When arguing about Israel and the conflict, many of the Jewish State’s supporters will ask supporters of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions or other such groups why they are so fanatically obsessed with Israel and this particular conflict. It is often construed as being a ‘dodge of responsibility’, or as the American Studies Association responded, “you’ve got to start somewhere!” but when you think about it, it’s a very valid question as to why so many are obsessed with what can only be explained as being a miniscule blip in the unfortunately enormous range of conflicts in the world.
Most sources will agree that from 1967 to 2009, the number of dead in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians numbers at roughly 14,000. I may merit criticism for this rather callous comment but that is really nothing compared to the rest of the world, not even including other events in the half-century. I find it astounding that ‘boycott efforts will be ramped up’ and ‘Israel will be declared an international pariah state’ if a peace deal is not met in one of the most tame conflicts in the history of the world.
The world is concerned with the plight of Palestinian Arabs in both Gaza and in the West Bank. Their situation is concerning. Yet as I say, it is a drop in a raging ocean of conflicts and issues that persist to this day. When a single Palestinian is killed, it often makes news websites. Meanwhile, hundreds die every day in Syria and their names remain unknown. In the last three years, Israel has been criticised, condemned, and even ‘vilified’ by the United Nations for building settlements in the West Bank. And I say:
Meanwhile, in the last three years…
Syria’s death toll numbers around 130,000 from 2011-2014 and continues to rise. The death toll looks set to hit well over ten times the number of dead in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of this year. Yet after the Chemical Weapons confiscation, nobody seems to care.
South Sudan’s death toll hit over 1000 in about half of last December and continues to rise daily. The country devolving into civil war has hit 7% of a 61 year long conflict in a month. Child soldiers are being used. But nobody seems to care very much about the disintegrating situation in South Sudan.
These two countries’ conflicts are not nearly as widely covered or handled as the ‘main Middle Eastern conflict’ and there is certainly no shuttle diplomacy by the US Secretary of State John Kerry to resolve these conflicts. They worsen, and the world watches quietly. There is no dialogue regarding them, there is no attempt to get negotiations underway in either of them. The war in Syria drags on, the war in Sudan is starting, and all with nothing to say for it.
Meanwhile, you’ve probably never even heard of…
-The conflict between the West Papua movement versus the Indonesian Government which has killed over 400,000 since 1962 and continues to this day. The UN has not touched on this conflict, yet the war crimes continue. The US’ pivot to East Asia has not at all touched on this conflict, and apparently does not handle rights- meanwhile, the Palestinian right to self-determination is item number one on US Foreign Policy.
-The Peruvian insurgent group Shining Path’s conflict with the government, which has killed over 70,000 since the 1980’s and continues to this day. There is a resurgence in the group’s activities and yet the world has hardly touched base on it. Anyone with a High School education can tell you the basics about the Israel-Palestine conflict, but nobody knows or cares about an insurgency that has killed over 5 times more.
-The Colombian Civil War which has killed between 50,000-200,000 people (and displaced 2,000,000-4,000,000) since 1964 and continues to this day. The war between the FARC, a Communist group, and the Government has led to enormous loss of life and a spectacular displacement of people. Again, the world stays silent and ignores the deaths. No vigils, no rallies in support of the Colombian people. Nada.
-The Mexican Drug War, which has killed over 100,000 people since 2006 and over 26,000 people since 2012. The Mexican Government fights against drug barons, cartels, mafias and other groups which leads to intense violence that persists vigourously to this day. There are no mass rallies in any major European cities regarding this.
-The never-ending Somalian Civil War, which has killed over 500,000 people since 1991. The United Nations intervened in 1992, yet the fighting persists to this day and shows signs of intensifying even further. Islamist radicalism from groups such al-Shabaab continue to grow and cause further damage. Yet still, the world seeks no resolution to this conflict.
All of these conflicts are all at least twice as volatile and twice as heartbreaking as the ongoing Israel-Palestine dispute. Settlement building occupies more time on TV than almost any other pursuit. Yet the world stays quiet. What is Israel meant to say, “thanks for caring about us so much”?
Another point. Occupation? Is that the issue here?
What about Kurdistan?
The Kurds have a history of over 4400 years in the region and yet they have no right to self-determination. Their land is occupied by numerous nations, most notably by Turkey, and they have no huge support lobbies or demonstrations. Turkey suffers no threats of boycott.
What about the Western Sahara?
The people of the Western Sahara have suffered the use of napalm and white phosphorus on their refugee camps and their land is currently occupied by Morocco. Morocco is not boycotted, and there are no flotillas on the behalf of the Sahawi people.
What about Northern Cyprus?
Of course, no mention of ‘occupation’ would be complete without the mention of Cyprus, the Northern part of which has been illegally occupied by Turkey since the 70’s. Like I said- Turkey is not boycotted or internationally criticised for it’s occupation.
And the best point of all is humanitarian aid. Palestinians receive more humanitarian aid per capita than any other country on Earth. $1800 per capita every single year, with American aid set to increase by $440 million as part of current peace negotiations. Comparatively, Somalia (with a drastically worse situation in terms of poverty, death, conflict and disease) receives $220 per capita in aid. Sudan, also with an appalling humanitarian situation which is far worse than that of the Palestinian Territories, receives $190 per capita in aid. Ethiopia, with some of the worst poverty in the world, receives less than $50 per capita in aid. Palestinians pocket over 8 times more than Somalians, over 9 times more than the Sudanese, and over 30 times the aid of an Ethiopian.
So I ask- why is the world so obsessed with the Palestinian question in terms of media time, attention, foreign aid and diplomatic efforts? Is it something to do with oil money? Is hating Israel an integral part of a prevalent ideology? Or are the other conflicts, other displaced and hungry and embattled people of the world too boring to cover on the news and sprinkle with aid money? Does CNN think that they’re ugly? Is this bias fair?
I don’t know. But anyone who spends their time painting a red X on the Star of David that is superimposed on an Israeli flag, or designing fabulous ‘Bethlehem seperation walls’ to decorate churches with, may want to ask themselves that same question. And when they ask- if these ‘Palestine activists’ decide that a Palestinian life is more valuable than the life of a Papuan’s, a Sudanese person’s, or a Colombian’s that they spend all their time focusing on that issue even if they have never been to Gaza, then they need to ask some serious questions about their perception of humanity.