Submission: In response to “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is Not a Conflict, it’s Colonialism”

This piece was submitted by UCSD student Benjamin Zaghi.

I would like to preface my article by thanking The UCSD Guardian for providing their viewership full transparency with regards to the previous op-ed relating to the Arab-Israel conflict. I believe it is imperative that students have a clear and holistic understanding of a story before delving deep into an article, especially an opinion piece. Unfortunately, the UC San Diego community has been subjected to a plethora of misinformation which has instigated the spread of bigotry across campus, sometimes under the cloak of justice. One such example is Zara Irshad’s “revised” op-ed that contains many factual errors and projects a one-sided narrative.  

Irshad gravely mischaracterizes a violent protest started by a group of Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Israeli response to restore peace and protect worshippers as reason for Hamas to “protest” by firing rockets into Israel in an attempt to murder Israeli civilians. In the course of two weeks, Hamas launched over 4,300 rockets from Gaza into Israel targeting the densely populated cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Be’er Sheva. 

While I too lament the loss of Palestinian lives, it is disingenuous to say Israel “murdered upward of 200 innocent Palestinians.” Irshad fails to mention that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. They keep their officials, weapons caches, and rocket launch sites near, or in homes, schools, and hospitals. In fact, Hamas killed innocent Palestinians in their attempts to kill innocent Israelis. Israel does everything in its power to limit damage, and warn civilians of an impending attack by dropping leaflets and sending phone and text messages. In contrast, Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that governs the Gaza Strip puts civilians in danger.

Irshad continues her account by comparing Israeli and Palestinian casualties. Many like Irshad say that “this is not an equal battle”, and to those that make that claim, I pose the question … would it be better if Israel didn’t defend itself and more innocent Israelis died? She utilizes the number of casualties without providing any context, ignorantly making a complex conflict into a numbers game. She whitewashes intifadas as mere “uprisings” when in fact, they were a series of coordinated efforts by Palestinian terror groups to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. Even after the recent ceasefire agreement, representatives from the PFLP, Fatah, and the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces called for “intifada,” or violence, and “popular rage” against Israel. 

The ignorance becomes increasingly evident when she states that Israel partakes in “ethnic cleansing.” This claim is a blatant lie considering that the Palestinian population has increased every year since 1948. Moreover, if Israel truly partook in “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, why would Israel have taken precautionary measures to minimize innocent Palestinian casualties?

Irshad continues her one-sided account at the United Nations’ proposed plan in 1947 and the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians. Firstly, she fails to mention that the Arab community rejected the deal, despite receiving more land than the Jews. Secondly, she neglects the fact that the displacement of “750,000 Palestinians” occurred after five Arab armies began a military campaign to defeat the fledgling Jewish state and ethnically cleanse the Jews from the land. 

Irshad continues her account by comparing Israel’s declaration of independence from Britain’s colonial rule to the European colonialists’ mistreatment of the indigenous people in America. Firstly, the Jews have been indigenous to the land of Israel since before the time the land was called Judea. As a result, the establishment of a Jewish state against Britain’s colonial rule was an act of decolonization, not colonization. The Jews were more than willing to live in peace with the Arabs despite receiving less land under the proposed UN Partition Plan of 1947– a plan which the Arabs ultimately rejected, and followed up with the invasion of five Arab armies in an attempt to eliminate the fledgling Jewish state.

Irshad continues her account by absurdly referring to Israel’s measures to protect its civilians as “terrorism.” Irshad’s bias is highlighted through her reference to Israel’s self defense as “terrorism” but Hamas’ terrorist strikes as “protests.” She states that Israel’s airstrikes are “inhumane” and a “form of religious terrorism toward the Muslim people”. However, she fails to acknowledge that Hamas is the aggressor, firing thousands of rockets into the holy city of Jerusalem, a city with religious significance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. She also fails to mention that Hamas disrespects religious places of worship within Gaza using mosques to plan terror attacks, hide weapons, and launch rockets. Moreover, Israel’s history shows great religious tolerance for all its people as it fosters a diverse demographic including Jews, Muslims, Christians, Baha’is, and more.

Irshad continues her account by shaming the United States for not supporting the Palestinians. However, she completely neglects the plethora of aid sent to the Palestinians. She blames the United States, yet she should be blaming the Palestinian leadership and Hamas for ineffectively utilizing the funding which could be used to revive the infrastructure in Gaza.  

Irshad continues her account by falsely stating that “Israeli forces have a history of attacking Palestinians at holy sites in Islam.” Moreover, she fails to mention that the Temple Mount is actually the holiest site for Jews, but Israel restricts the place from Jews so that the Muslims can pray at the Dome of the Rock. 

Irshad continues her account by saying that she condemns anti-Semitism, yet I question her sincerity as she attempts to delegitimize Zionism, ignoring that it is inextricable from Jewish identity. Zionism is defined as the right for Jews to self-determine in their ancestral homeland. Zionism is not mutually exclusive with the Palestinian right to self determination or human rights, in fact Israel has extended many offers to Palestinians offering to live in peace as neighbors. 

While Israel’s government is not perfect, it is imperative to be skeptical of her twisted narrative, which strictly seems to misinform her audiences with the intention to demonize the only Jewish country in the world. As an opinion editor of a well-read newspaper at UCSD, I expect better! 

I believe it is important that the UCSD community receives an honest assessment of the Arab-Israeli conflict; this means coming to terms with those who perpetuate violence, hatred, and bigotry. Hamas is responsible for both the onslaught of rockets and the oppression of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; to absolve them of this and shift blame to Israel is dishonest and counterproductive to the goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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