Striking a balance in Gaza analysis

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most polarizing global issues. It is important for the international community — led by the United States — to seek balance and avoid extreme thinking and acting.

Tensions in the region have exploded within the last few weeks, and the reverberations are being felt not only by an unstable Middle East but by Western nations including Germany, England and the United States.

As an intense Israeli ally, the United States has been heavily involved in the conflict for decades. While certain administrations’ attempts at brokering peace deals in the region are commendable, the overall rhetoric of the conflict in this country is disappointing — and detrimental to a solution.

One of the most unfortunate rhetorical blunders employed in this country is the stereotype that most Muslims are terrorists bent on destroying Israel.
The largest portion of violence now coming from the Palestinian-inhabited Gaza Strip can be attributed to Hamas, the largest and most influential Palestinian militant movement, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Since its formation in 1987 (Hamas) has pursued a dual function: social welfare and what it calls armed resistance,” BBC News reported.

The Palestinians favored Hamas’ efforts over the corruption of rival political faction Fatah and elected the group to a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament in 2006.

However, suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians have led Israel, the U.S. and the European Union to designate Hamas a terrorist organization, according to the BBC.

This classification is unfortunate because those uneducated about the conflict often blindly equate Hamas with all Muslims, and more specifically all Palestinians. But labeling an entire group of people without knowing the historical and cultural facts of their situation leads to a disregard for their humanity.
When road checkpoints and chain-link fences — two physical barriers used by the Israelis to contain the Palestinian people — thwart their pursuit of justice, rogue fighters will inevitably turn to radical means.
Israel and the U.S. should realize that oppressed people with no way to fairly express themselves may resort to violence out of desperation.

This is no excuse for the violence perpetuated by Hamas. However, anyone who condemns Hamas’ actions must first take a look at the history of the region to realize the motivations behind such acts.

While the region has been inhabited by Jews and Palestinians for centuries, the modern conflict can be traced to Zionism, a movement begun in the late 19th century that advocated the need for a Jewish state in an area commonly referred to as Palestine.

The problem with this idea is Palestine was already inhabited — by Palestinians.

In 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, which called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Literally driven from their land by Zionism, the Palestinians have been struggling to regain it ever since. Presently, offensive moves by the Palestinians have created what the Israelis believe is a safety issue in Israel.

But it should be noted that Israel is not an innocent victim.

According to the Associated Press, more than 900 Palestinians have died — compared to 13 Israelis — since Dec. 27.

While the loss of even one life is devastating, it is ridiculous in light of these numbers to view Israel as a defensive or weak nation, doing only what it must to protect itself.

Rockets fired from Gaza may have provoked Israel in the past, but Israel’s means of containing the Palestinian people — such as restricting their right to movement with the previously mentioned barriers — are just as detrimental to peace in the region.

It should not be thought that the Palestinians are antagonizing the Israelis out of mere frivolity or fanaticism. Palestinians have legitimate concerns about their land and have been stifled by Israel for years.

Supporting the Palestinian people is not the same as supporting terrorism. It does not mean you are anti-Jewish, or even anti-Israel. It simply means you are sympathetic to the cause of an oppressed people.

For those just tuning in to CNN and seeing the fighting for the first time, it is imperative that stereotypes and name-calling are forgotten. The tendency for people to think in extremes about this topic is what makes this particular issue so polarized — and a solution to it so seemingly out of reach.

Michelle Stark is a junior majoring in mass communications and international relations.