Violence Should be Condemned and So Should the Status Quo

If you’ve opened a news app on your phone this past week or scrolled through your social media feed, it’s hard to miss the headlines about what’s going on in Israel. The truth is that what’s been going on can only be described as heart wrenching. There have been several stabbings and acts of terror occurring throughout Israel and the West Bank that are being perpetuated by frustrated and disenfranchised Palestinians. These attacks, however, are terrorist attacks and should be labelled as such and condemned by all people of good conscience.

As if the current circumstances weren’t troubling enough, in an attempt to fan the flames of an already unsettling situation, the internationally recognized terrorist organization and official government of Gaza, Hamas, has declared this to be an intifada. They have even begun distributing a video in which they encourage Palestinians to take up arms against Israeli civilians.

While President Abbas is said to be working with Israeli security forces, he has recently stated that the Palestinians will no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords and has further encouraged those who have taken up arms for the cause by saying: “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will.”

While the attacks that are being carried out are cruel and barbaric, I refuse to give into the rhetoric that this somehow proves that a two-state solution is unattainable. I also refuse to give into the rhetoric that if the Palestinians were to wait long enough, peace talks would resume. The reality is that the situation is far more complicated (and even more frustrating) than how it’s being portrayed by those on both sides of the spectrum.

In order for the violence to stop and peace to be reached, there has to be an understanding by those on both sides. The Palestinians must understand that the killing of soldiers and innocent civilians is never the answer and that such violence only hurts their case for statehood. However, the Israelis must understand that Netanyahu’s words and actions haven’t indicate any intention of granting the Palestinians statehood either.

However, not all the blame falls on Prime Minister Netanyahu. It would be unfair not to point out that during the last round of negotiations, Mr. Abbas refused to compromise by giving up any part of Jerusalem; even if that compromise would result in a meaningful and lasting peace between the two nations.

There is no doubt that those residing in the West Bank are enduring less-than-positive living conditions and there is also no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been less than receptive to their pleas. However, the solution is not to take up arms and attack innocent civilians.

But what then, is the solution? If you were a Palestinian born in the West Bank, what would you do? The unfortunate reality is that if you were born and raised in the West Bank for the last twenty years, you would realize that things have only gotten worse during your life time. If you were born in the West Bank, you would be technically stateless, having no Israeli citizenship to call your own but also no Palestinian citizenship either because it’s not an official state. You also wouldn’t have access to quality health care or education. Additionally, either you, someone from your family, one of your friends, or all three would have been affected in some way by Israeli settlement expansion or land development project. You would also be enduring a reality where your freedom of movement has been greatly curtailed. Moreover, you’d be in an atmosphere of extremism, being constantly told by your political and religious leaders that all of these problems are caused by Israel and only Israel, with no fault belonging to your own callous and corrupt governing bodies who are intentionally withholding the aid that Israel provides them with to further push their agenda.

While the State of Israel itself is a beacon of hope and democracy in the Middle East, the same sadly cannot be said for the West Bank.

And so we’ve reached a stalemate. Through doing the right thing and doing your best to maintain confidence in the peace process, there has been no progress. So what’s left for you to do?

The answer isn’t clear-cut. What is certain, however, is that the leadership on both sides have done a great disservice to their people. Mr. Abbas has used his power to enable violence instead of diffusing it and Mr. Netanyahu has used his power to say one thing and do another, expanding settlements while claiming that he’s ready for peace talks.

While it has been shown in the past that the settlements are not the sole barrier to peace, the reality is that by not making a concerted effort to go to the negotiating table, they have allowed the disenfranchised to try and change their situation by taking matters into their own hands. Think about how sad this scenario is: Palestinian teenagers are murdering innocent Israelis with household tools because they feel that that is their only chance at making a better life for themselves. How did we let ourselves get to this point?

Ask yourself: How many more innocent Israelis must die? How much longer do the Palestinians wish to be stateless? I stand with the Canadian government in calling for a categorical end to this senseless violence and brutality. Enough is enough!

About the Author
Michael Aarenau lives in Montreal, Quebec. He has a Bachelor's of Public Affairs and Policy Management from Carleton University and is currently pursuing a law degree at McGill University. Michael is passionate about human rights, international affairs and justice. For cheeky insights in 280 characters or less, follow him on twitter @MAarenau
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