Letter to the editor: The reality of the conflict in the Middle East

UIS Observer Staff

We would like to echo Danielle Stanley’s call for social responsibility on the UIS campus in regards to the issue of the Occupied Territories and Israel.   In the interest of balance, we would like to respectfully disagree with Danielle Stanley’s guest column “Understanding the conflict in the Middle East” printed in last week’s edition of The Journal.

Ms. Stanley opens with perhaps the most controversial idea in the Middle East: “Politically, Jewish People have the right to live in their ancient homeland of Israel, and the modern state of Israel is the fulfilment [sic] of this historic right.” While we do not disagree with the idea of the Jewish people’s right to live in Israel, we would like to point out the Palestinian people’s right to live in Palestine. Historically, Arabs, and to a wider degree, Muslims have been living in the modern borders of Israel since the Battle of Yarmouk in 634 CE, and was more or less under control by Muslims and or Arabs until the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after WWI. During the course of WWI, the Arabs were promised a nation-state by Britain in exchange for fighting the Ottoman Empire (previously, the Arabs were a loose confederation of Bedouin tribes) by T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia.  However after WWI, in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain gave control of Modern Palestine to the British. At this time, Zionism, a recent form of Political Judaism started by Theodor Herzl, was a growing political movement across Europe.  In consequence of this, the Balfour Declaration from the British government  came about stating “His majesty’s view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.” Later the Balfour Declaration was incorporated in the Sevres Peace Treaty, and thus rendering T.E. Lawrence’s promise to the Arabs unfulfilled. The Arabs were snubbed, and Jewish people from all over the globe started to move into the British Mandate of Palestine. A land that Arabs and Muslims had lived in since 634 CE, was slowly turning into a Zionist Israel.

Following WWII, the British relinquished their mandate and Israel declared its independence in 1948.  Before and after Israel’s independence the Nakba, the Palestinian Exodus of Israel, occurred in which 711,000 to 725,000 Palestinians fled from or were expelled from their homes by Zionist authorities.  To this day, Palestinians are refugees and await the day Israel grants them their right to return to their historic homeland .

On June 5, 1967 Israel launched a surprise bomb raid on Egypt and started the Six Day War with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. In this war, Israel took the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, The West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria, leading to many Palestinians becoming refugees in their own land and Israel grew 3 times in size than before the war.

The Sinai Peninsula was given back to Egypt in exchange for its formal recognition of Israel, yet many dwell in today’s ghettos of the West Bank and Gaza. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli government regularly blocks the flow of humanitarian assistance, food, and building materials into the two areas.  Specifically, the naval blockade of Gaza by the Israeli Navy was deemed a violation of international law by UN Envoy Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Rights Council head Navi Pillay, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Furthermore, Israel is slowly shrinking the size of the West Bank and Gaza by building settlements for ultra-orthodox Jews. In response to the settlements UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk stated: “All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem have been established in clear violation of international law” adding that in the year 2012 alone “the settler population has increased by over 15,000.”

Furthermore, the body of Yasser Arafat, a former Palestinian leader, has been exhumed and is currently being tested for radiation poisoning that perhaps was committed by the Israeli government.  We also would like to point out that according to Amnesty International’s 2012 Annual Report: 307 Palestinians were imprisoned by the Israeli government in 2011 without trial, allegations of the torture of Palestinian children continue to be reported,  almost 1,100 Palestinians were displaced due to forced eviction, the Israel Parliament (called the Knesset) made it an offence to advocate boycotts against the Israeli people in the West Bank, the Knesset also made it an offence to for intuitions and municipalities to use the word “Nekba,” and lastly the Knesset is considering legislation to prevent funds to human rights organizations  based in Israel that provided information to the 2009 UN Fact-finding mission on the Gaza Conflict.

Overall, in light of this history lesson and the facts provided by Amnesty International we urge you to reconsider your opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of Palestinians’ right to return and for their human rights.


Amnesty International at UIS,

Marc Reiter, President of College Democrats , Major in Political Science, Junior

Qëndresa Selimi, Double Major in Global Studies and Political Science, Senior


Here is a link to ‘Understanding the conflict in the Middle East’ by Danielle Stanley: https://www.uisobserver.com/opinion/2013/02/06/understanding-the-conflict-in-the-middle-east/