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Practice skepticism in Israeli affairs

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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On Nov. 21, while many Iowa City residents were preparing for a Thanksgiving feast, those living in Israel and the Gaza Strip were concerned with more dire manners: the stability of a ceasefire to the recent conflict in the region.
Fortunately, U.S. Secretary of Defense Hillary Rodham Clinton and Egyptian officials were able to influence the negotiations, and Israel and the Gaza Strip have agreed to a fragile ceasefire.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board staunchly encourages a healthy skepticism toward both sides of this conflict and urges people, particularly students, not speak out against nor in favor of either side without ample evidence of the current situation.  

Members of Iowa Hillel, a Jewish organization that strongly supports Israel's right to protect itself, have organized events this month to promote awareness locally.

"We are supporting peace, but it is hard to promote peace when you're [Israelis] the one that's being targeted," said Tracey Wool, a member of Iowa Hillel. "Americans just are not experiencing what they are experiencing everyday."

Still, Americans do have an influence in the Israeli conflict, both historically and today.

According to the Congressional Research Office, Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. financial aid. The United States, since World War II, has given Israel $115 billion and has helped create what is known as the Iron Dome, a sophisticated missile-defense system that has allowed Israel to be considerably safer than its enemies when responding to attacks.

"One of the problems right now with negotiations is that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization by the United States and Israel," said Vicki Hesli, a UI professor of political science. "And as long as it is, it will be difficult to negotiate because the United States has a policy to not negotiate with terrorists."

Negotiations are key to seeking peace. Yet there is little reason to suppose that Hamas will reach an agreement, as they have been since their founding in 1987, against Israel's very existence.

Hamas is a Palestinian political party that was elected to power in Gaza in 2006. The United States views the organization as a setback for Arab-Israeli peace, because Hamas is responsible for 350 terrorist attacks and the deaths of approximately 500 people since 1993, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The United Nations declared Gaza a humanitarian crisis in 2011 because of the Israeli blockade, which is supported by the United States. However, the blockade appears only to have hurt Palestinians in Gaza by decreasing their economy and access to nutrients, but the U.S. Department of State shows that Hamas is still capable of smuggling weapons through tunnels.

Still, the council further reports that Hamas is not focused entirely on terrorism but devotes a large part of its budget to supporting social welfare of Palestinians, which may have attributed to the success in Gaza politics.

Naming Hamas a terrorist organization stops negotiations. While we must monitor the group and keep it from attacking Israel, the declaration of terrorist organization may need more consideration, and the humanitarian concerns warrant immediate resolution.

"The Gaza strip is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis because of the Israeli blockade," Hesli said. "People don't have enough to eat; people are suffering."


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