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UA professor discusses Israel-Palestinian conflict, urges Alabamians to be careful of misinformation

Palestinians rescue a survivor of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Nusseirat refugee camp, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ali Mohmoud)
Ali Mohmoud/AP
Palestinians rescue a survivor of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Nusseirat refugee camp, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ali Mohmoud)

Conversation, backlash and support continue surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including here in Alabama. A surge of recent attacks between the two sides began on October 7, when militants from the Palestinian radical group Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel. 1,300 civilians were killed, and 150 hostages were taken. Meantime, Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip has left more than 6,000 people dead. One third of those casualties are children, reports Al Jazeera.

U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for billions of dollars, in part, to support Israel as the attacks continue. The Associated Press reports a breakdown of how the requested $105 billion would be used: “$60 billion for Ukraine… $14 billion for Israel, $10 billion for unspecified humanitarian efforts, $14 billion for managing the U.S.-Mexico border and fighting fentanyl trafficking and $7 billion for the Indo-Pacific region, which includes Taiwan.”

President Biden’s request for aid comes as humanitarian efforts have begun to enter Gaza. NPR reported on Oct. 21, 20 trucks with medicine, medical supplies and food entered the territory. These trucks are the first that have been inside Gaza since the Israeli attacks began weeks ago.

As efforts are made to help those in Gaza, two Israeli hostages were released by Hamas this week, but more than 200 people remain captive. This comes as Al Jazeera reports Israel declined to receive the two hostages recently released.

Tensions and actions came to a head earlier this month, but the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been happening for several decades. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the start of the conflict dates back to the end of the 19th century.

Daniel Levine, the Aaron Aronov Chair of Judaic Studies at The University of Alabama, said failed peace negotiations play a part in this conflict.

“Part of why there is a long and unresolved confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians is because of a peace negotiation, or an attempt to that peace negotiation in the 1990s, failed,” Levine said.

At the time of this publication, at least 5,791 Palestinians, including 2,360 children, have been killed as a result of Israeli assaults on Gaza. Levine explained about 2.5 million people live in the tiny territory. During the 1948 Palestine War, thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes. Many relocated to the Gaza Strip.

“It's one of the densest, most densely populated places in the world,” he said. “Most of its residents are people who used to live in what is now the central part of the State of Israel. They were made refugees by that war.”

Countries across the globe are having different reactions to the current attacks happening in the Middle East. European states and the United States have shown support toward Israel.

Levine said the reaction from countries in support of Israel comes from various points in each country’s history. He said Europe, in particular, has had an almost instinctive reaction to the attacks.

“There is the historical effect. Some of the most powerful states in the European Union are also the states in which the genocide against Jews in WWII was carried out. And so, for many of them, when they hear the kind of antisemitic rhetoric that Hamas engages in, it’s almost an instinctive reaction. I think many of those states are supporting Israel for that reason,” Levine said.

The U.S. has also shown immense support toward Israel. Levine said the relationship between the United States and Israel goes back many years because the history between the two is strong.

“In the case of the U.S. in Israel, there is a very long, very deep strategic alliance. Going back to the beginning, under the Nixon administration, and deepening on in the Reagan [administration], first Bush administration… That has been there ever since,” Levine said. “So, there are strong strategic ties between the countries. Since Israel is identified as a major U.S. ally, American prestige is at stake.”

Levine said that while America is publicly supporting Israel, there is a chance that in private, U.S. leaders are condemning the recent actions by Israel.

“So, what the Americans are trying to do is signal to Israel publicly that they support them. My guess is that privately, they're saying to the Israelis: ‘We expect you to be proportionate in your response.’ Though, it's not clear what that means.”

With widespread coverage of the events happening in the Middle East, misinformation and disinformation have been circulating as well. Levine said Americans might not be as informed about Israel as they think they are.

“A lot of Americans think they know a lot about Israel, but they really don't. They come [with] very particular religious beliefs, traditions and narratives,” Levine said.

This conflict spans for many decades and can seem overwhelming with all of the information shown at once. Becoming educated on the topic and understanding why Palestine and Israel have conflict is important. Levine said when he teaches this subject in class, he asks his students to consider that they are not as educated on the topic as they believe they are.

“I asked everyone to consider the possibility that they simply don't know this region, or this conflict well. That they allow themselves to view it as something that they don't know; that they should not assume that they know it. Just because they learn something in Sunday school, or because they watch something on TV, or because their parents are from a certain place or because they visited a certain place last summer.”

Andrea Tinker is a student intern at Alabama Public Radio. She is majoring in News Media with a minor in African American Studies at The University of Alabama. In her free time, Andrea loves to listen to all types of music, spending time with family, and reading about anything pop culture related.

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