Rethinking Palestinian Imprisonment

Anti-Israeli sentiment is inescapable. The asymmetrical news coverage, innumerable social media posts, and massive pro-Palestine rallies from New York to Paris to Tehran bombard the Internet with the message of Israel’s heinousness and apparent thirst for killing civilians. In all of these protests, two words keep recurring: Free Palestine. The context of this term begs two perplexing questions for those attempting to make sense of this continuing conflict. The first is: who is imprisoning Palestine? The second is: why aren’t the Palestinians free?

Literally speaking, anybody will tell you that Israel is imprisoning Gaza and that Palestinians aren’t free because Israel is unwilling to let the current state of Gaza live freely alongside it. This is entirely true. I am not attempting to dissuade you of this reality. Israel is unwilling to live alongside this actively hostile neighbor. However, when looking at the details of the Israel-Gaza conflict, especially those leading up to Operation Protective Edge, it is clear that although Israel is restraining Gaza, it is by no means the “mercilessly murder[ous]” or “morally deprav[ing]” side of this conflict, as an Al Jazeera article suggests. Rather, Israel is justified in limiting the rights of Gaza—not because of the Palestinians’ actions, but because of Hamas’. This differentiation between Hamas and the Palestinians is essential to any form of peace. Complete freedom of the current Gaza Strip would equate to all-out war and tremendous loss of life on both sides. To attain this freedom, Palestinian civilians must cooperate with Israelis to remove Hamas from power. Only then will the situation change and only then will Israel be secure enough to lift its restrictions on the territory.

Starting with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June, this military escalation has proven to be unlike any preceding it. Hamas has barraged Israel ceaselessly, with thousands of rockets aimed at civilians. Israel is lucky to have the Iron Dome to defend itself, suffering only one casualty before the ground operation. Had the Iron Dome not existed, the numbers would be quite different—with potentially thousands of Israeli civilian deaths. Israel has been given no other option than to retaliate against Hamas, unintentionally killing Palestinians in the process. I’m fairly certain that most people know of the incalculable number of casualties in Gaza. But realistically, it is pretty difficult not to kill civilians when Hamas intentionally puts them in harms way.

So who is really the captor of Gaza? Is it Israel: a peace-seeking nation that is forced to contain Gaza to prevent its own destruction? Or is it Hamas: an internationally recognized terrorist organization that threatens its fellow Muslims and Arabs in order to make Israel appear egregious; that disguises the smuggling of weapons as ‘international trade’; that fires thousands of rockets at Israel and takes pride in breaking officiated cease fires; that has used roughly 180,000 tons of Israeli construction aid to Gaza intended for hospitals, schools, mosques, infrastructure, and homes to instead build terror tunnels; that has killed at least 160 Palestinian children in slave labor to build those very tunnels; that hides its weapons caches in public hospitals, homes, markets, and schools; that, according to Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of its founders, “is not seeking coexistence or compromise,” but the “building of an Islamic state on the rubble of every civilization”; and that is a group that, as Yousef also describes, “worships through murder.”

The Palestinians are not caged by Israel, but by this terrorist regime that ‘democratically’ assumed power in 2009. This regime cares not for the lives of its constituents, but only for the deaths of those who oppose its goals. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Many peace plans encourage negotiations between Israel and Hamas. This option is not reasonable, however, as Israel must follow the accepted policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists—a policy followed by almost all Western nations. That being said, Israelis and Palestinians must cooperate to fight the enemy—to fight Hamas. Instead of attacking each other with hateful articles, Israelis and Palestinians must focus on the enemy that is violating human rights. Israel must remain in Gaza to eliminate Hamas in the tunnels. Israel must also continue monitoring trade to prevent clandestine weapons shipments. Israel must ensure that its massive amounts of aid to the Palestinians reach construction zones, not underground headquarters. And Israel must expand its efforts in the more accurate yet risky ground invasion of Gaza that minimizes civilian casualties.

The Palestinians must also do their part. They must not remain in Israeli-targeted buildings as Hamas commands. Palestinians must deliver information about Hamas to the Israeli Defense Force and Mossad. They must resist Hamas in every way that they can. And, most importantly, Palestinians must identify Hamas as their enemy—not Israel, a nation who wanted peace in ’48, ’67, ’73, countless other times, and again now. Dennis Prager, an author and columnist, asks:

If tomorrow Israel laid down its arms and said, “we will fight no more,” what would happen? And if the Arab countries…laid down their arms and said “we will fight no more,” what would happen? In the first case, there would be the immediate destruction of the state of Israel and mass murder of its Jewish population. In the second case, there would be peace the next day.

Israel cannot put down its arms for obvious reasons. But, if Palestinian civilians and Israelis can cooperate to remove arms from Gaza—remove Hamas from Gaza—there will be peace. I return to my first two questions. Who is imprisoning Palestine? Hamas is imprisoning Palestine. And why aren’t the Palestinians free? The Palestinians aren’t free because Hamas values the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis far more than their lives as human beings.

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