Local Palestinians feel effects of ongoing Israel, Hamas conflict

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August 19th, 2014

Omaha, NE– Nader Quad recites the names of Palestinians killed in the conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza at a recent vigil in Omaha.

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He, like other Palestinian- Americans in the community, just want the violence to end.

“When over 1,000 people are dead in a little over three weeks that’s just wrong,” he said. “It’s very frustrating. That’s my family and friends.”

Quad and his family are from Hebron, a Palestinian city in the West Bank that’s 18 miles south of Jerusalem. He said his grandfather’s home was ransacked by Isreali(IZ RAIL LEE) soldiers searching for the three Israeli teenage boys who were allegedly kidnapped and killed by Hamas in June.

In a recent BBC interview, Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld described those responsible for the murders as a “lone cell” who may not have had direct orders from Hamas leadership, but who were loosely affiliated with the Palestinian militant Islamist organization.

Bridget Blomfield is a former professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She said while many people may believe the conflict is a battle over religious differences, it is really about land and politics.

“People confuse this with Jusdaism and Islam and it’s not,” Blomfied said. “Originally Palestinians lived in this land and Jews, Christians and Muslims. It was then separated and made into the state of Israel, and of course the people who owned that land felt it was unfair.”

According to the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948.

(L-R) Aya Kahyti,8; Sarah Quad,9; and Leen Quad,7, attended a vigil in remembrance of Palestinians killed in Gaza. (Photo by KVNO News)

(L-R) Aya Kahyti,8; Sarah Quad,9; and Leen Quad,7, attended a vigil in remembrance of Palestinians killed in Gaza. (Photo by KVNO News)

Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain under international control administered by the United Nations. The Palestinian Arabs refused to recognize this arrangement, which they regarded as favorable to the Jews and unfair to the Arab population that would remain in Jewish territory under the partition.  The goal of the Arabs was initially to block the Partition Resolution and to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state. The Jews, on the other hand, hoped to gain control over the territory allotted to them under the Partition Plan.

“Effectively what seems to be the solution is for the Palestinian authority, which has reasonable ties to Israel to take over as the legitimate authority in Gaza. And along with Egyptian monitoring of Hamas to make sure that Hamas does not return to military activity…money should be used to rebuild the Gaza strip,” said Moshe Gershovich, professor of history and director of the Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies at UNO.

Currently, Egypt is negotiating an end to the war between Hamas and Israel. If both sides accept the proposal, Israeli blockades of Gaza would be eased.

“Most Palestinians- the people in the West Bank don’t believe that Hamas is good for Palestine. What’s happened, especially in Gaza, is that the Palestinian people have no representation so they will do whatever they can,” Blomfield said.

Nadia Al-Absy has worked with Nebraskans for Peace’s Palestinian task force since 2008. Her father is from Palestine and she has spent time living and studying in Palestine.

“It’s not about Israel versus Palestine,” Al-Absy said. “It’s about humanity binding together and standing up against injustice and oppression.”

The 23-year-old said most of her dad’s family lives in the Ramallah area.

“I feel really connected to the issue because when they suffer, I suffer,” she said. “It’s hard to see your family going through something and not be affect by it, especially if you’re losing family members or you see them struggling with health issues because they can’t get to the hospital because the roads are blocked by Israeli checkpoints.”

(L-R) Clare Koesters, 23, and Samantha Brannagan,22, are students at UNO. The two participated in a vigil  hosted by Nebraskans for Peace. (Photo by KVNO News)

(L-R) Clare Koesters, 23, and Samantha Brannagan,22, are students at UNO. The two participated in a vigil hosted by Nebraskans for Peace. (Photo by KVNO News)

Gershovich said any attempts by Israel to counter or resolve the issue with military force is bound to cause casualties in Gaza.

“Those casualties have been mounting,” Gershovich said. “Even though there are some debates about exact numbers it’s clear that a substantial portion of it, likely the majority of civilians and non-combatants, including children and elderly. It’s very ugly. There’s no other way of putting it.”

More than 1,900 civilian Palestinians have been killed, including more than 200 children. Sixty-seven Israelis have been killed, majority of them military personnel.

More than six UN Schools serving as relief shelters have been struck by Israeli artillery, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Batoul Rabaa is a 20-year-old political science major at UNO. Her family resettled in Omaha after the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. She expressed frustration at the amount of money the United States government provides to Israel’s military defense.

Congress recently approved $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which intercepts rockets from Gaza.

“That affects me because my tax money goes to killing my own people and that’s ridiculous,” Rabaa said.

Israel has been accused of carrying out war crimes against Palestinians, an accusation that Gershovich believes Israelis would find offensive and hypocritical in light of other horrific acts of violence involving Iraq and Syria.

“If I were to try to characterize the Israeli thinking on this it is tragic but almost unavoidable consequence on this type of asymmetrical war on an organized state that protects its civilians and finds the right answers to provide security for them and on the other hand an organization that has no responsibility, no accountability and tends to use the civilian population as the base of its operations in a way that Israelis would regard as using them as human shields.”

Several cease-fires have been enforced since hostilities began in June. Gershovich said both sides have an interest in putting an end to the fighting.

“The Israelis claim that they have pretty much dealt with the tunnel issue, which was the most immediate concern for them and now they don’t have more of a need to be inside Gaza with ground troops,” he said. “Hamas’ position is a little bit more complicated to understand. They are on the verge of military collapse. They need the time to regroup.”

Gershovich said there is a need for a long-term solution. He said Hamas needs to be demilitarized and Gaza needs to be rebuilt.

“The demilitarization of the Gaza Strip in a fashion similar to what has happened in the West Bank,” he said. “It has been fairly demilitarized for almost a decade now and as a consequence was able to develop its own economy in a much better way. The other side is rebuilding Gaza…lots of money to be put into the Gaza Strip to rebuild the infrastructure, the houses the schools and the hospitals…bringing relief to the population, bringing renewed hope for the population.”

Gershovich said the biggest problem in resolving the conflict between Israel and Hamas is that both parties view the other as illegitimate, unreliable and somebody you can’t trust or take chances with.

 

 

 

 

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