When the public eye once again turned to the Israel-Hamas War after Oct. 7, we heard many voices. Some of us fell silent, afraid to voice an opinion that was not popular in our circles. Cardinal Points seeks to end its silence and take a stand.
We deeply sympathize with all the civilian lives lost — more than 7,000 combined — as well as the over 15,000 injured and the at least a million people displaced and deprived of basic human necessities like food, water, shelter, electricity, and a way out of the largest open-air prison. It is the human thing to do, as we believe every human being deserves safety and dignity, and certainly, no civilian deserves to die or lose their home. We also will not ignore Israel’s 75-year history of war crimes, oppression and what is obviously an ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people, which continues today as it did in 1948, and that’s not even the beginning.
At the start of the 20th century, Western powers started meddling in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire, which would dissolve by 1922. The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence in 1915 and 1916 between Emir of Mecca Hussein ibn Ali and British High Commissioner Henry McMahon indicated British support for an independent Arab state. However, most of the correspondence focused on Turkish lands and did not detail the independence of the land of Palestine. The terms agreed to in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence were later contradicted when Great Britain and France, with the approval of Russia, made a secret convention in 1916 — the Sykes-Picot Agreement or the Asia Minor Agreement — to divide the lands of the Ottoman Empire into areas to be controlled by Britain or France. Palestine was to be international territory.
In 1917, Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, which promised that it would aid the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” divvying up land that was not theirs to give. In April 1920, the Allies divided the lands of what used to be the Ottoman Empire during the San Remo Conference in Italy. No representative of the Ottoman Empire itself was at the table. However, now Palestine would be under Mandatory British rule, and the terms stipulated that this state established as a “national home for the Jewish people” “would not involve the surrender of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” What started as a noble idea to give a people, who for centuries have escaped persecution and genocide, a state of their own where they can feel safe, without infringing on the rights of other inhabitants of the land, has led to slaughter and apartheid.
Great Britain turned what would become known as “the Palestine problem” over to the United Nations in 1947, after large-scale Jewish immigration to the region was met with resistance and violence that continued on both sides. The UN proposed a solution involving two independent states, one Palestinian Arab, the other Jewish, with Jerusalem remaining international territory. Israel proclaimed its independence in 1948 and in the years following, continued its expansion beyond the proposed borders, annexing Jerusalem and exiling, displacing or killing millions of Palestinians.
Israel calls the violence that followed its declaration as a state the War for Independence. Arabs refer to this as Al-Nakba, “the Disaster,” and Al-Jazeera describes it as a “near-total destruction of Palestinian society.” The Nakba includes more than 70 massacres that killed at least 15,000 Palestinians and displaced 750,000. In the years following, Israel continued its expansion beyond the proposed borders, annexing Jerusalem and exiling, displacing or killing millions of Palestinians.
Gaza is a 25-mile strip of Palestinian land where Israel has trapped Palestinians under a brutal siege for 16 years and violent military rule for 56 years. In comparison, Gaza is the size of Detroit, but with four times as many people. Being one of the most densely populated places in the world, a majority of the population are child refugees who have been forced out of their homes by Israel.
Since 2007, Israel has restricted Gaza’s electricity, drinking water, food and medicine. It has used white phosphorus, an incendiary chemical, in military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, violating international law. Israel also restricts crossings into Gaza. Dozens of foreign nationals — citizens of the U.S., U.K. and Egypt, who came to Gaza to visit family — now can’t return, and Palestinians cannot even flee this abuse. While the United States has turned a blind eye, international human rights organizations like the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Israel to end its apartheid system against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The United Nations has called Gaza “unlivable” for several years.
U.S. President Joe Biden recently visited Israel and drafted a proposal for $100 billion in foreign aid, $14 billion of which will go to assist Israel. Israel already gets $3.8 billion a year in military spending as per an agreement former President Barack Obama signed in 2016. Yet, only one of these causes is a struggle for freedom. The other is a genocide and an attempt at manifesting destiny. It is also a wildly irresponsible decision as the government faces another risk of shutting down when the current temporary funding bill expires Nov. 17.
When you mourn the more than 1,400 Israelis who have died since Oct. 7, the date of what the Associated Press referred to as the “deadliest attack in Israel in decades,” do not forget — or purposefully neglect — to mourn the 5,700 people, including 2,300 children, who have died in the Gaza Strip and the two million who continue to suffer as a result of the Israeli government’s actions. We find it sickening that in some cases, the side of this war that experienced more than three times the casualties and all the oppression is erased from the discussion. It is not right to equate people to their governments or other bodies claiming to represent them, such as the Islamist military group Hamas. This needs to be treated as a humanitarian issue, not a political one.
It truly can seem that our point of view is unpopular, and we worry it will not resonate with our community. This fear keeps us quiet and subdued. The New York Times reported Wednesday on a number of Harvard students who have been doxxed because their organizations signed an anti-Israel letter, saying “Israel was ‘entirely responsible’ for the violence.” The students’ faces and names, labeled as “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites,” were plastered on a truck that circled Harvard Square, one of the areas with the highest foot traffic on the campus, and Wall Street “demanded” a list of the students’ names to blacklist them for hiring. This kind of retaliation and backlash for expressing an opinion, as college students with our whole lives ahead of us and a job search to embark on soon — especially in the field of journalism — is terrifying. Yet, we cannot in good faith to our principles stay silent or neutral. If we do, we take the side of the oppressor.
As the media, we bear enormous responsibility in framing the war and informing our audience, and it can come at a high cost. Already, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported the deaths of 24 journalists — 20 Palestinian, three Israeli and one Lebanese. Eight are injured and three are missing or detained. Israel has also threatened to shut down the Jerusalem bureau of Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, once in 2017 and again now. Any government censorship of the press is cause for concern. Clearly, Israel is unhappy when we do our jobs. Perform your due diligence as an informed reader, too. When the news outlets you read focus too much on one side, seek out news from the other.
We see and condemn the state of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians and hope that Palestine can be free.
This article was updated Oct. 26, 2023 to include corrections for several factual errors within its historical background segment. The corrections were approved by the editors of all four sections.