(OPINION) The Middle East region has always fascinated me, not only because of its connection with my faith but also for its rich diverse history, religions, cultures and traditions — specially the land of Palestine that is the bearer of many prophets, a birthplace of Prophet Isa A.S. (Jesus Christ) and a land of many holy sites of the Abrahamic faith. All this just makes it more sacred and special.
On matters of conflicts or difference of opinions, my personal approach has always been to learn both sides of stories. It is imperative to do this because this is the only way to have a just opinion. One can only be fully or partially unbiased if conflicts are first understood in their historical and academic context. I am not saying I have mastered this approach on personal or global issues, but I am trying. It is not easy to be unbiased because of our beliefs, ideologies or any kind of political or tribal affiliations.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the longest lasting conflicts in the Middle East region and is a cause of many other issues within the region. These other related issues are the Palestinian refugees, their dispersal in other Arab states “right of return,” territorial issues with surrounding Arab states, wars fought in the past and a rise in terrorism.
With the recent Hamas attack on Israel and in retaliation the bombardment of Israel at Gaza, the neighboring Arab countries are reluctant to accept Palestinian refugees. It raises the question in people’s mind, “How come the neighboring Arab-Muslim countries are not agreeing to give protection to Palestinian refugees?”
An Associated Press article reports, “Their refusal is rooted in fear that Israel wants to force a permanent expulsion of Palestinians into their countries and nullify Palestinian demands for statehood. El-Sissi also said a mass exodus would risk bringing militants into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from where they might launch attacks on Israel, endangering the two countries’ 40-year-old peace treaty.”
And not only this, but “the refugees and their descendants now number nearly 6 million, most living in camps and communities in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The diaspora has spread further, with many refugees building lives in Gulf Arab countries or the West.”
Violence and bloodshed
The recent development on the matter has once again flared violence and bloodshed in the region. It’s the main topic of news and discussions. Because of my affiliation with Islam, all my social media posts are pro-Palestine and am sure the same is the case for the Jewish communities. I am certain that there are also some of us who are partially siding with one side or other. Then there are some who are numb to the news and do not want to listen to anything anymore.
People are also finding quite a contrast in international reactions between the war in Ukraine and Palestine. The way Ukraine has been assisted and how its affected people are given refugee status and aid is quite contrary to the Palestinians in Gaza. The blockade of water and electricity to them was considered a war crime in Ukraine, but it’s not the case for the people of Gaza.
Historically from the beginning of this conflict, all U.S. administrations and their foreign policies treated this geopolitical conflict only as a humanitarian issue, not a territorial one. Its strategy has been based on U.S interests in the region. It’s allies, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, are based on mutual interests.
The U.S. could not pressure Israel mainly for three reasons: one is American public opinion, the pro-Israel lobby and dislike of Holocaust by the American leadership. However, there is a slight shift within American public opinion now. Since Israel claimed its retaliation as a declaration of war, everything will be watched under the lens of war regulations and war crimes.
President Joe Biden’s full support to Israel should not come as a shock to anyone. As mentioned, all U.S. administrations have supported Israel. In his recent visit to Tel Aviv, President Biden once again assured Israel of his full support and $100 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Meanwhile, on Oct. 18, a U.N. Security Council resolution to call for humanitarian pauses in the war to deliver lifesaving aid to millions in Gaza was vetoed by the U.S.
Increasing support for Palestinians in the West
There is an increase in supporting the Palestinians across the Western world. At home here in America, which has a large Middle Eastern diaspora, both Muslims and Christians are supporting the Palestinians on college campuses, with rallies in different states and protesting in front of the Capitol. Although all this is gaining attention in American news media, it is with more of a negative connotation.
Emotions are running high, thanks to our over-enthusiastic politicians and media anchors to instigate them. Both communities of Palestinians and Jews are becoming targets of hate crimes. The recent stabbing of a 6-year-old boy is a prime example of the hatred and rift raging between communities.
CNN reported, “Wadea Al Fayoume was stabbed 26 times Saturday by his family’s landlord in Plainfield Township, Illinois, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said. Prosecutors told the judge [Joseph M.] Czuba and his tenant, [Hanaan] Shahin, got into an argument Saturday over the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The argument became heated and Czuba turned violent toward Shahin, according to the prosecution.”
Messages are circulating in my social media groups in which Muslim women who wear hijab are being warned to be cautious. I am sure the same is happening in our Jewish communities where antisemitism might also be rising.
Caution is imperative by both communities. There is no need to be added to a list of victims of these hate crimes as these lists are mere numbers to the world. It does not matter if you are pro-Palestine or pro-Israel. What matters most is humanity and being pro-peace.
Reporters, social media platforms, YouTube influencers and politicians’ commentaries have been detrimental, too. They must act in a manner that does not instigate people’s emotion. It’s their chance to be fair and honest in their reporting and hold the torch for peace.
This piece is republished from Spokane FaVS.