On Dec. 27, 2008, a fragile peace agreement that had been in place for nearly six months between Israel and Hamas, the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, was officially called off. Twenty-two days of fighting ensued before the two sides finally agreed to a unilateral ceasefire on Jan. 18.
The ceasefire is holding, although the damage this conflict has once again caused to the peace process between these two countries and the Middle East gives little hope for either side that a lasting solution is near.
When asked how to achieve a solution for lasting peace between Palestine and Israel, Noor Alsadi, a Palestinian student at ASU, said, “I think the two state solution is the only solution, but with that comes Israel’s obligation to respect the sovereignty of Palestine and not invade, and not attack it, and not bombard it.”
“I don’t see Israel doing [this] anytime soon. There has to be a major foreign policy change not only in Israel, but in America,” Alsadi said.
As to whether or not people in Israel think peace is possible, Matt Kimmel, a Jewish Global Studies student at ASU, believes that 30 or 40 years ago people were more optimistic.
He said that sentiment is changing as the years of fighting wears down the hopes of the people for ever finding a peaceful resolution.
Israel responded to Hamas’s rocket attacks with overwhelming force, and according to the United Nations, after the three-week offensive more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 5,300 more wounded.
Israel also suffered casualties; 13 citizens were killed, 10 of them members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Additionally, reports indicate that 500 Israelis were wounded, 183 of them civilians.
“Israel wants peace and they’re doing what they need to do to achieve that goal. The army is doing what’s appropriate to seek peace and protect the people,” said Erin Searle, director of programming and outreach for Hillel at ASU.
“Israel is dealing with terrorist groups. They don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist,” she added.
Kimmel, who leaves this month for Israel to study Arabic and international relations, offered a hypothetical situation to explain his perspective on Israel’s response.
“If terrorists in Mexico started launching rockets into San Diego, the U.S. would respond with force, any country would. Now did they use an inappropriate amount of force? That’s heavily debatable.”
Kimmel thinks that Israel may have gone overboard in its response.
“I think they should have been far more careful with where they were aiming those rockets. But at the same time it’s really hard because Hamas is a terrorist group and they don’t go out and waive flags and say, ‘Our guns are here, blow this up!’,” Kimmel added.
Alsadi does not defend the Palestinians firing rockets into Israel, but thinks the international community needs to take a critical look at the magnitude of Israel’s response.
“If one of these rockets is fired over, or if X amounts are fired over, you can’t go and destroy a whole block that the rocket was fired from. We’re talking about something called ‘collective punishment,’ which breaks any rule in the Geneva Convention or any rule of humanity in general,” Alsadi said.
“You can’t go in and bombard a city and kill everyone there because there’s one rotten apple. You’re talking about Israel blowing up multitudes of buildings, killing scores of people, for a few rotten apples,” Alsadi added.
The peace process was not the only thing damaged by the conflict. A growing humanitarian crisis has erupted in Gaza, resulting in an international appeal from the United Nations for $613 million to assist Gaza civilians with the recovery process.
“It’s definitely not something people know about so much, I think they don’t see it so much as a humanitarian crisis, such as political,” said Haneen Odeh, a Palestinian student at ASU speaking of the humanitarian crisis.
“So when they look at the issue they take sides, whether it’s Israel’s fault or the Palestinians, like Hamas’s fault,” he added.
“I don’t think they really see that if you just take all that away People are suffering. And that’s the main issue that they should be concerned about,” Odeh said.
Searle believes there are faults on both sides, but couldn’t comment further on the humanitarian component of the conflict.
A silent protest was held at ASU on Jan. 28, to raise awareness about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The event was sponsored by the Arab Students Association, Muslim Students Association and by Students for Justice in Palestine. The groups lined Hayden Lawn with tombstones, each painted with a different fact or phrase related to the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, and the effect it had on Palestinian civilians.
The event, named “Tombstones for Gaza” also served as a platform for dialog about the issue for students.
When asked why she thought it was important for students to be aware of this conflict, Amriah Ismail, president of the Arab Students Association at ASU responded, “Regardless of differing political views, people can’t deny the humanitarian crisis that is taking place.”
“The average American doesn’t know the history of the conflict because they get their history from sound bites from the media. These don’t mention the word ‘occupation’ and without understanding this concept, their understanding of the conflict is skewed,” Ismail added.
“We can’t take sides, both sides are wrong on some things, both sides have rights, and both sides have their own interests, said Reema Abu Ghezaleh, a Palestinian student at ASU, who participated in the event.
“You just have to come down and look at it as humans- from one person to another, rather than political-this government to this government,” added Abu Ghezaleh.
“When wars like this break out there is no right or wrong side, humanity in general loses,” Alsadi said.