On March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians began wide-scale protests at the border between Gaza and Israel in what they termed the “Great Return March,” as reported by the New York Times. Protest activity and Israeli military activity has remained constant since, with Palestinian activists planning a climatic mass demonstration on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. Supporters claim that Palestinians are peacefully protesting Israeli occupation of their land, while detractors claim the protests are unfounded and violent in nature. What should international observers make of this new movement, and how can further violence between Israelis and Palestinians be avoided? 

Mollie Goldfarb ’20

First off, it is an undeniable fact that Palestinians in Gaza, under the rule of Hamas, are suffering. Israel has dedicated immense amounts of resources to remedy the Gaza crisis; however, Hamas has used these resources to fund terrorism. These acts of violence by Palestinians are extremely dangerous and counterproductive to attain peace. For instance, Palestinians recently attempted to cut open the border and threw firebombs at Israeli soldiers, forcing Israel to defend itself, which is a right of any nation. While protesting is a valid way to advocate for change, especially for people living in awful conditions, violent protest is unacceptable. Nevertheless, if I knew the solution to prevent Palestinian-Israeli fighting, I would have won a Nobel Peace Prize. While the question is difficult to answer, I hope we can achieve peace in the future but in the meantime search for a more effective way to solve the humanitarian crisis.

Mollie Goldfarb ’20 is president of Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee. 

Lucy Pugh-Sellers ’20 

If we want to put an end to violence in the area, Israel has to end its occupation of Gaza as soon as possible. For too long, the Palestinian people have had their self-agency stolen away from them by the Israeli government. Many Palestinians can no longer bear the strain of occupation. The people of Gaza are putting their life on the line to protest because Israel has put their homes and families under siege since 2005, when they “ceded the land” but set it up for failure with a harsh economic and material blockade. During these recent Nakba Day protests, the Israeli military has murdered over 50 Palestinian protesters and gravely wounded over 2000. This is authoritarianism, pure and simple. Israel must disengage from Gaza immediately and set up some form of reparations fund to rebuild the communities they destroyed. Ultimately, we should focus on respecting and listening to Palestinian voices that have been ignored for far too long. 

Lucy Pugh-Sellers 20 is a founding member of Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine. 

Hannah Moser ‘18

Palestinians have the right to peacefully protest in order vocalize rights to their land. Similarly, the Israeli government has the right to protect its borders. Amidst peaceful protest, a few violent individuals have risen out of the crowd of Gazans trying to breach the border and attack Israeli soldiers. The IDF has responded to violence per their right, but did so with excessive force which resulted in unjustified death and injury to many innocent Palestinians. I believe we must look at the systematic deprivation in Gaza, where most people lack power, clean water, and basic humanitarian resources. Peace cannot be achieved until human rights are recognized for all peoples in the region on an international level. Additionally, the ongoing failure of the United States administration to seriously engage with Palestinian concerns exacerbates the conflict, endangering everyone involved and narrowing the prospects of peace.

Hannah Moser ‘18 is co-chair of J Street U Brandeis. 

Linfei Yang ‘20

International observers should recognize the imposed blockade, Gaza’s currently dire living conditions, as well as the recent aggressions that have galvanized the current situation. International observers should also realize the importance of this movement being the first of its kind to advocate peaceful, nonviolence in such scales and how this provides us with an opportunity to both support and hold the IDF accountable to these principles. It is with this same method that we condemn the IDF’s indiscriminate killing of over 30 civilians, including both a journalist and minors, as a clear violation of human rights, threat to Israeli democracy, and harm the Jewish values it was founded upon – just as we support Israel’s security. But most importantly, international observers should see that understanding who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor in this situation is the only way we can even begin to avoid future violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Linfei Yang ‘20 is the International Student Senator.