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Violence in Israel-Palestine Is A Choice.
The Israeli government could end it at any time.
On Saturday, Hamas fighters attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip. Unlike traditional rocket-based attacks, this event was unique as Hamas fighters broke out of Gaza and attacked Israeli targets via tunnels, boats, and hang gliders.
As in all cases, the fog of war is heavy. Media accounts and Twitter posts are rife with accusations of terrorism and war crimes on both sides. I’m not going to sit here and weigh in on each account, not just because I am unable to verify them, but because that’s not what I see as the important point of discussion.
To me, the important thing to remember about the ongoing events is that this situation, like all violence in Israel-Palestine, is the result of choices made by the Israeli government. The people of Israel and Palestine do not need to live in perpetual conflict. The situation only exists because one side, the one with the power to subjugate the other, chooses it to.
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Though it has outlived other settler colonial projects, the Israel-Palestine conflict is not unique. Many other states have struggled with and rectified the legacies of colonialism and apartheid. Today, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Germany, and many other nations once divided along sectarian lines have come to enjoy a peaceful existence.
For over 800 years, Irish Catholics rebelled against the British colonization of Ireland. Though there is still tension between Irish Catholics and Unionist Protestants, modern Northern Ireland is a utopia compared to the violent war zone it was just decades prior. The violent nature of The Troubles ended because the British agreed to withdraw their military, establish full civil rights, and end the legal regime that made Catholics second-class citizens. In return, Catholic paramilitaries agreed to disarm.
In South Africa, the white descendants of Dutch colonizers (known as Afrikaners) had oppressed the African natives for centuries before officially establishing apartheid in 1948.
A half-century later, thanks to sustained international and domestic pressure, South African apartheid was gone. Afrikaners released Nelson Mandela from prison in February of 1990 and allowed democratic elections. Mandela was elected President, segregation was disassembled, and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission became the international gold standard for handling the process of decolonization. For decades, South African apartheid and the movements that resisted it had been a world-defining issue. Yet within mere years of emancipation for the Black natives, the issue was resolved.
From Ireland to Africa, the same pattern has occurred in countless nations around the world and over time. One group oppressors another, and the oppressed respond with a combination of violent and nonviolent resistance. The oppressors point to the resistance as a reason to tighten their control, which they do with more violent crackdowns on the oppressed. The cycle repeats, and repeats, and repeats.
In all of human history, there have only been two ways to break this sequence:
The oppressors maximize their violence and eradicate the oppressed through ethnic cleansing, as happened with the American conquest of indigenous tribes, or,
The oppressors decide to end the oppression. Once there is no longer a reason to fight, the oppressed lay down their arms and peaceful coexistence ensues.
These are the only two options. Though option #1 is beyond horrific, it is unfortunately the preference of many leaders in the American-Israeli alliance. Following the attack, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley encouraged Netanyahu to “finish” (kill off) the Palestinian people.
Just like the situation in Northern Ireland and South Africa, the Israeli government has the choice to end the cycle of violence. Netanyahu could, today, lift the blockade on Gaza, stop settlement constructions in the West Bank, recall the IDF to internationally recognized borders, end the second-class citizenship of Palestinians living in Israel, and commit to a peaceful, democratic reconciliation of the conflict. Unlike the Israeli government, the Palestinian people do not have this option. If they did, they would happily take it and end their oppression.
This is not just my opinion. Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper written by people currently living through the ongoing violence, said the same.
Unfortunately, Israel has not chosen peace. Backed by the United States, Israel’s leaders decided to sentence generations of Israelis and Palestinians to endure the horrors of war. On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released the below statement.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”
Make no mistake. Gallant and the other Israeli officials who chose this strategy know what will happen. Palestinians in Gaza will suffer and die. Hamas will use the suffering as recruitment and will continue to attack Israel as it did this weekend.
Perpetuating this cycle is a choice Israeli leaders are making. Everything — every bullet fire, every home destroyed, and every life lost — is a consequence of this choice, which remains solely in the hands of the Israeli government.
The violence could be stopped any day, as it did in Ireland and South Africa. Netanyahu and his conspirators are choosing to perpetuate it.
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