After the Palestine-based terrorist group Hamas carried out a surprise attack on Israel that caused full-fledged warfare to break out in the Middle East, President Joe Biden declared the United States government’s stance in support of Israel.
While the U.S. stood with Israel, Russia and China have strengthened their relationship with each other through their common expression of support for Palestine.
“Israel’s actions have gone beyond the scope of self-defense,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, according to Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also placed blame on the U.S., saying “this is a vivid example of the failure of the United States policy in the Middle East,” according to the Washington Post.
Furthermore, China expressed its support for Russia in its war with Ukraine, whereas the U.S. has supported and been providing aid to Ukraine.
These two instances are reminiscent of the proxy wars that occurred during the Cold War. Conflicts including the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis found the U.S. and Soviet Union providing aid to opposing smaller countries.
In the Korean War, for example, the U.S. and the United Kingdom supported capitalistic South Korea, whereas the Soviet Union and China supported communist North Korea. In backing opposing sides, the powers sought to gain political influence without directly combatting one another.
The U.S. endorsement of Israel has escalated already-high tensions regarding two conflicts in the Middle East: one of nationalism, and one of terrorism.
The Israel-Palestine conflict has been going on since the early 20th century when Jewish Zionists fleeing Europe after the Holocaust called for the establishment of a national state for their people.
They settled in an Arab and Muslim majority territory of the Ottoman Empire, and resistance by its neighboring Arab states caused war to break out.
Palestinians refer to the resulting mass displacement of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948 as the Nakba, or “the catastrophe.”
War continued in the region, and the second major one left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
The Palestinian people called for a state of their own for the millions of refugees from the Nakba and their descendants to return to. A two-state solution, which would establish the West Bank and Gaza Strip as the official state of Palestine, has been considered to settle the dispute.
The Israeli government only supports a two-state solution if the Palestinian state is demilitarized. Also in opposition to the proposal is Hamas, which is committed to destroying the state of Israel.
Hamas, short for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (“Islamic Resistance Movement”), is an Islamic militant group that governs Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip. It views the Israel-Palestine conflict from a religious standpoint rather than the historical standpoint of opposing nationalist groups, using Judaism and Zionism interchangeably.
Hamas has deep-rooted anti-Semitic values. It sees the Israel-Palestine conflict as part of a centuries-long attack on Islam by the Western powers since the Christian crusades of the 11th century, and it sees the Jewish people as instruments of the West, according to the Palestine-Israel Journal.
This year, the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories has escalated tensions and conflict. According to the BBC, the United Nations registered over 700 attacks by Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian casualties in 2023 up until the Hamas attack.
It is important to note that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian population as a whole — historically, Palestine was a melting pot of people of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith.
It is imperative when discussing this issue that we don’t allow the Israel-Palestine conflict and the Israel-Hamas conflict to meld into one.
Biden clarified the distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people in his remarks following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
“Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination,” Biden said at the White House. “Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people. They use Palestinian civilians as human shields.”
While I respect and appreciate Biden’s acknowledgment of the nuances of the conflict, I still fear that the stage is being set for a greater global conflict between the U.S. and two world powers.
History is repeating itself. I fear that the aggravation of the conflict in the Middle East and the choosing of sides by China, Russia and the U.S. are making way for a far more devastating conflict — a Cold War II or potentially, should direct combat between the U.S. and Russia or China occur, a World War III.