By Rashid Binnur
Imperial Beach, Calif.
By all accounts, there is a major discrepancy between the number of Israelis and Palestinians who have died in the conflict in Gaza that erupted last month. According to the United Nations, more than 1,800 Palestinians have died, while the death toll in Israel, according to its government, stands at just 67.
But these disparate death tolls reflect not just a war in Gaza, but an attack on a nation’s sovereignty — a sign that both Israel and its backers in the United States refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Palestinian state.
By way of background, Jews and Arabs lived in Palestine together many years before the establishment of the Israeli state. In the early 20th century, according to Gudrun Kramer’s 2008 book, “A History of Palestine,” Jews, Muslims and Christians coexisted for several decades under British rule.
Though British rule was not acceptable by any means, given the ideal of popular sovereignty, this period of history demonstrates that supposedly hostile religious groups can manage to live with one another peacefully.
When Israel was established to create a nation specifically designed for Jews in 1948, Palestinian self-determination began being undermined.
This trend has continued throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, as Israeli settlers have illegally crossed into the West Bank to take land and build communities exclusively for Jews, slowly seizing the little land that remains for Arabs. That practice has grown only more prevalent. According to Al Jazeera, Israel began building 2,534 new housing units in the West Bank in 2013 — more than double the number from 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, won’t commit to a settlement freeze, and Israel’s economics minister, Naftali Bennett, was once a settlement leader himself.
The United States also plays a large role in helping Israel take away the autonomy of the Palestinians. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” The report also states that the U.S. government provided $3.1 billion in foreign aid to Israel in 2013, helping fund weapon systems like the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, which Israel is using in the war in Gaza.
Given Israel’s notable growing economy, as a recent Daily Beast article pointed out, it’s unclear why the United States is still providing Israel with so much cash.
Granted, peace agreements have been backed by both Israel and the United States in the past. However, even if a two-state solution were established, Israel would likely keep occupying and expanding. That is evidenced by the fact that the land already is divided into two states and the United States keeps funding Israel, and Israel keeps establishing settlements. With the military might it possesses, it will keep being the dominant occupier in the area.
It might sound cheesy and awkward to say, but I believe in the message of the movie “Don’t Mess With the Zohan.” Jews and Muslims must stop fighting each other for trivial reasons and throw away Zionist and Arab nationalistic emotions because when Palestinians are attacked, what really is being attacked is the shared heritage, history and autonomy of all the people living in that ancient land.