7 Things You Should Know Before Talking About the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Normalize learning before speaking on situations you know very little about
With tensions mounting in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict people are continuously posting false information and in doing so conflating a false narrative about what is actually happening in Israel-Palestine. As somebody who has experienced the ongoing tension and as a Jew, I feel the need to explain 5 things that you need to know before talking about the Israel-Palestine conflict and a few general guidelines that you should think about before speaking on things that you may not be properly educated on or know much of anything about.
Before talking about the Israel-Palestine conflict, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I know what I am talking about?
- Have I read more than a Wikipedia page or an Instagram infographic and think that I am now an expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict?
- Am I reposting information that I do not know is true or false?
- Am I posting from credible resources?
- Should I even be talking about this at all if I don’t know what I am talking about?
1. The Israel-Palestine Conflict has been going on for 73 years.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is almost a century old. It did not just start when Western media decided to start covering it. The Israel-Palestine conflict is part of the larger Arab–Israeli conflict, which involves many different Arab countries. It is in part because of a rise in Arab Nationalism and Jewish Zionism, the two began clashing in the 1920s. Before the clashes began, people who were Jewish, Druze, Muslim, and Christian lived there in relative peace.
2. Israel is approximately the size of New Jersey with a population of around 9 million people.
Israel is tiny. It’s a very, very small place riddled with tension. The population of Israel is 74.24% Jews of all backgrounds, 20.95% Arabs of any religion other than Jewish, the remaining 4.81% are defined as “others”, this can be people of Jewish ancestry that are deemed non-Jewish by religious law, people who are family members of Jewish immigrants, Christian non-Arabs, Muslim non-Arabs, and all other residents who have neither an ethnic nor religious classification.
Israeli does not mean Jewish and vice versa, there are many different kinds of people who live in Israel. Do not conflate Israel with Jewish.
3. The current tensions are because of a rise in Zionism, religious extremism, and an ultra-conservative government.
There are 39 political parties in Israel, the current political party that is reigning over Israel is the Likud party, a far-right political party full of extremists. Benjamin Netanyahu is an extremist and a Zionist, think of him as the Donald Trump of Israel. A lot of what is happening is a result of Israel’s current extremist and tyrannical government and as you might imagine, many people in Israel do not agree with the current government. This includes many Jewish people. Israel is a parliamentary system of government, there have been four elections for a new prime minister in the last two years. Benjamin Netanyahu has been in charge for 12 years.
Imagine living in a place where you cannot escape the extreme, right-wing branch of the government. That is the reality in Israel (remember, Israel is tiny). Many people in Israel want to be rid of Benjamin Netanyahu. Frankly, many of us, Jewish and Israeli, truly despise him. He has been on trial for corruption multiple times. He partners with religious extremists and far-right, conservative nationalists. The Likud party is responsible for the current illegal occupation in Jerusalem and the attempted control of Arabic neighborhoods (evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods).
4. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital. Neither claim is recognized internationally.
Jerusalem is old. It is one of the oldest cities in the world found in 3000 BC. It has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured around 44 times, and attacked 52 times. Technically, in 1948, during the Battle for Jerusalem, the city was split between Israel and Jordan with Israel ruling West Jerusalem and Jordan ruling East Jerusalem with the Old City. Since then, there have been mounting tensions because of the continuous occupation of Jerusalem by Zionists.
But, what are Zionists? Are all Jews Zionists?
A Zionist is a person who believes in and strives for an independent Jewish State. Not all Israeli’s are zionists (remember, there are many other religions and ethnicities in Israel and the city is very old with ties to many different religions including Judaism, Christianity, Druze, and Muslim).
“Many Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause no longer distinguish between the words ‘Jew’, ‘Israeli’ and ‘Zionist’. That is not correct. Most Jews do not live in Israel. Not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. And not all Jewish Israelis are ‘settlers’ who want to conquer more and more Palestinian land. The vast majority of Jews believe that the State of Israel should continue to exist. But many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere, are in favour of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict,” — Anne Frank House
Once more I must remind you Israeli refers to many different people, not just Zionists.
5. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not a religious conflict.
Because of Western media, many people confuse the Israel-Palestine conflict with a religious conflict, however, it is not. The Israel-Palestine conflict is about land, not religion. The conflict is rooted in competing nationalism and territorial claims.
In the 19th century, there were many calls for nationalism with many nations calling for their own, independent states. Theodore Herzl, known as the founding father of Zionism, called for the creation of an independent state for Jews.
On the other hand, the Palestinians, having been controlled first by the Ottomans and then colonized by the British, had too desired an independent Palestinian state. Consequently, the Israel-Palestine conflict is centered around colliding ideas of nationalism, with each side failing to recognize the legitimacy of the other’s claim. Both sides have refused peace treaties.
Despite the recent conflicts (the last 73 years), Palestine was once known for its multiculturalism and tolerance. According to History Hit:
“During the Ottoman period, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived, for the most part, harmoniously together. Contemporary accounts tell of Muslims reciting prayers with their Jewish neighbours, allowing them to collect water before the Sabbath, and even sending their children to Jewish schools so that they might learn to behave properly. Marriages and relations between Jews and Arabs were also not unheard of.”
6. Palestine is governed by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Today, Palestine is governed by two competing bodies with the Palestinian National Authority controlling the West Bank and Hamas has hold of Gaza. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Legislative Council Elections. Since then there has been a fractured relationship between the two factions that has led to violence, with Hamas seizing control of Gaza in 2007.
These two governing authorities often clash with the current uprisings being Hamas and the Israeli government, not the Palestinian National Authority.
7. Israel has a responsibility to stop the violence as it has an immense amount of power that Palestine does not.
It is not enough to wish that both sides have peace, the bottom line in the current uprisings is that Israel has an exorbitant amount of power that Palestinians do not. Yes, Hamas shot over 1000 rockets at Israel, which, if you read the headlines seems like a lot. However, Israel has one of the best missile defense systems in the world. With 99% of those rockets not causing damage, falling short, or being intercepted by Israel’s Defense system, the Iron Dome.
Palestinians do not have a military as Israeli’s do, they do not have nuclear weapons, they are not bankrolled by other countries like Israel is. Israel holds all of the power and with that much power, they must take responsibility for stopping this violence.
Why is all of this important?
It is important to understand what is and has been happening in Israel-Palestine because the conflict is often misunderstood. There is even an entirely different part of this conflict called the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process which covers the many different peace treaties that have been signed, discussed, and refused.
One question to ask yourself is what do you mean when you say “Free Palestine,” many people think that this means getting every single Jew out of Israel but remember, Jews have been in Israel since 3000 BC and many religions used to live there together in relative peace. Remember, Israeli does not mean Jewish and many different religions claim Israel-Palestine as their home.
Instead, ask how, how can we free Palestine? How can we broker peace in a decades-long conflict? It is not enough to repost an infographic or claim that you “side with Palestine,” you must actually know what you are talking about and how we can broker peace. This conflict is not about religion it is about land that both sides claim as their own.
Israel’s hold over Palestine and continuous apartheid are not complicit with international law, however, Israel has such a large military budget (backed by other colonized countries like the United States and Canada) that they are so much more powerful than Hamas. As Trevor Noah said, when you have this much power, what is your responsibility?
Though I doubt this made talking about Israel-Palestine easier, it is so important that we educate ourselves on what we are talking about. Don’t just post things because you think it is the right thing to do, especially regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. Innocent people, both Israeli and Palestinian are dying because of the tyrannical Israeli government and extremists on both sides. We need to break the cycle but we cannot break it by simply wishing it would end, instead we must educate ourselves on what we can do to broker peace.
Here are resources where you can learn more:
- 11 Facts About Israel-Palestine
- Boycott, Divestment, Sanction
- Israel Profile, a Timeline
- The Israel-Palestine Situation Explained
- The Gaza Doom Loop
Because the Israel-Palestine conflict is a very delicate subject I can only assume people will be hurt, offended, or disagree with what I have written here today. However, my attempt here is not to take sides or impose my implicit bias, it is to educate the reader on what is happening and why, the history behind it, and what we can do/learn in order to make this topic more widely acceptable and discussable. It is to help the reader (you) form your own, educated, opinion.
Thanks for tuning in, and remember, many of us are struggling with the continuous violence that is happening in Israel-Palestine, and many of us are lost at what to do and how to stop this violence from continuing.