The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be taking place halfway around the world, but many Boston University students are expressing their outrage toward both sides through online protests and by rallying in the streets of Boston. The situation in Gaza is growing more dangerous by the day, and the continued fighting will have devastating consequences for both Palestinians and the entire Middle East.
Israeli leaders have a responsibility and right to protect the people of Israel from rocket attacks. However, this overly aggressive response is not the answer. It is important to recognize that these two countries are not on a level playing field. Many Gaza citizens are without electricity, shelter, food, water or access to medical care. Israel’s military superiority is obvious as evidenced by the way Gaza has been decimated in the past few weeks. More than 1,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed so far, and that number is sure to increase if the fighting continues.
Diplomacy is always preferable to bloodshed, but it has proven to be a nearly impossible task in this situation. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak precludes any chance of peace by declaring Israel is waging ‘a war to the bitter end,’ while Hamas insists that it ‘will fight until the last breath.’ This kind of talk from these two groups is irresponsible. If Israel wants to convince the rest of the world it is acting in a responsible manner, then Israeli leaders should be focused on bringing the war to a halt as soon as possible and keeping civilian deaths to a minimum.
To demonstrate that it is taking the utmost care to avoid civilian casualties, Israel can start by lifting the ban on foreign journalists entering the Gaza strip. The idea that allowing journalists into Gaza poses a security risk is not an acceptable excuse. Journalists play an important role in times of war by giving an unbiased account of the actions of the opposing sides. When the rest of the world relies on spokespersons from Israel and Hamas for the latest reports, it becomes nearly impossible to form educated opinions on the conflict. Continuing to bar journalists from reporting in the war zone, an action that even the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled illegal, suggests that Israel does not want others to see what is taking place in Gaza.
Like most wars, this one is not going to solve any of the problems Israel and Hamas are facing. If Israel thinks that destroying Gaza will stop future attacks on Israeli soil, it is mistaken. Instead, this show of force in Gaza could have the exact opposite effect. The tension in the Middle East was at a critical point to begin with, and this recent eruption may only motivate other Arab countries to extract revenge on Israel in the near future.
The underlying cause of the violence in Israel and Gaza is the plight of the Palestinian people. The majority of Palestinians residing on the Gaza strip are living in poverty. Hamas has risen to power in Gaza partially because it has pledged resources to combat the economic issues facing its constituents. If other countries, including Israel, could improve the living conditions of the Palestinians, then they would not have to resort to electing extremist governments in order to feed their families.
Currently, Israel is not doing enough to take into account the suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza. The daily three-hour breaks from fighting that the Israeli army has been taking provide some relief, but more needs to be done. The Red Cross has declared the situation in Gaza to be ‘a full-blown humanitarian crisis,’ and the United Nations has passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. When neutral peacekeeping coalitions speak up like this, Israel needs to listen. If Israel is going to take out Hamas, it has to fight by the rules.
There is plenty of blame to go around for both Israel and Hamas, but it is time to move beyond trying to figure out who started this mess. Israel has made its point: it can easily crush Hamas whenever it feels the need to do so. Israeli leaders must now recognize the enormous toll this war has taken on Palestinians living in Gaza. Those in power need to end this war immediately, and an international effort to improve conditions for Palestinians must commence. Unless Israel acts to end the violence, peace in the Middle East may not be achievable anytime soon.