Who are the Palestinians in Gaza protesting against?

May 9, 2019 by Gidon Ben-Zvi
Read on for article

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar has unleashed a firestorm of controversy for empathizing with the plight of an oppressed people.

Gidon Ben-Zvi

Responding to a violent weekend  during which nearly 700 rockets were launched at Israel by the ruling party of Gaza, Hamas, Rep. Omar tweeted:

“How many more protesters must be shot, rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends? The status quo of occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza is unsustainable. Only real justice can bring about security and lasting peace.”

This rather bland objection to the horror of war and terrorism is especially insidious because of its vagueness. Any good-hearted, fair-minded person will agree that violence against peaceful protesters and children is bad. Similarly, no rational human being would choose to live in a place where a foreign occupying power is creating a humanitarian crisis for its inhabitants. And being pro-justice, security and peace are the moral equivalents of supporting oxygen, health and love. Spouting such sweet sounding bromides allows Omar to establish her virtuousness without the heavy responsibility of having to assign a cause for human suffering.

Instead, Omar’s statement substitutes causation with correlation. Her tweet suggests an association between Israel’s military response and the abuses inflicted on Palestinian children. Representative Omar is silent on the question of who’s responsible for the daily horrors being inflicted on Gaza’s approximately one million children. But only by establishing a causal link can we begin to consider ways to end the suffering of Gaza’s children. Some facts about being a child in Gaza are thus worth considering.

Imprisoned, Tortured

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) finds that large numbers of detainees in Palestinian jails (Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip) were children between 16 and 17. Detainees were subjected to different forms of torture, including beating, kicking, punching, flogging, cold water dousing and being forced to strip.

Honour Killings

Amnesty International reports that women and girls continue to face discrimination in law and practice. They are inadequately protected against sexual and other gender-based violence, including honour killings. At least 28 women and girls were reported to have been killed by male relatives in such a manner between 2017 and 2018.

Disabled Children

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has repeatedly found that disabled children suffer from discrimination and degrading treatment in both the West Bank and Gaza. One report revealed that 37.6% of children with disabilities 15 and up had never been enrolled in an educational institution, with 53.1% being reported as illiterate.


UNICEF also reports that the family poverty rate in the Gaza Strip is 53.7%, one of the highest rates in the world. With unemployment reaching 60% of youth in the Gaza Strip, coping mechanisms are eroding fast. As a result, some children and families are resorting to such negative strategies as dropping out of school, child labour, substance abuse and child marriages.

Hamas Summer Camp

Beginning in July, thousands of Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip will receive military training as part of Hamas’s and other militant groups’ summer camp programs. The camps are aimed at preparing children as young as 12 to fight against Israel. In some of these retreats, children are instructed in the basics of military action, how to carry and fire weapons, techniques to navigate obstacle courses and other combat skills.

Meanwhile, Back in Israel

Representative Omar associates Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip with the suffering of the Palestinian people. Setting aside the fact that in 2005 the Israeli army withdrew from Gaza, dismantled all Israeli settlements in the area and removed 8,500 Jewish Israelis, there’s a simple way to analyze the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians: the state of the Arab population in Israel.

It’s difficult to square the idea of Israel as the primary cause of Palestinians’ misery with the findings of a recent survey by the Smith Research Institute, which indicates that a “…decisive majority of Arab citizens would like to be integrated into the State of Israel on the basis of full and inclusive citizenship, including mandatory civil service.” The survey reveals that Arab citizens are interested in being equal and integrated Israelis within the state, even though it defines itself as Jewish and democratic, as long as the state does not discriminate against them on civil matters of citizens’ rights. The survey also reveals that “…most Jews are interested in granting equal citizenship to Arab citizens and are even willing to grant them some degree of collective rights based on their national minority status.”

One interesting indication of Arab citizens’ desire to integrate into the wider Israeli society is the language they choose to communicate in. Tzvi Barel, Middle East commentator of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, notes that Israel’s Arabs are actually using too much Hebrew to his liking. The proliferation of Hebrew can be seen in the signs of shops and businesses in Israeli Arab towns and villages. Barel also observes that the conversation of Israeli Arabs when talking among themselves is increasingly full of Hebrew words and phrases.

Another survey questions the conventional wisdom that Israel is the cause of Palestinian misfortune. A survey by the Israel Democracy Institute reveals that Israeli Arabs are more satisfied than Israel’s Jewish citizens. According to the study, Israeli Arabs are more likely than Jewish Israelis to describe the country’s “overall situation” as good or very good, by 66% to 43.9%.

“We Want to Live”

While Representative Ilhan Omar raises the possibility that Israel is the root of Palestinians’ misery, Gazans seem to disagree. Over the past week, Palestinians have been demonstrating under the slogan: “We want to live.”The Gaza Strip is on the verge of a major public-health crisis: shortages of both doctors and medications have become critical and hospitals have been sending patients home untreated.

Omar may be surprised to learn that “We want to live” isn’t in reference to Israel at all. Otherwise, why did Hamas security forces respond by beating demonstrators, including two senior representatives of the Palestinian watchdog the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)?

Maybe the freshman U.S. Representative from Minnesota’s 5th congressional district should take a break from tweeting to bone up on the difference between cause on correlation. The people she claims to be defending deserve at least that courtesy.

Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer who left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem stone. After serving in an IDF infantry unit for two-and-a-half years, Gidon returned to the United States before settling in Israel, where he aspires to raise a brood of children who speak English fluently – with an Israeli accent. Ben-Zvi contributes to The Algemeiner, The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post , Truth Revolt, American Thinker and United with Israel.


One Response to “Who are the Palestinians in Gaza protesting against?”
  1. Geoff Toister says:

    While Ben-Zvi notes that “in 2005 the Israeli army withdrew from Gaza”, his use of the word “occupation” is unfortunate. Israel does not occupy the Gaza Strip. Whatever hardships it does inflict on the residents of the strip are directly related to its naval blockade. On the other hand, it supplies the strip with electricity and permits its use of the Israeli Shekel as a means of exchange.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.