Letter to the editor

Letter+to+the+editor

Josh Shuster

After reading the last Letter to the Editor of the May 23 Issue, and two other articles in The Record about the Israel-Palestine conflict in the May 7 Issue, I was shocked to realize that many students at Horace Mann do not see the full history and picture of the conflict, and jump to what I believe are hateful, antisemitic conclusions. In my view, the last Letter to the Editor presented a one-sided, factually incorrect argument. 

The letter ignored the true history behind the Israel-Palestine conflict, starting in 1947, when the United Nations divided the British Mandate, nowadays made up of parts of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, into two territories. One territory was for the Jewish people, and the other was for the Arabs of Palestine. When Israel declared statehood in 1948, all of the surrounding Arab countries: Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq immediately invaded Israel. This fight was known as the Israeli War of Independence, in which around 6,000 Jews, or 1% of the Israeli population, many of whom were recent Holocaust survivors, perished. The letter mentions the expulsion of 700,000 Arabs from Israel, but it neglects to mention that approximately the same number of Jews (700,000+) were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries, and resettle in Israel.

Additionally, the war also led to Egypt occupying the Gaza Strip, and Jordan occupying the West Bank. These events occurred before the Israeli occupation of 1967, following the Six-Day War. Egypt started this war when it heavily mobilized at the Israeli border along with Syria, and Lebanon, but Jordan also joined Egypt, despite Israel’s numerous attempts to dissuade Jordan from doing so. Thus, Israel began its occupation of the West Bank, previously occupied by Jordan, as a defensive measure against an unprovoked attack by Jordan. 

Also in 1967, Israel accepted UN Resolution 242, a peace treaty between Israel and Arab nations. However, Palestinian leaders rejected the treaty, professing “No peace, no negotiations, and no recognition” in the Khartoum Resolution. Israel tried negotiating with Palestine on several occasions, and even when it unilaterally ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, and responded with terror. Some Palestinians were incentivized to commit suicide bombings and to kill Israeli civilians with knives. Israel, like any democratic government, fought back with stronger security and administrative measures. 

Such acts of terror against Israel are still seen today. Hamas, the radical Palestinian terrorist group, was created in opposition to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1980s and rose to political power in Gaza in 2006. It has since been in charge of Gaza. Hamas rejected the Oslo accords of 1993, which would make peace between Israel and Palestine, and continued launching rockets at Israel. 

The letter mentions the “ethnic cleansing of Sheik Jarra,” but the evictions of two Palestinian families in 2009, and a pending Israeli Supreme Court decision to evict six Palestinian families currently cannot be called an “ethnic cleansing” if only a total of 58 people have been evicted out of the over 300,000 Arabs who live in the area. Furthermore, these evictions were results of legal disputes and not of hatred for all Arab residents of Sheik Jarra.

The false narrative that Israel is the oppressor seems to be backed up by the hundreds of Palestinian deaths from airstrikes. However, this argument fails for two reasons. Firstly, Israel targets Hamas militants in retaliation to their attacks, and second, Hamas uses a specific military tactic that causes many civilian deaths. Hamas builds strongholds and stores weapons in and around densely populated places, like schools. Essentially, Hamas is turning the citizens of Gaza into ‘human shields.’ By sacrificing innocent Palestinian lives in order to protect their strongholds, they cause their people to suffer. Thus, I believe it is Hamas, not Israel, who oppresses the Palestinian people.

In their charter, Hamas wrote that Israel shall be abolished by Islam. Additionally, they receive funding from Iran, who also wishes to destroy Israel. What I found most troubling, however, is how the Letter to the Editor completely rejected the idea of the two state solution.

It’s important to note that Israel was created to be a national Jewish state —  a place of refuge from the atrocities that the Jews have suffered throughout millenia. This includes Shoah (The Holocaust), enslavement, pogroms, and the purging of Jewish people from countries around the world. One can support both Israel and Palestine, but in my opinion, one cannot support the oppressive and terrorist leadership of Gaza. Groups like Hamas deny Israel’s right to exist, and ignore the oppression that Jews have experienced. Today, there is a 400% increase in antisemitic hate in the United States, already the most common of hate crimes in the U.S. I believe the arguments featured in last week’s Letter to the Editor only further fuel anti-semitism.