Memphis, TN – Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on January 18th after fighting a 22-day war in Gaza. The Israeli defense intent to stop Palestinian guerrillas from bombing southern Israel ended with 1300 lives taken. University of Memphis is hosting a special lecture called Israel on Campus, Elliot Chodoff is a political and military analyst specializing in the Middle East conflict and the global war on terrorists. He says the recent Israeli/Hamas conflict has been escalating since the 1980's.
He says Hamas has become more powerful over the past few years part of the rising tide of radical Islam in the Middle East. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and Hamas took over a couple years later and has increased rocket fire ever since. The Israeli response was to more than 10,000 rockets being fired in Israel.
This response has garnered a lot of criticism, with the media and others calling the actions aggressive and Israel's move out of Gaza and focus on the West Bank a mistake. Chodoff disagrees.
He says Israel actually pulled out of the Palestinian population centers in 1995 during the Oslo peace process. Chodoff says it's important to understand there are some one and a half million Palestinians living in Gaza and that Israel had no interest in ruling them in the first place. The only way for Israel to stay would have been for them to rule a population they had no interest to ruling.
Chodoff says the most frequent question asked from the U.S. is why? Why does the conflict continue without resolution. Numerous peace plans have been suggested, all similar in context. The plans propose a two-state solution whereby Israel would relinquish control of the lands it occupied in 1967. Jerusalem would be the capitol for both countries, and Palestinian refugees would renounce their right of return to what is now Israel in exchange for compensation or the right to emigrate to the new Palestinian state. Chodoff says these ideas have been considered but are mute.
In 2005 the Gaza population elected Hamas, a radical Islamic party, to the majority power in it's council elections. Chodoff says a treaty means nothing when one side doesn't recognize the law and now the Palestinians are suffering the consequences of their election campaign.
Despite Hamas being a terrorist organization, Palestinians democratically elected them as their leaders. Ceylon Mooney is a Memphis resident and is currently volunteering in the south Hebron Hills of the West Bank in a small village called At-Tuwani. The non-violent village reports attacks from the Israeli Army and surrounding settlers on a daily basis, in the name of Israeli settlement expansion. Mooney is there serving as a form of protector with the Christian Peacemaker Team. He says his job is to protect the farmers and residents against the daily attacks and record their frequency. He then reports the harassment to whomever he can find that will listen and attempt justice.
An attack from the Israeli Army is illegal by means of international law. Chodoff questions these reports, but doesn't deny their occurrence. Mooney says the recent bombings by Israel affect those in the West Bank because of the severity-- never have they witnessed such aggression. For most of us back home we are left to visions portrayed by the media to develop our understanding. Mooney says being there in real life smashes a lot of stereotypes.
Elliot Chodoff says Israel is more pleasant than the images shown on television, he actually feels more safe at home than he does here in Memphis. While people here in the U.S. are searching for answers, Chodoff says he and the rest of the people back home are doing the same.