The American public seemed to agree with the support of Israel. 44% of the 1,313 adult Americans polled said that Israel’s response to Hamas attacks has been about right, while about 25% said it has actually been too little. An article published on October 23rd showed how these numbers have changed over the last week. It found 7 in 10 Americans — support providing aid to Israel. When asked for opinions on Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack, 35% of registered voters said Israel’s retaliation has been “about right” while one-quarter said Israel’s response has been “not harsh enough.” Those numbers may seem like a relatively small change, but it does show that opinions are changing slowly but surely. This may be due to the increasing number of young people who are speaking out against Israel’s action.
Should America be supporting Israel
The significant financial aid and military assistance provided by the United States endorse Israel’s actions. This only leads to more human rights violations and exacerbates tensions in the region. There needs to be a more balanced approach that promotes diplomacy, dialogue and a just resolution to the conflict. Americans should advocate for a reconsideration of the substantial aid provided and urge the US to leverage its influence to encourage both parties to engage in peaceful negotiations and respect for international law instead of unequivocally supporting the Israeli government.
By promoting initiatives that encourage mutual understanding and respect, the focus can shift from military aid to diplomatic solutions. The goal should be to create a more peaceful coexistence. It’s vital for policymakers and leaders to carefully consider the implications of their support and work towards a future where both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security.
The ethics of the Israel-Hamas conflict is very nuanced and this article can only act as a brief overview. Nevertheless, it is important to consider not only the tragedies that Israel and its citizens have gone through but also the continuous and systemic tragedies that the Palestinian people have faced. To be as informed and humane as possible we must pay close attention to both sides of the issue. Unequivocally supporting a single side is how we allow injustice to happen.
While discussing these issues, it’s essential to emphasize that criticism of the Israeli government’s policies should not translate into hatred or prejudice against Jewish people. Not all Jewish individuals support the Israeli government’s actions, just as not all Palestinians support the actions of Hamas. Navigating this topic demands careful consideration that aims to promote understanding and empathy while condemning violence and injustice.