Tensions have always been high between Israel and Palestinians, but they broke out into war on Oct. 7 when the Palestinian militant group Hamas encroached on Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip, a territory that borders Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, killing at least 1,400, wounding more than 3,400, and taking hostage around 200 Israelis and other nationals, including 10 to 20 American citizens that the Biden Administration is trying to recover safely. Israel’s military forces, in turn, took to the air, launching artillery strikes that killed upwards of 3,700 Palestinians in Gaza, per the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
In light of the tragedies, Bellevue College president David May sent a statement to the entire BC student body regarding the issue:
“Bellevue College is deeply upset and saddened by the attacks perpetrated by Hamas in Israel and the ongoing Israeli response in Gaza,” it opened. “As the true depths of those events becomes known, I and the college are dismayed by the violence and resulting loss of innocent life. BC expresses our deepest sympathy for all those directly or indirectly impacted by this escalating conflict.”
We are fortunate to have some historical context of the events shared by the BBC, establishing heightened tensions between Israel and Palestinians that date back nearly a century. The country we now know as Israel was known as Palestine, which was taken over by Britain following World War 1. Under the British mandate in Palestine, which was established following the Balfour Declaration, the British were tasked with establishing a home in Palestine for the Jewish minority within the primarily Arab nation.
Following the Holocaust, when more than six million Jews were killed by Nazis in Europe, approximately 350,000 remaining Jews migrated to what they consider to be their historical homeland, according to the Bible. With the ending of the British mandate in Palestine, the State of Israel was established following a United Nations resolution that was supported by the majority of the world’s countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, making it a new home for Jews in a time when they were fleeing persecution. Following the State of Israel’s declaration of independence, neighboring nations, namely Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, who disagreed with the United Nation’s decision, launched an invasion, resulting in Palestinian refugees fleeing to Gaza and other neighboring Arab countries. These days, Palestinian refugees are largely located in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a territory in Eastern Israel that shares a border with Jordan to the East. Now, the city of Jerusalem is divided. While Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1950, Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as theirs.
Until recent events, Israel provided vital services and assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, such as water, electricity, food, medicine and jobs. Israel supplies from 10 to 30 percent of Gaza’s drinking water; provides about 70 percent of Gaza’s electricity; since 2007, most of Gaza’s food and medicine supplies have passed through Israel; and Israel used to employ thousands of Palestinian workers from Gaza and the West Bank. This provided some hope for collaboration and peaceful coexistence, which has now been shattered.
The history of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is as muddled with bias as it is bloody, culminating with what we’ve seen in the news this month. To end his statement, Dr. May pointed people who are or know someone who is affected by this crisis to the appropriate places on campus. Students can contact the Counseling Center, while staff can contact the Employee Assistance Program.