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Israel-Palestine conflict: Dividing the American people and what it really means

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It is one of the most sensitive issues in modern politics. A topic many don't want to touch with a ten foot pole over fear of potential backlash. Whether it's a post you make on social media, a comment said around the water cooler or a thought you come up with in your head, nothing seems to tear apart political friends like the Israel/Palestine conflict.

While both liberals and conservatives seem to have their opinions on Israel and Palestine, the divide between those on the political left seems to be what is most strained. On one hand, you have staunch supporters of Israel, who defend any and all action against Palestine and the militant group Hamas, who seems to run the show in Palestine. Defenders of Israel and Israel themselves say they only want peace, but if Hamas is going to continue to fire rockets into their homeland, they have no choice but to retaliate and fight back.

On the flip side, you have defenders not of Hamas, but of the growing number of civilian causalities in Palestine who have lost their lives because of the continuing attacks coming from Israel. A recent attack resulted in 20 bodies being pulled out of a Khan Younis home that was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, including 4 children and a 9 month old baby.

The most recent attacks stem from the fallout after three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank and found 18 days later buried under a pile of rocks. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the children were murdered "in cold blood," stating that "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay." The Hamas members who acted in the killing of the teenagers did so without approval from their leadership, but were praised for the attack anyway. In an apparent retaliation, 16 year old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khdei was abducted while waiting for friends, thrown into a car and was driven toward Jerusalem where he was was hit on the head repeatedly with a wrench before being burned to death. Following these two tragedies, Israel began their attack on Palestine in Gaza on July 8.

After two weeks of fighting, the death toll has been completely one sided with nearly 700 Palestinians being killed compared to only 20 Israelis, but the number is relative. Thousands of rockets have been sent by both sides, even more coming from Gaza, but Israel has been more effective in their targeting. Since their ground attack started during weekend of July 19, Israeli military has hit 2,350 targets in Gaza, which include 1,100 rocket launchers according to CBS News. In addition, the Israeli military has announced that they uncovered 13 tunnels into Israel which they believe Hamas uses to their advantage in their attacks.

While the idea of "peace in the Middle East' sounds like a catchy slogan, it seems more and more unrealistic by the day. The core of this conflict goes back over 100 years when in the early 1900s, the mostly Arab-Muslim region was part of the Ottoman-Empire. As the years went on, hundreds of thousands of Jews started moving into the area as part of a movement known as "Zionism." The group of mostly European Jews attempted to flee persecution and create their own state with land they believe really belong to them. The fighting reached a boiling point in 1947 and the United Nations approved a plan that would have split the land into two countries. The Jews would live in what would be known as Israel, and the Arabs would live in what would be called Palestine. One area would be considered neutral, Jerusalem, because it is considered holy by both sides.

The plan was rejected by the Arabs who considered the actions "theft" and the war between Israel and Palestine began. Israel won in 1948, but pushed the boundaries of their victory far beyond that of the proposed 1947 agreement. Over 700,000 Palestinians were uprooted from their homes and that number has reached to nearly 7 million. The only two areas set for Palestinians are Gaza and the West Bank, which are mostly controlled by Israeli military forces.

The United States has stood by Israel as a strong ally in the region, but with that has come criticism from many within the US. The United States subsides 25 percent of the Israeli military and sends over $3 billion a year to a country that is already quite wealthy. Critics of military aid to Israel note that a country with a debt of $17 trillion and counting can not continue to send a bloated "aid" package, while at the same cutting services to those in need in their own country.

No matter where you stand on the issue, both sides can make a valid argument for why they believe they should hold ownership of the land. At the end of the day, this fight should between the leaders of both countries, but it is not. The latest round of fighting was sparked by the deaths of three Israelis and one Palestine teenager. Reports show that up to 70 percent of the causalities have been civilians over the last two weeks of fighting. Whether you stand with Israeli or Palestine, one could only hope that you also stand with the innocent people who have lost their lives on both sides of the battle.

(Updated: 7/23/2014)

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