Terrorist organization Hamas attacks Israel Oct. 7
On Oct. 7, Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas carried out a surprise attack on Israel by land through trucks and on foot, through water on motorboats, and from the sky via paragliders. Hamas soldiers stormed Israeli towns and massacred both civilians and officials. Since then, over 1,400 people have been confirmed dead in Israel, with another 5,400 people injured according to Israeli officials
In retaliation to the attack, Israeli air forces launched missile strikes at the Gaza Strip. Six thousand bombs were dropped on Gaza within the span of five days. An estimated 1.5 million Palestinian residents have been displaced from the Gaza Strip, with 11,100 confirmed dead and over 28,000 injured. Most Palestinians killed were women and children. The United Nations has described the conditions in Gaza as “a graveyard for children.”
On Oct. 8, a day after the surprise attack, Israel formally declared war on Hamas and renewed yet another period of violent disputes between the two groups.
Understanding the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict provides valuable insight into the deep-rooted complexities of this dispute. IB 20th Century Teacher Brent Chambers shares his thoughts on the importance of looking at the history of this conflict.
“I really feel strongly that to have a conversation about the conflict in Israel, one has to go back to at the very least 1917,” Chambers said. “It concerns me a great deal that people expressing strong opinions about this conflict have no idea what either the Sykes-Picot Agreement or more importantly, the Balfour Declaration was and I think any conversation about Israel and Palestine has to begin there.”
The current hostility between Israel and Palestine is not without history. The conflict can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Zionism, a Jewish nationalist movement for the development of a Jewish nation, was introduced in the late 19th century and continued to gain traction going into the 20th century. In 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration which promised “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object,” referring to what would have been Israel. But, just a year prior to this declaration, Britain was also involved in the Sykes-Picot Agreement with France. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret treaty between British and French diplomats in which they split up the Middle East and agreed Britain would keep Palestine. The effects of this agreement are still felt today in the Middle East in the form of regional tensions and instability. And yet another year prior, in 1915, the British promised support for an Arab state that included Palestine in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence.
After promising Palestine to themselves, the Zionists, and the Arabs, Britain would end up keeping Palestine as their colony, but they did attempt to follow through on a promise from the Balfour Declaration to promote Jewish immigration. The Jewish population would increase over 20% within the span of 20 years. This growing population started purchasing land from landowners and evicting their Palestinian laborers in hopes of establishing a strong Jewish community in Palestine. Palestinians, however, were unhappy with the unfolding events as the Jews were taking more and more of their land and resources. Tensions were high between the two groups and did not improve as World War II closed out. After the end of World War II, the issue of settling matters in Palestine was handed off to the newly formed United Nations. Under the United Nations’ Partition Plan in 1947, Palestine was split into a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. Soon after, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war broke out ending in an Israeli victory. This victory resulted in Israel gaining more land and over 700,000 Palestinians becoming refugees in Gaza and the West Bank as they fled their homes. The Israelis saw this victory as the beginning of their nation, and for Palestinians, the end of theirs.
The Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and surrounding Arab countries ended in the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and other surrounding territories, as well as the creation of over 250,000 Palestinian refugees.
The First Intifada in 1987 started out as a series of nonviolent protests and boycotts in resistance to Israeli control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, when the Israeli military started to put down these protests, violence ensued. Riots and demonstrations increased as well as the intensity of violence as lives were being taken on both sides. The First Intifada ended in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords which was, as stated in Britannica, “set of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that established a peace process for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” During this time, Hamas was born as a significant political and military power.
Hamas, short for “Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya” or the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” is composed of Palestinian members who reject the existence of Israel and stand for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. They have used political as well as militant forces to push their values. In 2006, they won a majority of parliamentary seats They conducted their first suicide bombing against Israel in 1993 and have launched numerous rocket attacks and bombings on Israel in the years since.
“People have a desire to speak of this in religious terms, as if there is an inevitable conflict between two of the world’s monotheistic religions,” Chambers said. “I disagree with that. This is a conflict that has its roots in a classic land dispute. I think it’s oversimplifying this conflict to see it simply in religious terms.”
Regardless of the roots of this conflict being over land, Hamas has included antisemitic views in their charter and outlined the slaughter of Jews as an objective.
Despite the geological distance between the violence happening in Israel and Michigan, this matter deeply affects individuals around Midland. Senior Ehren Lampcov has familial ties to Israel and shares his experience as a Jewish student and community member.
“I just want to exist as my own personal being,” Lampcov said. “I’ve dealt with my fair share of antisemitism. I’ve been sent death threats before, and it’s scary.”
The Anti-Defamation League reported that in the US, “antisemitic incidents had risen about 400% in the two weeks following the Oct. 7 attack, compared with the same period last year.”
Islamophobia has been on the rise as well. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that it received 774 reports of bias incidents from Muslims across the U.S. from Oct. 7 to Oct. 24. This is a 182% increase from any given 16-day stretch last year.
“People are feeling threatened and it’s profoundly disappointing that in 2023, we’re still capable of so much hate. And I wish it weren’t so.”IB 20th Century teacher Brent Chambers
In the age of advanced technology, social media has become a source of information for many. While it can be used as a tool for individuals to inform themselves, false news is also a danger along with harmful content.
“[Social media] is such a double-edged sword,” Chambers said. “It’s an understandable way that many people stay informed. I hope none of my students are watching things that they can’t unsee and I hope that all of us recognize that.”
Videos posted by Hamas as well as Israeli civilians of the killing and kidnapping of Israelis on Oct. 7 have circled the internet. Even though Hamas has been barred from most major social media platforms, they have found ways to continue posting this content for the world to see.
“You know, being Jewish and seeing what people are putting on the news and on social media. It’s a little bit scary,” Lampcov said.
Chambers is aware of the hate present in society due to the war and how it may affect people associated with the conflict.
“We have to do better as a people,” Chambers said. “First understanding these types of conflicts, and then making sure that people aren’t hurt merely because of their affiliation with a religion or a region. And it breaks my heart to see that.”