In a world often clouded by biased narratives and propaganda, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands as a stark testament to the complex interplay of history, rights, and justice. The conflict, deeply entrenched in history, centers around the land historically known as Palestine, which has long been viewed as a shared homeland by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. 

This region, imbued with significant religious and cultural importance for these three faiths, has been a focal point of both contention and coexistence over centuries. The modern conflict traces its roots to the late 19th century amidst shifting imperial powers and the rise of nationalistic movements. 

The Jewish community, viewing this land as their ancestral and religious homeland, and the Palestinian Arab population, comprising Muslims and Christians who have also historically regarded it as their home, have both staked their claims on this territory. Key historical developments like British rule over Palestine and the subsequent Balfour Declaration of 1917 — which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine — were crucial in escalating the disputes around these claims. 

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the resulting Arab-Israeli wars, particularly the Six-Day War in 1967, further intensified the conflict, leading to significant displacement and suffering. 

Today, the conflict remains unresolved and laden with deep-rooted issues, such as territorial disputes, the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and security concerns. These all exist within a complex tapestry of historical, religious, and cultural narratives that shape the identities and aspirations of the involved communities. 

This article will lay out the chronology of these events and focus on the conflict’s injustices, the human rights violations, and the critical need for discerning truth amidst widespread misinformation. 

Today, the people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — regions with a predominantly Palestinian population — continue to endure Israeli military occupation, highlighting a significant aspect of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and sovereignty. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) exercise control in various disputed areas and markedly impact the lives of Palestinians. Primarily tasked with ensuring Israel’s national security, the IDF’s activities extend into several contentious aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

In the West Bank, regarded under international law as occupied territory since its capture in the Six-Day War, the IDF’s presence is a daily reality for Palestinians. The IDF oversees checkpoints, border crossings, and security operations, all of which affect the mobility and lives of the Palestinian residents. 

Additionally, the IDF’s control extends to the borders of the Gaza Strip. Despite Israel’s disengagement in 2005, the Israeli military retains control over its airspace, maritime boundaries, and most land crossings, limiting Gaza’s access to the outside world and contributing to the region’s severe humanitarian issues. 

The IDF also provides security for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are widely considered illegal under international law, are a source of significant tension and conflict, and often contribute to the displacement of Palestinian communities. The IDF’s actions underscore and exacerbate the complexities and hardships faced by Palestinians in their daily lives and in their broader struggle for self-determination and statehood.

The governance of these territories is characterized by a distinct division: Hamas, an organization that arose as a response to the occupation, administers the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority, which aims to secure Palestinian statehood through diplomatic efforts, manages parts of the West Bank, on the other hand. This split governance is a challenge for Palestinians in their quest for political unity and independence. The Israeli presence in these territories drives tension and conflict due to Israel’s imposition of restrictions on movement, economic freedom, and basic human rights onto the Palestinian population. 

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank — considered illegal under international law — further complicates the situation. There is a critical need for a just and viable solution that addresses the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people — including their right to self-determination, freedom, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. 

The human impact of this enduring conflict is profoundly distressing, especially in its toll on the Palestinian people. Reports by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reveal the harrowing scale of this tragedy: From 2008 through September 2023, approximately 6,400 Palestinians and 300 Israelis lost their lives. The situation in Gaza is especially grave, where the Israeli bombing campaigns have resulted in the deaths of over 12,000 people since Oct. 7. Palestinian children bear the brunt of this conflict in an especially heartbreaking way: Since 2000, over 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, and over 5,000 children have been killed during Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza..

This continuous cycle of violence and oppression against Palestinians, particularly children, calls for urgent international attention to and empathy for the Palestinian people, especially the most vulnerable and innocent among them. 

Efforts towards peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including initiatives like the Oslo Accords and the Camp David Summit, have been fraught with complexities and significant setbacks. Potential solutions, particularly the two-state model, are deeply contentious, marred by skepticism over their feasibility and concerns about fairness and equity. Many Palestinians fear that Israel will continue to undermine Palestinian rights and sovereignty under a two-state solution.

The sidelining of Palestinian rights and aspirations must not be replicated in any future peace endeavors. Instead, a genuine and sustainable solution should be sought — one that guarantees the Palestinian people their right to live in peace with their human rights fully respected and their aspirations for a sovereign state realized. This is not just a matter of political negotiation; it is a fundamental issue of human dignity and justice.

It seems as though humanity has strayed from its moral compass, with many either oblivious or apathetic to the usurpation of Palestinian lands and the killing of innocent individuals.

Currently, there is a persistent endeavor to obliterate their very existence. This is a a harsh reality that, although difficult to accept, must be acknowledged. In facing such overwhelming adversity, the question arises: Where do we find the fortitude to continue hoping and striving for change? 

While the answer remains elusive, the search for it is crucial. We must persist in discussing these issues, elevating awareness, and advocating for action. We, the students of this university, must come together to uphold the principles of justice, human rights, and freedom of speech, guided by the spirit of “Meliora,” which means “ever better.”

Every voice deserves to be heard, and every individual should feel safe expressing their opinions and participating in peaceful forms of protest. 

We need to address the ongoing crisis affecting the Palestinian people and advocate for the protection of their rights and dignity. Let us unite to embrace “Meliora” in our pursuit of justice and peace, working tirelessly to promote awareness and constructive discussions. Through collective efforts, we can contribute to a brighter and more equitable future for all, where everyone’s rights and voices are not only respected but protected. 

There is a concerning aspect in the media portrayal of this crisis. Often, the narrative is distorted, portraying the aggressor as the victim and the actual victims as perpetrators. This misrepresentation further complicates the situation by influencing public perception and obscuring the reality of the events. It is vital to look beyond these narratives to grasp the true dynamics at play and recognize the genuine nature of the injustice occurring.

This article was published as part of the Campus Times’ Nov. 21, 2023 Special Edition on Israel-Palestine.

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