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the lands around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing at least the Arabian Peninsula and, by some definitions, Iran, North Africa, and sometimes beyond.
Part of the Middle East is on the continent of Asia.
Palestinian Lives Matter
As I scroll down my social media feeds, it is hard not to notice the #PalestinianLivesMatter hashtags. As an African-American, I can definitely relate to the sentiment. And I hope I do not have to say that by saying Palestinian lives matter that does not somehow suggest the lives of people who are not Palestinian do not matter.
Several have written on the history of Palestine, so I do not feel the need to speak on that. In no way am I dismissing its importance. Historical facts matter. I will just say the history is complicated.
It does make sense to talk about the recent escalation of violence. The timeline coincides with the start of the sacred month of Ramadan in mid-April. There are disturbing reports of Israeli police entering Al-Aqsa on several occasions where police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets, while Palestinians threw stones.
Grappling with the Violence and Hostilities
Sometimes I do find it difficult to call it a conflict. One side is an order of magnitude more powerful than the other militarily, so it is hard to call it a conflict with a straight face.
The recent Israeli air strikes demonstrated that. You did not hear about air strikes launched by Hamas or the Palestinian government. These air strikes reportedly displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza. UNICEF puts the number at 72,000. One news outlet referred to it as the Israel-Gaza violence. I think that is the more accurate term.
Hamas does complicate things, but I do not think we are at a place to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. At this point, I will just mention Hamas is a movement and not a country. I should also mention the official statement from the White House does give priority to the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas over Hamas.
Whatever Hamas’ classification, effective this past Friday there has been a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in the recent escalation. No matter how brief this is, it is hard not to appreciate this. At the same time, I think many people are not wondering if there will be another escalation but when.
Quiet and Relentless Diplomacy
According to an official statement released from the White House on Thursday afternoon, United States President Biden and his team “held intensive high-level discussions, hour by hour, literally – Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and other Middle Eastern countries.”
I think everyone is pleased to see a de-escalation, but I do think the United States can do more to use what they call “quiet and relentless diplomacy” to bring about “equal measures of prosperity, freedom, and democracy” for the Israelis and Palestinians.
For example, in the White House official statement, there is only mention of Gaza and not of the chunk of land east of Israel known as the West Bank. I also think limiting the United Nations’ role to merely a humanitarian one is a mistake. They should have a larger role in brokering a solution.
More Info from the Social Media Platforms
YouTube – Israel-Gaza Conflict: Protests turn violent in occupied West Bank. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DzEilEJ1XE
YouTube – Palestinians strike across West Bank, Jerusalem to protest Israeli assaults. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2O1j170yVE
- Israel-Palestine News Highlights. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/israel-palestine-conflict-live-updates-gaza-strip-hamas-ceasefire–truce-us-joe-biden-6920421.html. Accessed 22 May 2021.
- Amir Tal, Andrew Carey, and Angela Dewan. Israel and Palestine Militant Group Hamas Agree to a Ceasefire. https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/20/middleeast/israel-palestinian-gaza-conflict-ceasefire-intl/index.html. Accessed 22 May 2021.
- Remarks by President Biden on the Middle East. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/05/20/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-middle-east/. Accessed 22 May 2021.
- What is the West Bank? https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080034/west-bank-israel-palestinians. Accessed 23 May 2021.