What Americans Need to Know about Gaza and Israel Right Now

What Americans Need to Know about Gaza and Israel Right Now

Most Americans know little or nothing about the people of Gaza – or Palestinians in general (largely due to media omission and distortion). Here is a small step toward closing that knowledge gap.

by Kathryn Shihadah, reposted from Patheos: Grace Colored Glasses, October 8, 2023

If you follow world news, you know by now that on Saturday, Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza launched a surprise attack on Israel. My husband’s family live in Gaza and other parts of Palestine, so we are watching events closely. We have been following the situation for many years, and I have written about it several times on Patheos.

In a nutshell, the resistance group Hamas initiated what may loosely be called a war against Israel. On Saturday morning, they fired a large number of rockets toward Israel, broke down the border fence, and entered Israel. They have invaded a number of Israeli towns, kibbutzim, and illegal settlements, engaging with Israeli military when they showed up.

As of this writing, about seven hundred Israelis have been killed. [updated stat here]

Most analysts agree that this attack took Israel by surprised, and their military was totally unprepared – although Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world. But when Israeli leaders caught their breath, they did the only thing they know how to do: pulverize Gaza.

And so, four hundred thirteen Palestinians have also been killed.  [updated stat here] Perhaps the only reason this number isn’t much higher is that Palestinian fighters abducted a number of Israelis, and have them hidden all over Gaza. Israel and its warplanes must proceed with care.

Notably, this is the first time Palestinians have been a real threat to colonizers in their historic homeland in at least 100 years.

Where to begin?

There is much that can be said at this moment. Most of the world knows little or nothing about the people of Gaza – or the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, those inside Israel, and the millions (like my husband) who live in the Palestinian diaspora.

Today I want to place the current fighting in context. Without this context, it would be easy to make wildly inaccurate assumptions – like “you can’t randomly attack your neighbor like that without expecting retaliation”; or “Hamas is a terrorist organization, they are the problem here, and the people of Gaza are paying the price”; or “Palestinians know nothing but fighting and killing.”

I’ve heard each of these statements a million times, and in every single case, the speaker has been unaware of the context of this conflict. It is with that in mind that I offer background on the issue.

Let’s jump in and see how much ground we can cover.

READ: In recordbreaking heat, Israel intentionally impedes Palestinian families’ access to water

What you didn’t know you didn’t know about Israel and Gaza

Context is king. To begin with, this was not a random attack. This attack was a response to decades of injustice meted out by Israel – paid for in part by aid from United States to the tune of $13 million a day.

Read that again: $13 million a day. That’s $13 million in military aid every single day of the week. That’s for a country that already has one of the strongest militaries in the world (paid for in great part by the US). And that’s for a country that violates international law on a daily basis (read a few of many human rights reports here). That’s for a country that practices apartheid against the Palestinians it rules over.

Israel is realizing right now that it can’t oppress its neighbors forever without expecting retaliation. Palestinians have tried many methods of reasoning with Israel, only to be turned down; many nonviolent forms of protest, only to be gunned down. In the olden days, there were suicide bombers – the desperate act of the hopeless (and of those without the usual weapons to deliver bombs). Hamas hasn’t been involved in such an attack since 2008.

Palestinians in Gaza have been locked in an open-air prison for sixteen years – under a brutal blockade that blocks the entrance of critical medicine and medical supplies, food, and other staples, causing rampant malnutrition in children; the Al-Aqsa mosque (one of the holiest sites in Islam) has been desecrated again and again in recent months; illegal Israeli settlers (with assistance from the Israeli military) have been attacking Palestinians and taking over their land; Palestinians in the West Bank have endured fifty-six years of occupation and indignity; Israel is illegally holding over five thousand Palestinians as political prisoners, under inhumane conditions.

The list goes on. And there is no end in sight.

That is why Hamas initiated these hostilities – because, how long should humans live, starving, in a cage, before they fight back? What else did Israel expect would happen?

People who know the situation in Palestine-Israel knew this day would come – we just never expected it would play out as it has. Israel has powerful weapons and wealthy allies.

What do the Palestinians have? A desperate hunger for justice and dignity, and nothing left to lose.

Most, if not all, Palestinians and their allies hate war and violence. It is heartbreaking that apparently the only way to get the world’s attention is through bloodshed.

I should clarify: the only way to get the world’s attention is through the shedding of Israeli blood. The chart below shows the shameful number of Palestinians that have died because the world cares little for the blood of Palestinians (go here to see the sources for these statistics).

Chart showing Palestinian and Israeli deaths year by year.

Hamas did not attack Israel “randomly,” but after many years of provocation. If anyone should have expected retaliation, it is Israel. You don’t get to put millions of people in a cage, starve and taunt and snipe at them, and then act surprised when they take matters into their own hands.

May the world wake up at last, and repent for the years we have neglected justice, and the heavy price that the people of Palestine have paid.

Grace Colored Glasses is Kathryn Shihadah’s blog on Patheos, an online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality. Kathryn is also an editor and staff writer for If Americans Knew, and occasionally blogs at Palestine Home.


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