Law & Politics Editor Michael Keating Dake discusses the history in which the ongoing crisis in Gaza is rooted.
The ongoing War between Israel and Hamas has had a catastrophic impact on the civilian population of the Gaza strip. Activists across the globe, including UCD students, have called for a ceasefire, and for political leaders to reach a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. With Israeli society increasingly polarised, left-wing activists, including members of the Standing Together Movement, feel increasingly isolated in their calls for an end to Arab-Jewish violence.
On 7th October, the world witnessed the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas, a reactionary religious militant organisation, slaughtered approximately 1,200 civilians, including both Jewish and Arab Israelis, and a number of foreign nationals. Hamas also kidnapped 240 hostages, among them children and Holocaust survivors, abducting them into Gaza. In retaliation, Israel has launched a devastating War, with the aim of ending the group’s totalitarian rule over the strip. The ongoing military operation in Gaza has prompted outcry from humanitarian organisations, as Israel has cut off access to electricity and fresh water supplies to Gaza. This has catalysed an appalling humanitarian catastrophe.
To paraphrase UN Secretary-General António Guterres, this most recent escalation of violence did not occur in a vacuum. Indeed, the Arab-Israeli conflict has plagued the region for decades. While previous attempts at negotiating a two-state solution have failed, the ongoing violence underscores the urgency of further diplomatic negotiations and peaceful dialogue. Both nations, Israelis and Palestinians, have deep and ancient roots in the land. Jews, a cultural and ethnic (as well as religious) group, were historically indigenous to the land, and were violently expelled by the Roman Empire.
While previous attempts at negotiating a two-state solution have failed, the ongoing violence underscores the urgency of further diplomatic negotiations and peaceful dialogue.
After two millennia of living as a marginalised minority under both Christian and Islamic rule, Jewish people began returning to the land with the emergence of the Zionist movement in the late 19th Century. Further influxes of Jewish immigration occurred as a result of both genocidal persecution under the Third Reich in Nazi-occupied Europe, and the expulsion of Middle Eastern Jews from Muslim and Arab countries. What was then the British Mandate for Palestine (conquered by the British after the Allied victory over the Turkish Ottoman Empire in World War One) was partitioned by the UN into a Jewish state (Israel), and an Arab state (Palestine).
Arab leaders rejected the Partition Plan. The surrounding Arab states invaded Israel in 1948, only to be defeated, despite outnumbering Jewish forces. Egypt came into possession of Gaza, and Jordan occupied the West Bank (the Palestinian territories, collectively). In 1967, Israel was once again invaded by Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, this time pushing further back in self defence, and capturing the Palestinian territories and subjecting them to occupation. Attempts at ending this situation have thus far failed. What followed was decades of violent conflict between both peoples, culminating in the failed Oslo Accords and Camp David Accords.
In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip (the “Unilateral DIsengagement”), which Hamas later took over, proceeding to persecute rival Palestinian political factions, including Fatah. Israel imposed a harsh blockade on the strip in order to contain the militant group. Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace, justice, and equal rights for both peoples feel increasingly isolated, as Hamas grows more radical, and the Israeli Government under Netanyahu becomes more right-wing and anti-Arab. Diplomatic negotiations have broken down repeatedly, and it appears unlikely that either nation will find a way of achieving lasting peace with the other any time soon.
Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace, justice, and equal rights for both peoples feel increasingly isolated, as Hamas grows more radical, and the Israeli Government under Netanyahu becomes more right-wing and anti-Arab.
With no ceasefire in sight, Netanyahu has stepped up his assault on Gaza. He has been condemned by leading left-wing Israeli publication Haaretz, and his approval ratings stand at an all-time low. The streets of Tel Aviv have witnessed protests from left-wing activists calling for a ceasefire, an end to the occupation, and the beginning of a fresh round of negotiations to bring about a two-state solution.
Despite international outcry over fuel shortages, Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. The militant group have used their fuel supply to launch rocket attacks on civilians. Israel continues to face growing condemnation for cutting off supplies, with devastating impacts on civilians in the strip. Additionally, Hamas has embedded its military apparatus into civilian infrastructure, storing weapons in a vast network of subterranean tunnels, and launching rockets from civilian facilities such as schools and hospitals. Hamas’ use of civilian areas as human shields has sparked condemnation from the EU. Israel has also come under scrutiny for its handling of the war, facing condemnation for its bombings and attacks.
The War has caused terrible suffering for people on both sides, with civilians in Gaza suffering the highest death toll. The toll stands at over 11,000. Israelis and Palestinians must build a movement that bridges divisions, enabling empathy and humanity to transcend division, in order for the region to achieve a lasting (and indeed just) peace.
"Nobody deserves to be murdered. Nobody deserves to lose their loved ones, their homes, and their communities. Nobody, from the river to the sea, should have to pay for the actions of their leaders - or their neighbour's leaders - with their lives. (...)
We must not buy into the illusion that security can be achieved through military action. There is no future here - for any of us - without ending the occupation and guaranteeing independence, freedom, and security for both nations." - Standing Together Movement, Public Statement (9 October, 2022).