TWITTER'S GREAT for learning what your friends ate for lunch—but not so great for educating yourself about complicated geopolitical conflicts. For example, when the continuing war between Hamas and Israel reached a boiling point this summer, amateur political scientists (including your friend Tyler who works at Red Robin) flocked to Twitter to offer their learned opinions and choose sides. And—OKAY, FINE, maybe I tweeted a couple of uninformed opinions myself. But I refuse to be satisfied with my ignorance!
This is why I challenged myself to spend four full hours learning everything I could about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. (Note: Four hours is probably three hours and 57 minutes longer than most people have spent on the subject.) So! Here's everything my four hours of internet research taught me. (Note #2: Yes, I'm leaving out several incidents you think are critical. Congratulations, you're smarter than me, go buy yourself a sandwich.)
Tensions between Arabs and Jews had been simmering since 1917, but the crux of the conflict began in 1948, when the British withdrew from Palestine. Displaced by fascism and the Holocaust, Jews were like, "Awesome! Dibs on Palestine, and we're calling it 'Israel.' Where can we put our stuff?" Meanwhile, resident Palestinian Arabs were like, "No freaking way!" (Analogy: Californians moving to Oregon and saying, "Oh, BTW, Oregon is now called 'California.'")
The United Nations tried to smooth things over by dividing Palestine into three parts: an Arab state, a Jewish state, and Jerusalem, which would be governed internationally. This idea did not go over well, and thus began the first Arab-Israeli war, which ended with Israel winning the original territory plotted out for them—and then saying, "Oh, we're also taking 50 percent more land for our trouble, thankyouverymuch." No one else liked that—especially the 900,000 Palestinians forced to flee from their country.
Skirmishes continued over the next few years, but shit got real in 1964 when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed. Under the eventual leadership of Yasser Arafat, their goal was nothing less than the destruction of Israel. More fighting ensued, and in 1967 Israel picked up the Gaza Strip in this continuing game of Risk.
Flash forward through numerous fights, ceasefires, Israel yoinking more of Palestine, and yet more fighting, until 1993, when Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to disagree and leave each other in peace. That lasted until the murders, assassinations, and religious offenses piled up, leading Israel to figure out new and interesting ways of stealing more Palestinian land. And then along came Hamas!
Founded on Islamic principles, Hamas vowed to free Palestine, take back Israel, and create a new Islamic state. After numerous violent conflicts with the group, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and soon after, Hamas defeated the reigning PLO party, winning a majority in the Palestinian Parliament. Completely freaked out by Hamas' militant attitude, Israel enforced a blockade on Gaza in 2007, causing significant hardship on the populace. Since that time, Hamas has been shooting rockets at Israel (often from hospitals and schools, thereby drawing fire to sensitive civilian areas), kidnapping and murdering, and digging tunnels to facilitate various attacks—actions that pushed Israel to completely lose its shit in the summer of 2014 and retaliate, killing, at last count, roughly 2,100 Gazans (500 of whom were children). After an incredible amount of bloodshed, on August 26, 2014, an open-ended ceasefire was announced—and god knows what will happen next.
Agreed: My recently acquired knowledge of this practically unnavigable labyrinth of politics, religion, and racism remains laughably slim—but it does provide two important lessons we can all agree on: (1) We should all stop tweeting opinions about Middle Eastern politics, and (2) at least I know more about Gaza than Tyler from Red Robin.