Israeli-Palestinian conflict: conflicting opinions and escalations spark dialogue
February 3, 2023
On Jan 30, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Jerusalem to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several other members of Israeli leadership. A day later, he traveled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leadership, including president Mahmoud Abbas.
Blinken’s visits come in the midst of escalating tensions in the region. On January 26, ten Palestinians were killed during an Israeli operation in Jenin, and just a day later seven Israelis were killed during an attack outside of the synagogue in East Jerusalem. Both attacks were among the deadliest in the region in the past years. The retaliatory violence that followed resulted in the death of at least 22 people over the last week.
The expectations for Blinken’s visits to significantly deescalate the situation were really low as the meetings were seen more as an attempt to contain the issue. Both Israeli and Palestinians met the visits with skepticism pointing to the US lack of interference and decisiveness.
During his visit, Blinken called for both Palestine and Israel “to stop the violence” in an effort to “restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.” He also reiterated the US support for a two-state solution and emphasized its commitment to “the goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity.” During the press conferences, neither Abbas nor Netanyahu made specific calls to their people to restrain from violence.
As part of his Middle East tour, Blinken also met with Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss the rising tensions in the region. Before the tour, the Biden administration has already used Egypt’s help in mediating the cease-fires between Palestine and Israel.
While visiting Ramallah, Blinken has also promised additional $50 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that works to help Palestinians. This decision was met largely with disappointment as Palestinian leadership expected more extensive steps from the US leadership. Many Palestinians also hoped that the Biden administration would cancel some of the previous administration’s decisions such as closing the US consulate to Palestinians in Jerusalem and Palestinian mission in Washington.
While Netanyahu’s response during the joint press conference was more focused on Israel-Iran relations, Abbas elaborated more on the escalating violence in the region. In his statement, Abbas blamed Israel for “ethnic cleansing and apartheid” and recent escalation and condemned the international community for allowing it to happen.
Apart from increasing violence, the visits also occur at the time of rising opposition to the government both in Palestine and Israel. Accused by Palestineans of corruption and cooperation with Israel, Abbas remains unpopular in Palestine with armed groups of young Palestsinians growing in numbers and power. Meanwhile, in Israel protests erupted in response to several decisions of its newly-elected far-right-leaning government, including the proposals to change the judicial system and introduce more punitive measures against Palestinians. The Israeli government’s response to the attack on January 27 was also met with mixed reactions.
Exploring Extremist Israeli Policy; Banning the flying of the Palestinian Flag
Just three weeks after assuming power, the extreme right wing Israeli Minister of Defense Itimar Ben-Gvir unveiled a new policy in early January that promotes the ethnic and cultural erasure of the Palestinian people that can be considered a form of modern-day colonization.
Ben-Gvir has instructed all police and Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers to remove Palestinian flags from all public spaces. This policy comes just weeks after a law was put in place that makes all the Israeli police direct subordinates of Israel’s minister of defense. The prohibition of the public flying of the Palestinian flag is currently in effect in Israel and Israel-occupied Palestine.
Israel has no lawful right to occupy or have jurisdiction over Palestine, according to a recent study by the United Nations (UN) which calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, “unlawful under international law”. However, with little to deter Israel from moving further into Palestinian territory and enforcing its law banning the display of Palestine’s flag even within Palestine’s own borders, this policy and its enforcement could agitate an already intense situation leading to more attacks from both sides.
This policy is not surprising considering Itimar Ben-Gvir’s background. Ben-Gvir is a well documented racist anti-Arab and a convicted criminal in Israel. In 2007, he was convicted for inciting racism and supporting terrorist organizations and is known for his racist chants like, “Death to the Arabs” and holding up signs saying, “Expel the Arab enemy.” In 2022, Ben-Gvir even gave a speech in honor of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of a known terrorist organization, the Kach Political Party. He gave this speech eight years after the Kach Political Party was classified as a terrorist group by both Israel and the United States after one of its followers, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 innocent Palestinians worshiping in a mosque in Hebron and the party came out in support of Goldstein’s heinous actions. If one still has doubts about Ben-Gvir’s views of the Arab community, Ben-Gvir even had a portrait of the mass murderer, Baruch Goldstein, in his living room.
The continued anti-Arab policies of the current Netanyahu administration is another step in the wrong direction when trying to find and maintain peace between the Palestinian and Israeli people. By taking away a flag that symbolizes the struggle for independence and statehood, the Israeli government is also attacking the Palestinian people’s freedom, identity, and freedom of speech. This, in my opinion, is the coup de grâce, the last straw. Due to this, the potential hope for peace has been diminished and will only escalate ongoing conflict.
A two-state solution is the most ideal and obvious solution for these countries, which are constantly in conflict due to many factors, including Israel’s constant colonization and aggression against Palestinians and laws such as the ban on the Palestinian flag that diminish the Palestinian presence and culture.
A two-state solution is the most ideal and obvious solution for these countries”
Naturally, Jewish people deserve their own promised land that is a safe haven for them, but so do Palestinians. Palestine deserves the same basic rights, freedom, and liberty that the free world has.
No one country is more entitled than the other to be safe from fear, retaliation, illegal occupation, displacement, violence, and instituting laws that are illegally enforced and sow the seed for continued war and bloodshed.
A two-state solution could eliminate all of this unnecessary aggression and violence, resulting in peace for all parties involved, if these agreements were maintained and adhered to by both countries. Banning the public flying of the Palestinian flag, especially in land that is legally Palestinian, is just the latest example of the Netanyahu government’s continued aggression against Palestine and its people. The current Anti-Arab and far-right policies make that peace and stability through a two-state solution impossible to achieve.
In 2013 Barack Obama was quoted saying, “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.”
Though former President Obama clearly supported the Palestinian people, neither his administration nor any other future administrations have come out to recognize Palestine as its own independent state. The United States should follow suit with the United Nations and 139 other countries in order to support Palestine and its people and truly work to create a viable two-state solution. This could potentially be the catalyst to brokering long-term peace in the region.
Write to your local officials, spread awareness of these issues, protest all the Israeli government’s anti-Arab policies, and make your voice heard. Let us all come together and stop this erasure of the Palestinian people and promote the possibility of peace between these two countries.
Someday, may Palestine find liberty and freedom within their own borders.
Ben Gvir and the schmear: How extremism in Israel is tarnishing its democracy and reputation
While I believe that Israel has the right to exist and defend itself from the terrorist organizations such as Hamas and those who wish to see it perish, I also condemn the past and recent injustices carried out by the Israeli government against its Arab citizens issued by right wing extremists. Because, like any other democratic nation, criticism is essential for progress.
Unfortunately, the complex and nuanced struggle between Palestine and Israel has been trivialized into western dinner politics by those who want to be on the right side of history, but do not have the awareness to know that that is virtually impossible.
If I could go into a 300-page spiel about the worldwide oppression of the Jews and the significance of Israel, I would, but I can’t, so I’ll summarize: The idea of the “Jewish State” was crafted in the late 19th century by Theodore Herzl as a response to Antisemitism creeping in every corner of the globe. According to Herzl, the only way to escape Antisemitism was to create an asylum for Jews. This ideology became especially prominent after the Shoah(Holocaust) because Jewish refugees before, during, and after the war were denied entry into countries that would protect them from Hitler’s genocide and Antisemitism. Modern propaganda that antagonizes all Israelis as “colonists” fully denies the 3000 year struggle of the Jews and should be labeled as Antisemitic. Unfortunately in the past 74 years of Israel’s existence, Palestine has been subjugated to poor leadership which has put them in a precarious situation of being an unrecognized state. Their leadership screwed them out of a land deal in 1948, and in 2022 under Hamas, its right wing terrorist organization, has used their citizens as human shields as means of defense.
Therefore, I must admit that I was disappointed that the progressive Yesh Atid party, led by Yair Lapid, that was elected as an Arab-Israeli coalition, was replaced by the right wing Likud Party, led by Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu in November 2022. In creating a coalition, Netenyahu has appeased ultra religious and extremist right wing members of the Knesset(parliament)to convince them to join his government. His coalition now includes a range of very troubling conservative members, including Ben Gvir, a racist who is now Israel’s national security minister.
Gvir joined the terrorist Jewish Supremacy Kach movement at 16 and was not permitted to be drafted in mandatory IDF service that all Jews must enter, because of his extremism. Gvir worked to release Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzak Rabin, who said Rabin wanted , “to give our country to the Arabs.” Additionally, he hung a picture of Baruch Goldstein, an American Israeli who murdered 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron, 1994. Gvir is also the architect of the xenophobic 2022 ban of flying the Palestinian flag in Israel.
I am also disappointed to see how in addition to putting questionable politicians in high ranking positions, questionable policies have been proposed that threaten Israel’s democracy.
Professor Michal Gal, Israeli citizen and world renowned antitrust lawyer, said, “We are scared of losing what we built for many years now which is the incredibly surprising and well-functioning democracy. It’s the only real democracy in the Middle East and for years it had its own checks and balances that, unlike the US, does not have a written constitution.”
In recent weeks, massive protests have erupted across Israel in response to Netenyahu and his coalition for proposing to limit the power of Israel’s Judicial branch. By issuing an Override Clause and removing its “Reasonableness Standard”, many are worried about the impact they will have on Israeli democracy.
Professor Gal explained that in Israel part of their checks and balances includes the concept of reasonableness. In Israel the process called “Bagaat” gives citizens the right to go to the supreme court, which acts as a semi-constitutional or constitutional court, and request that they check the reasonableness of a governmental action.
Professor Gal noted the consequences of removing the “Reasonableness Standard”. She said, “If you harm equality in a way that is unreasonable you might not have a claim. If there is a law that imposes a tax that is completely unreasonable, you won’t have a claim or you will have a weaker claim.”
In regards to the Override Clause, the repercussions could be enormous. In Israel the Judicial Elective committee evaluates who is deemed qualified for a seat on the supreme court. The Override Clause would give unprecedented power to the government by giving them authority to overrule supreme court decisions with a majority of 61-59, the lowest possible majority in the Knesset. This system would model the dysfunctional American system for selecting judges and would politicize Israel’s Judicial branch
Preserving democracy in Israel is imperative, however, ensuring a holistic democracy should be a priority for the Knesset. Professor Gal said, “Democracy is about government based on the majority, but there is a second part: protecting the minority and creating trust in society. If we forget that part, then the whole social fabric comes apart. And that’s part of the feeling right now in Israel: That the social fabric is falling apart.”