As an avid Daily Show viewer, I was excited to see Jon Stewart broach the subject of the current conflict in Israel and Palestine. As a young Jewish American who's active in the Palestinian solidarity movement, I found Stewart's situation of getting yelled at no matter what he tried to say all too real.
Stewart noted that it is impossible to talk about Israel and Palestine in Western media without actually discussing the current siege. Maybe there were good reasons for this — ignorance, heightened emotions, complicated history, identity politics — but I think we can do better.
Let's talk about Israel and Palestine.
First, understanding the historical context of the situation is important. The Jewish Voice for Peace's video "Israel and Palestine, an animated introduction" is a great place to start: It explains the contentious issue simply and respectfully. In the video, the narrator asks what would happen if a refuge for a persecuted people was built in a place where another people already lived. This is the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The settling of one group of refugees created another group of refugees and the fallout has been plaguing the area since the state of Israel's inception.
Fast-forward 60 years to this summer. With the tragic abduction and murder of three Israeli students June 12 in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces began an 11-day siege that, according to +972 Magazine, led to 350 Palestinian arrests, more than 1,000 home raids and at least five Palestinian deaths.
Hostilities continued increasing: By mid-July, the IDF began a siege of artillery and airstrikes on Gaza, while Hamas had started launching rockets and mortar shells at Israel. IDF's ground incursion began late July 17, leading to more violence at great economic cost and loss of human life.
As of Tuesday, 17,000 Palestinians have been displaced; 1.2 million people have slim access to water or sanitation; 90 schools and 18 health facilities have been targeted; more than 2,500 houses have been destroyed and another 3,000 damaged severely; and 80 percent of the population only receives four hours of electricity per day, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
There have been more than 1,000 Palestinian casualties — 76 percent of whom were civilians. Additionally, as of Friday, 37 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have been killed, according to Gaza Health Ministry.
Checking social media is heartbreaking right now. Every time I log in, I see climbing death tolls, destroyed houses and crying children. My heart goes out to all those who are caught in the crossfire.
However, it is important to acknowledge that any conflict between Israel and Palestine is not symmetric warfare between two equal actors. The system of oppression prioritizes Israeli access to resources such as water, housing and education, and ultimately values Israeli lives over Palestinians. Israel has the fourth-strongest military in the world.
Israel also has one of the most sophisticated missile defense systems, according to the CIA World Factbook. Everything, down to the very weapons each side uses, the way the conflict is reported in the media and even each nation's respective population density, continues to reflect this power imbalance.
My Jewish education taught me to speak out against oppression and fight for justice and that is why I cannot be complacent in the Israeli occupation. An operation with a 76 percent civilian casualty rate is ineffective and disproportionate in scope. Targeting hospitals, schools, civilians and civilian infrastructure is not self-defense.
As long as this culture of violence and oppression continues, there will never be lasting peace — and I am not OK with that. This violence is not done in my name.
Even though Israel and Palestine are halfway across the world, we can still have an impact. Research the conflict and the history of the region. Attend rallies. Boycott and divest from companies that profit from the occupation. Write op-eds. Start the conversation among family and friends.
Contact your representatives in Congress and let them know where you want your tax money to go.
Call out anti-Semitism in the Palestinian solidarity movement and call out anti-Arab racism in pro-Israel spaces — hatred only polarizes us and brings us farther from peace. Learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be daunting, but it is not a lost cause.