Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Conflict in Gaza Transcends Ethnicity and Religion

 by Brandon Janse Van Vuuren

Over the last decade, it seems that despite many efforts from the international community, peace in the Middle East seems highly unlikely. Reports of attacks and casualties have been staggering and have left the population devastated. The current death toll stands at 1400 people, and just a few hours ago the latest ceasefire was broken.

While the conflict has extremely complex historical roots, dealing with land, religion and the influence of the international community, the current attacks have reignited the interest of the world in this longstanding conflict.

Hamas is a Sunni Islamic group residing in and ruling Palestine. The Sunni denomination of Islam are a traditional branch of the faith. The Sunni denomination also constitutes the largest part of the Islamic population. The Gaza strip has been ruled by Hamas from 2007 until 2014. In the election of 2006 the liberal Fatah party lost to the now ruling Hamas.

After the election, the parties established a unity government. During the period of 2007 and 2014 there has been various conflicts in this area due to the differences between Fatah and Hamas. After the division of these two parties conflicts erupted between similar groups in Gaza and with Israel. The Hamas party was founded with the idea to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation.

This age-old war rekindled its spark when three young Israeli students were killed on June 10 2014. The Israeli forces then conducted a massive manhunt and found the three young men executed on June 30, after which a string of anti-Palestinian violence occurred, regarded as an act of aggression by Israeli extremists. Since then there have been intermittent rocket fire between Israel and Gaza.

On July 15 2014, there seemed to be the possibility of peace when Israel accepted a ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt; however, this ceasefire did not last long and the conflict has been escalating in the weeks since.

The reaction of the international community has been unsatisfactory, with many seeming unwilling to engage in this humanitarian crisis. Often, commentators seem to be influenced by the religious or ethnic considerations, and these factors seem to cloud their reason in dealing with the issue of large-scale killing.

While it is commonplace for religion to create divisions and for people to choose sides in this conflict based on their own faith, the ultimate goal should always be peace. It is essential that negotiations take place in order to put an end to the senseless killing and the loss of civilian lives. It should be the priority of the international community to facilitate these negotiations and to make sure that compromises and mutual understanding are reached before more lives are lost.