The number of violent attacks in the West Bank grew last week after a Palestinian woman died from head injuries sustained from thrown bricks. Aisha Al-Rawbi was traveling past an illegal Israeli settlement when rocks bombarded her car, resulting in the fatal strike to her head. Her husband, Yacoub was traveling with her but was not wounded. Yacoub affirmed that he could hear the assailants speaking Hebrew during the attack, although no one has been indicted for the crime. This incident adds to the long-standing tension between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In 1947, the United Nations proposed a resolution to create separate Jewish and Arab states in modern day Israel and Palestine. The tension between the groups erupted into a conflict leading to two wars over who has rights to land including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These wars and land disputes have set the stage for the current Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel has occupied the West Bank militarily since 1967, where the number of Jewish settlements has swelled despite international law deeming settlements on occupied territory illegal. The 400,000 Israeli settlers justify their military’s presence throughout the territory, making the goal of an autonomous Palestinian state impossible. According to National Public Radio, Palestinians see the existence of these Jewish settlements as a critical threat to the creation of a Palestinian state, and a peace agreement.
The settlements only increase the contention for who has rights to the land, leading to innumerable acts of violence. Within the past two weeks, a number of violent attacks have been committed on behalf of both sides, leaving innocent civilians injured or dead. A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli army reservist, and earlier in the week a shooting took place that killed two Israelis. The shooting was deemed a nationalist act of terror due to a suicide note praising Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. On the other side, within days of Al-Rawbi’s murder, a group of Jewish settlers backed by Israeli military members attacked a Palestinian boys school with stones, tear gas and rubber pellets. The nonprofit organization, If Americans Knew, asserts that Al-Rawbi is one of 245 Palestinians and 11 Israelis killed in 2018 due to the conflict. The crimes have created a cyclical pattern of revenge between the groups, inciting more senseless violence and intensifting the seemingly impossible hurtle to a peace agreement.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, released a statement by the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, who described Al-Rawbi as a martyr, stating that “This crime will not go unpunished. The Palestinian people are determined to remain and hold onto our land despite the crimes committed against them, and will struggle until the establishment of its state with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Dalah Salameh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, a decision-making committee for the Palestinian political party Fatah, echoed the President’s remark. She asserted that “This [action] doesn’t give the settlers a right to this land, and we are telling them, you will not have a safe place here.” The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign affairs is reasserting the pressing need for international protection of Palestinians in the wake of Al-Rawbi’s death. Israeli officials confirmed that they are looking into the murder, although many Israeli murders of Palestinians go unpunished.
The continual violence committed on both sides is pushing peace solutions to the side while investigations, mourning, and revenge become normalized. International communities need to take a more active role in third-party mediation towards a resolution to this ages-long conflict. While some of these cases have been taken to the International Criminal Court for a resolution, the source of the problem, the violent conflict over land rights, needs to be rectified. Talk of one state and two state solutions float around, the pros and cons extensively rehashed for years on end. Solving issues such as upholding laws against settlement camps and addressing instability in the Hamas-Fatah split of the Palestinian political party could hasten a solution. Nonetheless, any action taken must be accompanied by cooperation, forgiveness, and compromise.
In a statement given by the International Criminal Court, a prosecutor warned last April that “Violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute.” Al-Rawbi’s death is another brutality which may further an investigation in potential war crimes committed by Israel. As with many murders in the West Bank, calls for revenge could lead to another life lost in a perverse attempt to even the score. For now, it is yet another tragic death caused by an inexhaustible feud over sacred land.
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