Israeli warplanes continue to strike Gaza, and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israel. The storm of conflict does not seem to have abated and may only worsen as Israeli ground troops are getting involved. As of May 16, according to the New York Times, at least 197 people died in Gaza as thousands more become homeless due to Israeli bombing and shelling based on claims by the Palestinian authorities. Ten died, and 169 people were injured in Israel from Hamas rocket attacks. These tragedies follow recent events at Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in Jerusalem where court hearings for Palestinian families at risk of eviction were recently postponed and where violent clashes between Palestinians, far-right Israelis, and police have occurred.
CNBC reported that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. At the same time, U.S. President Joe Biden stated the need for de-escalation, also asserting Israel’s “right to defend itself.” However, the U.S., still without a nominated ambassador to Israel, shows no sign of substantive assistance to easing tensions, as Hamas rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes, according to ABC, continue unabated. Footage from the ground, news coverage, and social media campaigns about mass casualties in Palestine have led to global pro-Palestinian protests. In some of the world’s most successful economies, including the U.S. and United Kingdom, protestors call upon governments to step up their actions in preventing violence and helping to bring about Palestinian sovereignty. In 1947, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 called for the partition of British-ruled Mandatory Palestine into an independent Jewish state and an independent Palestinian state, outlining complicated borders. The Palestinian authority and surrounding Arab states rejected the resolution, culminating in several wars won by Israel throughout the 20th century. Today, Israel’s Prime Minister is Benjamin Netanyahu, who claims that Israel’s current military campaign in Gaza will continue, Insider notes.
Israeli and Palestinian leadership have rooted their beliefs in ideologies for decades. From secularist to religiously fundamentalist, nationalist to democratic, and American to Soviet, international influences have made the two territories constantly see changes in how distant they are from a two-state solution. Although the historical background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complicated and turbulent, the current situation is threatening the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians, an overwhelming majority of them who suffer, particularly in the Palestinian territories. The Israeli government’s complicity in the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza needs to be recognized by the United States. This country has stood by Israel for so long, therefore having the leverage to act as a key player. However, the United States has mostly shied away from the action, blocking the U.N.’s Security Council statement, which condemns Israel’s military response and calls for an immediate ceasefire as reported by Al Jazeera, for the third time this week.
America’s staunch defence of Israel has existed for generations. Today, the U.S. provides Israel with $3.8 billion annually, mainly in military assistance, as part of a $38 billion, 10-year deal. According to the Congressional Research Service, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since the Second World War. Currently, given the level of strength in the friendship of the two nations, the high level of funding that circulates, and lobbying, it is unsurprising that America’s response to this conflict has been lacklustre at best. A distribution of blame that favours Israel has the unintended consequence of allowing Israeli leadership to move on with lethal airstrikes without much reevaluation. The struggle between Israel and Hamas continues not only because of Israel’s desire to root out Hamas and maintain its superior position but also because Hamas, which Iran advises, continues to fire rockets into Israeli cities, putting civilians at risk. While the Iron Dome, an anti-missile defense system in Israel, blocks an overwhelming majority of the missiles, it cannot be expected for Israel to simply not respond and grant Hamas immunity for rocket attacks that, despite being thwarted often, have killed at least 10 and injured at least 169 in Israel.
The United States must do more than solely speak in favour of Israel’s right to defend itself. It must participate in the upcoming United Nations Security Council meeting and remember the inherent equality of the lives of all humans in the effort to strike a peaceful settlement. Following the Trump Administration’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital, right-wing and annexationist Israelis in East Jerusalem felt more empowered. The Palestinian cause for sovereignty is still further threatened. The current Biden Administration must also address the removal of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem in an effort to acknowledge the uneven struggle favouring Israel and seek a long-term two-state solution. Palestinians lack an international body of governing voices strong enough to even the pressure between the two conflicting entities to motivate a two-state solution in the future.
Instead of defunding aid that goes to Israel, particularly its defence missile system, which has saved many innocent lives from being obliterated by rocket attacks coming from Gaza, successful economies need to begin funding defence for the Palestinian territories specifically to prevent innocent civilians from Israeli airstrikes but doing so in a way that does not empower Hamas. It is incumbent upon the world’s strongest economies, which have benefited from international relations and past colonialism, to play a role in mending the fallout of their historical period of control over Mandatory Palestine, and that includes criticizing Netanyahu’s government and hawkish attitude during this turbulent situation. At the same time, Hamas must be peacefully pressured by international mediators to cease its rocket attacks on Israel and deliberate usage of Gaza civilians who are killed by Israeli airstrikes in locations where the militant group operates as a way of straining relations. According to the New York Times, continued violence between Israel and Hamas has also been accompanied by increased mob violence and riots in several cities in Israel. The importance of easing tensions is not just for peace in the region, but it is also a way to prevent antisemitism and anti-Palestinian rhetoric from becoming mainstream by seeping into channels of disinformation and protest.
Social media has served as a tool for organization and discourse during this protracted struggle. However, there have been incidents in various countries in which altercations have occurred between people who disagree on the conflict or share strong animosities towards one another. It is essential for social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, to remain vigilant when it comes to how they moderate conflict and tag warnings to posts that may motivate an escalation of conflict or delegitimize human identities, like Jews or Palestinians. According to a group of House Democrats who serve as an activist wing of the Democratic Party, the revitalized conflict in the Middle East mirrors racial tensions seen across the United States, particularly last summer, as they criticize the Biden Administration for its response. A compromise must occur in the halls of Congress to finally introduce Palestine to the limelight in conversations about the region since its sovereignty remains unrecognized by the United States. H.R. 2590 must be passed to send a clear message that, although Israel must remain an independent country if it wants and has the right to defend itself from foreign attacks, it cannot further violate international law by annexing more land from Palestine and continuing the destruction of Palestinian property and livelihoods that only makes the region more unstable and harmful for Israelis and Palestinians.