Thursday, August 7, 2014

Understanding The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Plus A Misleading Protest Gathering By A Philippine Artists Group)

[Essay] The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip started in the summer of 2006. The fighting intensified last month when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks by Hamas. More than 1,200 Palestinians (most of whom are non-combatants) have been killed as a result of this operation by the IDF.

Naturally, as Palestine suffered more casualties, media coverage of the conflict contained more graphic images of the victims of war in the Palestine side. This painted Israel as the bad nation, the bully. However, if you are to look more into the details of the conflict (it's history, why it's been ongoing for years, the parties involved) and have a deeper understanding of it, you will likely side with Israel.

It's difficult to say that you "side" with anyone in this conflict because other people might construe it as an agreement or approval of the atrocities that your "side" has committed during the war. For instance, if I say that I side with Israel, people might interpret it as a sort of a thumbs up to the death of Palestinian children as a result of the bombs dropped by the IDF over Gaza. This of course is not what I mean when I say I side with Israel.

With that said, it's important for the reader to understand that when I say I side with Israel, I find their actions and decisions to be more reasonable and rational than that of Palestine's Hamas. Sure, Israel have killed a lot more people but there are deeper stories behind these. People are often blinded by the images of dead Palestinian civilians being played over and over again in television sets. Somebody held the firearms or shot the bombs that felled these non-combatants. This "somebody" is the Israel Defense Forces. So the most common reaction from observers is "Woe to Israel!". This is understandable given the human mind's (or heart's) penchant for knee-jerk reactions.

It is therefore my plea to the reader to try and understand the conflict before he/she takes a side. Coming up with conclusions because of some graphic scenes you saw on the internet is a very dangerous exercise.

I can try to expound my take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip in my own words but I fear I might come short or worse muddle the picture. I thought it's best that I present the ideas of two prominent writers on the issue instead as they have the eloquence and the clarity in their writings that I miserably lack. These writers would be Sam Harris (an author, philosopher and neuroscientist) and Jerry Coyne (a scientist and educator).

In his blog, Harris wrote an article titled Why Don't I Criticize Israel?. I highly recommend that you read and digest said article in it's entirety. It covers a lot of ground with regards to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. I guarantee you that you will have a much clearer understanding of the war once you finish reading the piece.

I particularly liked the part where Harris hypothetically mulled a scene wherein the power imbalance is reversed. What if Hamas is militarily much more powerful than the Israel Defense Forces?

The second article I would recommend is professor Coyne's response for Harris's piece. Coyne pretty much agrees with most of what Harris said but he added some things and ideas that are equally interesting and eye-opening.

Among the parts of Coyne's article that struck me most was his conclusion paragraph wherein he basically proclaimed that we won't be seeing an end to the conflict anytime soon. And I agree with him. I do believe believe every word he said in the paragraph.

So there, for a better understanding of the conflict, I suggest you read Harris' article and Coyne's response.

On a side note, while browsing through Facebook, I came across the following calls for a protest gathering by a group of Philippine artists that calls themselves Concerned Artists of the Philippines. One poster says End US-Israeli Aggression Against the Palestinian People. The other poster exclaims Manila Stands With Gaza.

I find the posters to be wrong. Grossly wrong. If the creators of these posters and organizers of the protest gathering are aware of the fact that both Israel and Palestine are at fault in the recent developments in the war, then they wouldn't have made such tasteless posters. If they really want an end to the war, why single out Israel and the United States? Hamas has also been aggressive in the attacks, so why not call for them to stop as well?

It's like watching two men fight. You call one fighter to stop fighting while let the other one do as he pleases. The war only stops when all parties lay down their arms. You can't call on Israel to disarm and remain mum as Hamas cling to their guns.

Lest anyone accuse me of hypocrisy in light of the fact that I mentioned siding with Israel while slamming the Concerned Artists of the Philippines for their call for ending aggression, allow me to explain. When I say I side with Israel, I mean to say that I do believe that their actions and decisions are more reasonable than that of their enemies. When it comes to calling for a stop in attacks, I would call on all parties, not single out one party. - - - [End]