Gaza, Israel, and the Eternal Conflict

News coming out of Israel has been tough to take in recent days. The UN Office at Geneva declared on July 22 that there is literally no safe place for civilians in Gaza. Today the world is reminded how true that statement is; Israeli forces shelled a school, killing more than a dozen and wounding a number many times that. Roughly 1,300 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, an operation running into its third week. The Operation also took out Gaza’s only power plant.

In many ways, Operation Protective Edge has been running since Israel’s founding. The conflict between Palestinians, Israel, and the Middle East writ large has been simmering ever since I can remember, and the three Israeli teenagers’ murders marked yet another low point in the conflict. So before I go on, I will make clear I unequivocally support the concept of an Israeli state and understand the right to self defense against hostile neighbors.

Yet Israel has gone too far. For those who argue that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and the only friend to the United States, the truth is far more nuanced. Israel forces its population to swear allegiance to a Jewish state. That may bother its Arab minority, who might not be Jewish. And it should offend those who believe in a right to religious freedom, like those who believe in the First Amendment or those who believe in liberal democracy. Speaking of, The Economist notes that “No Israeli government has ever included an Arab party in its coalition.”

Further, Israel commits its own atrocities and human rights violations. In response to the three teenagers’ deaths, Israeli citizens committed its own extrajudicial killing of an Arab teenager, mobs shouted “Death to Arabs,” and Arabs felt equally unsafe. The Economist notes that an Arab town near Tel Aviv “has no police station. Gangland gunfire often shatters the night.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times notes in an OP-ED that:

It is not legally possible in Israel for a Jewish citizen to marry a non-Jewish citizen. And a web of laws, regulations and military orders governing what kind of people can live in which particular spaces makes mixed marriages within the occupied territories, or across the pre-1967 border between Israel and the occupied territories, all but impossible.

Further, Israel builds settlements in large swatches of disputed territory, thereby expanding its territory and further shrinking the conceivable borders for a Palestinian state.

Israel’s actions are unconscionable. You might point out that lobbing missiles into Israel is equally bad. Which is why the conflict will go on. And on. And on. But if Israel were to become a truly democratic state and allow the Palestinians to create their own democratic state, conditions would drastically improve. Until that day happens, Israel will forever be the victim of its own making.

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