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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What is fueling the escalating violence?

Posted at 6:31 AM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 06:31:24-04

(WSYM) — For many with ties to Israel or Gaza, videos and images of the recent violence have been hard to bear.

The Gaza Strip

"When air raid sirens are going off in Israeli cities, it is horrific. They are indiscriminate," said Oakland University Professor Michael Pytlik.

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Huwaida Arraf of Macomb County is a Palestinian American human rights attorney.

"The images of children being pulled out from under rubble is heart wrenching and infuriating, knowing that we are paying for it," said Arraf.

Library of Congress, Map

Arraf said she is thinking about the people she met in Gaza City when she visited with a delegation of American lawyers in 2009.

She said her parents came to the United States because they felt, as Palestinian Christians, like second-class citizens in Israel.

Huwaida Arraf

“What’s happening now is not complicated. It’s not a conflict between Muslims and Christians against the Jews. We don’t want to destroy Israel or drive the Jews into the sea. In fact,
most Palestinians are calling for one state where we can all live together with equal rights," said Arraf.

Wayne State University Associate Professor of History Howard Lupovitch and Saeed Khan, Senior Lecturer of near East Studies, agree that it is not all about religion.

They have together tried to help people understand the politics.

Saeed Khan

"The Israeli government was on the cusp of taking a really remarkable step forward. They were in the process of starting a new government sans Netanyahu which was going to bring together left-wing and right-wing. And also, more importantly, was going to include an Israeli Arab party," said Lupovitch.

Sheikh Jarrah

Professor Khan says there are three things that contributed to this current crisis: tensions over the expected forced evictions of families in East Jerusalem, an Israeli Police incident that turned violent at one of Islam's holiest mosques.

And then the bombings and rocket attacks in Tel Aviv and Gaza by Hamas and Israel.

Howard Lupovitch

Israel has said it is working to destroy the militant group Hamas, but these professors said in the end Hamas and extremist parties in Israel could become stronger.

"One has to wonder then was this partially orchestrated," said Lupovitch.

They said this conflict is about the potential future of democracies when there is extreme political divide exacerbated by social media. It comes after for the first time there were representatives elected in Israel who want to expel Arabs.

"It became a couple notches less marginalized in Israeli society even though most Israelis find it appalling," said Lupovitch.

Khan added, "I think these kind of issues hold up a mirror to America, and America has to decide what is reflective of its own values."

At least 217 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes, including 63 children, with more than 1,500 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, have been killed in rocket attacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.