The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine over the West Bank and the Gaza strip is riven with ideological landmines for anyone trying to get a balanced view of the conflict. The issue is so much bigger than what happens in those small geographic areas, and yet it is not.
On December 23, 2016, the American delegation abstained from a vote at the UN. By stepping back the US cleared the way for the UN to demand Israel end the settlements. These are a clear breach of international human rights law which prohibits forced displacement and the development of settlements on displaced land.
From the UN perspective, attacks on human rights cannot be tolerated, but for Israel and Palestine, the demand was either supportive or a betrayal depending upon your perspective.
Human rights violations are real
There is no doubt Israel has committed and continues to violate international human rights law. There have been over 2,000 unlawful killings. Hundreds of Palestinians are held in abusive and arbitrary detention. The levels of oppression to which Palestinians are subjected is excessive and goes way beyond the needs of security.
Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch both police the situation and are unified in their assessment of the situation. The occupation of the Palestinian Territories is illegal.
For someone looking from the outside in, this seems to be a case of apartheid which in the manner of South Africa we as a society believe to be wrong. But what should our response be? Sanctions against Israel? Who would take the lead on that? Certainly, no American politician who wants the votes of 6,000,000 liberal Jews in the US.
Both sides of the population have been polled and studied
In a recent survey, 25% of young Israeli’s supported the Palestinian’s right to return. But in the same period, 51% of Palestinians believed that Israel will demolish Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock and build a synagogue there.
Even more, Palestinians believed that Israelis had no rights to the land west of the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Jews across the world, the intelligentsia, the liberal and the young, speak out against what the Israeli government is doing in Palestine, but all, with the underlying genocide of the Holocaust, would ultimately come to support Israel’s right to exist.
In the meantime…
Life for the average Palestinian in the West Bank is miserable. For 50 years the area has been occupied, broken up and zoned. 670,000 settlers have made their way and their homes on land to which they had no rights.
Daily life is made up of check-points of searches of small repressions and large ones too. It is made up of fear for small children going to school, acts of courage when loved ones are stopped and questioned. In the Gaza Strip, it is made up of an increasingly fragile life where there is no power, no refrigeration and a population hanging on the edge of a humanitarian crisis.