Israeli military forces have begun a ground offensive, making their way into the Gaza Strip in a new major ground invasion, the largest since Israel unilaterally gave up occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005. There’s been a lot of talk, both in the media and across social media, debating the cost of life, typically innocent women and children, on both sides. Debate has taken the usual polarised viewpoint of either Israel’s right to defend itself (a view supported by the US and British governments) or of Palestinians right to live a life and to an existence beyond the oppressed ghetto-style walled off apartheid nature that they currently forced to live in.
Irrespective of your own political opinion, I’m always one who believes that a picture speaks a thousand words. This infographic above, from Visualizing Palestine, has some perspective on the relative costs each side has paid in this entrenched conflict.
According to their data, 79% of deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 2000-2008 have been from Israeli military or police actions against residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Just 8% of total deaths during that time period were from Palestinian attacks on Israel. The infographic doesn’t necessarily assign blame to one side or the other, but notes that who was killed by who “first” was determined by whichever side attacked after a day of peace.
In all, since 2000 some 6,792 Palestinians and 1,102 Israelis have paid the ultimate price over the ongoing dispute. Since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, it’s become even more disproportionate: 3,457 Palestinians and 125 Israelis have died.
And the numbers really do speak for themselves. In the other infographic below, it’s plain to see the sheer size of the Israeli Defense Forces versus their opponents shows a clear imbalance, in both power, strength and weaponry.
Since 2005, after the pull-out of Israeli forces, Hamas began emphasizing the political process and strengthened its support among Palestinians. The end result was Hamas eventually becoming the de-facto political wing of the entire Gaza Strip, usurping the then incumbent PLO, who prior to Yasser Arafat’s death/(assassination) in 2004, had been the leading political party for Palestinian population.
Since the last major flare-up in 2008, Hamas and Israel have traded blows in tit-for-tat counterattacks, which has seen 200 Israeli citizens injured and a few killed, during which Israeli counterattacks drew far greater blood from the Palestinian side.
Hamas’ ideology isn’t that it hates and despises Israel any more or any less since gaining power in the region. Rather, it’s that they have had more mundane domestic problems to deal with as they solidified their position in Gaza and fewer opportunities to attack Israel thanks to better security. When you’re busy trying to govern a region, with little or no resources and with a tiny economy with which to fund it, dealing with the more traditional issues of government such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, law and order, you tend to have less time to busy yourself with planning attacks on your sworn enemy. These day-to-day issues are the more difficult to manage and govern when the area you effectively govern is nothing more than a collapsed economy resemblant of a forced open-air prison than of a young struggling state.
Since the second Intifada in 2005, Hamas began abandoning suicide attacks in 2006. The last such attack in Israel happened in April 2008, when three bombers in Kerem Shalom killed themselves and injured 13 others. Hamas apparently decided the tactic was costly and ineffective. Further factors preventing further bombings also included the construction of security walls and checkpoints which made it harder for extremists to slip into Israeli cities and settlements. This has forced Hamas attackers literally underground, where they resorted to digging tunnels to infiltrate Israel and conduct localised attacks on Israeli soil.
Launching rockets against Israeli cities has become the preferred tactic. However, Israel’s newly installed “Iron Dome” defence system has ensured that many Palestinian rockets fired towards Israel (which were already pretty poorly designed) have simply been shot down or disabled.
The Israeli capacity to strike back, on the other hand, has only grown, and grown at an incredible rate. Israeli reprisals against Hamas have grown both bigger in scale and more aggressive since the organization seized power in Gaza. The biggest contributor to the Israeli war machine has been the U.S., who have funnelled huge sums of money into the Israeli military, by some accounts providing 23-25% of its funding as well as being the largest arms supplier, providing hardware which has enabled Israel to continue its strategic bombing from both air and sea. There’s just simply no comparison between the two sides’ military strength and indeed their capacity for inflicting pain on the other anymore.
The facts, in my mind, are plain and simple. The economic blockade in place since 2007 has sent many Palestinians into poverty. This has spurred new recruits to rally around the calls from Hamas to fight their oppressors. There is virtually no economy worth speaking of in Palestine. GDP for Palestine in 2013 was $1,600 compared to $23,000 for Israel. When you see the luxurious homes the average Israeli family lives in and compare that the to squalor THEY force Palestinians to live, then it’s no wonder that Israel are viewed as Oppressors.
The solution is not simple, I’ll admit that. But BOTH sides refusing to talk, and refusing to be tolerant of the other doesn’t work either. Israel is the bigger of the two. And like any bigger brother, the onus should be on them to be the magnanimous one and stop the over-reaching military offensive, start dialogue and eradicate the ideology in Israeli schools and summer camps that no Arab or Palestinian has a right to live. It’s not that long ago that a different ideological set of values held those same similar beliefs towards the Jewish community, so why replicate the same values and apply them to others? And why not try and embrace the teachings or both the Koran and Torah for humans to live harmoniously side-by-side, accepting each others differences and being tolerant of one another.