Violence continues amid worldwide protests opposing the escalating hostilities between Palestinians and the state of Israel. Dec. 19 marked the end of a shaky six-month truce between the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders within Hamas, with missiles fired by the latter into Israeli civilian territory and a concerted Israeli military offensive followed Dec. 27.
As of press date (Jan. 2), Gaza health officials report over 400 Palestinians have been killed and 1,700 are wounded by the Israeli military. Three Israeli civilians and one Israeli solider are dead from Palestinian missiles launched from the Gaza region. Violence continues with no sign of immediate cessation, despite statements by the United Nations, the European Union, and human rights groups calling for an immediate ceasefire. Both Israel and Palestine claim the other is responsible for the breakdown of the 2008 truce.
While the international community recognizes violence directed by both Israeli and Palestinian combatants, it is the vast discrepancy in socio-political means and military might which Israel wields over the Palestinian people that have many calling on the Israeli government to demonstrate comparably inverted restraint. According to current casualty statistics, Palestinians are suffering mortalities at the ratio of 100-to-1 when compared to Israelis.
Comparative Gross National Incomes (GNI) amongst Israelis and Palestinians also demonstrate the severe inequality which mark the two groups. Per capita, Israelis earn $21,900 annually, while Palestinians per capita earn only a fraction of that, $1,230, according the World Bank’s 2007 estimates.
It is this disparity which prompted former U.S. President, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter, to author the controversial 2006 book, PALESTINE: PEACE NOT APARTHEID, in which he likened the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians to Britain’s treatment of South Africans during the deplorable period of apartheid. Carter declared, “Palestinians are deprived of basic human rights, their land has been occupied, then confiscated, then colonized by the Israeli settlers.”
Along the West Bank, Israel, for several years now, has been constructing a wall over 400 miles long which segregates Palestinians. Israel claims the wall is necessary for Israeli security, and points to a decrease in successfully violent Palestinian operations within Israel since the wall’s construction began.
Palestinians are policed by the Israeli army at multiple checkpoints along the wall and are constricted by curfews (which at times place them under de facto house arrest) and mandatory travel papers. Palestinians view the wall as a means for Israel to confiscate Palestinian land. In 2004, the International Court of Justice agreed. In its advisory opinion, dated July 9, it stated, “Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated,” and to pay reparations to individual Palestinians dispossessed by construction of the wall or suffering hardships associated with its imposition.
Thousands of Palestinians have been reduced to refugee status as a result of Israel’s West Bank wall. Later that year the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution ES-10/15, concurred with the International Court of Justice’s findings.
In 2008, a Report of the Secretary-General to the United Nations General Assembly, entitled, “Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” expounds upon UN Resolution 62/109, which explores: “.the continuing systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying Power, including that arising from excessive force, the use of collective punishment, the reoccupation and closure of areas, the confiscation of land. [and] the destruction of property and infrastructure.”
We, in the United States, cannot understand the sense of constant threat of danger that Israelis and Palestinians daily live under. Israel, with its vastly superior economy and military, must naturally be tempted to use that superiority to their advantage.
However, as long as Palestinians live in comparative poverty and are killed at the ratio of 100-to-1 in proportion to Israelis, the international community will rightly continue to denounce Israel for its “excessive force,” and Israel will not gain the legitimacy it seeks in combating what it has labeled Palestinian “terrorism.”