Dixon: Seeing the Other Side: How Israel is Contributing to the Middle East Conflict
Israel’s actions in occupied territories reflect a blatant disregard for human rights.
On July 3, the Israeli military stormed a refugee camp in the West Bank with bulldozers, tanks and soldiers. While on paper a counter-insurgency attack, it is emblematic of a pattern for the Israeli government — extreme violence with no care for civilians. This mission destroyed houses, harmed the water and electric grids and blocked ambulances from responding to the over 100 people who were injured. It killed four teenagers — at least one of whom was allegedly unarmed.
In this zero-sum game, part of the blame lies with Israel. Its policy of supporting settlements on occupied land ensures there will be no resolution to this conflict, and according to the International Court of Justice, it violates the law. The Israeli government is even building more settlements — Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government recently pledged to build 10,000 more houses. In these areas, settler attacks, including violence and theft meant to push out Palestinians, now take place thrice daily. While Netanyahu condemns such attacks, his pro-settlement policies increase them. And his finance minister refers to such attacks as mere “civilian counter-actions” — a newly minted euphemism for terrorism.
And these issues are just those on the outskirts. We frequently forget about those inside occupied territory who face apartheid-like conditions. In declaring the Israeli occupation of Palestine an apartheid, the Human Rights Watch reported that “many of these abuses, including categorical denials of building permits, mass residency revocations or restrictions and large-scale land confiscations, have no legitimate security justifications; others, such as the extent of restrictions on movement and civil rights, fail any reasonable balancing test between security concerns and the severity of the underlying rights abuse.”
Let me be clear about one point. Antisemitism is on the rise in America: From 2021 to 2022, antisemitic incidents rose 35%. But criticizing the Israeli state’s human rights abuses is not antisemitic. Pundits too often propagate “antisemitism,” devaluing it when actual incidents occur.
The key question here is: Why? Why does Israel relentlessly chew up land? A large part of the answer is Zionism, the broad movement to return to the Jewish homeland. While it had previously been used for a righteous cause, creating a place of safety for Jews across the world, this movement ignores those it evicted from the land Israel is built on. And now, with a Jewish homeland in hand, Zionism turns to expansion.
For a country that blatantly ignores the precedent of international law, Israel is happy to uphold the supposed precedent of Biblical stories. The country’s leaders distort Zionism just as Christian fundamentalists distort the Bible, imposing religious ideals on others. It is used to justify racism, violence and ignorance; their version of Zionism tells followers that the end justifies the means, whatever those are.
Indeed, even within Israel’s borders this distorted Zionism makes its mark. In 2019, Netanyahu stated that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens” — only the Jewish ones. The reality reflects this view. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 79% of Israeli Arabs see a lot of discrimination against Muslims. While 19% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian, Israeli law allows 900 Jewish towns to exclude Palestinians on the basis of “social-cultural fabric.” Additionally, Israeli Arabs face reduced access to municipal services, lower school funding and other forms of tacit discrimination. Israeli law refuses the same “right to return” to Palestinians that it grants to Jews. Israel cannot claim to be a democracy when it enforces a quasi-apartheid in occupied areas and discriminates against Israeli Arabs within its borders.
Of course, Israel is a vital ally in the region, but that shouldn’t be a reason to turn a blind eye to its crimes. Of course, Israel has a right to exist and a right to respond to the terrorist attacks that frequently emerge from these areas. But it does not have the right to do so by repeatedly violating international law. Of course, the idea of Zionism is beautiful — a Biblical return — but the Israeli state is bastardizing it to justify its inhumane actions.
We’ve become complacent towards this new apartheid. One only has to check our inboxes: while Dartmouth’s administration deems it necessary to send mass emails for every supreme court case, extreme weather event and mass shooting, I’ve seen no emails about the continued oppression of innocent Palestinians. And as a result of our collective complacency, the United States, a country which supposedly supports international law, has repeatedly failed to criticize Israel for its forced relocations, discrimination and murder. The Israeli state has carte blanche to oppress Palestinians with little more than frustrated tweets from the United Nations to stop them.
Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.