A CLOSER LOOK: why the Israel-Palestinian conflict matters in Arkansas

A Closer Look

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — There has been escalating tension between Israel and Palestinian militants for nearly a week. In the last four days, more than 1,500 rockets have been launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, according to the U.S. Consulate General of Israel Gilad Katz — eight deaths have been reported. In Gaza, the health ministry reports 122 deaths and 900 wounded.

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Earlier this week, at least four United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) buildings were damaged due to strikes. No injuries were reported, but UNRWA, which are marked with a UN flag, said the premises should not be infringed due to international law.

“I said that we would strike Hamas and the other terrorist organizations very hard – and we are doing just that.

In the last 24 hours, we have attacked underground targets. Hamas thought that it could hide there but it cannot hide there. “Its senior officials think that they can flee from our strikes — they cannot flee.

We will reach them everywhere, all of these people, and we will continue to do so. “They attacked us on our holiday. They attacked our capital. They launched missiles at our cities.

They are paying and will pay, a very heavy price for this. This is not yet over.

We will do everything to restore security to our cities and our people. 

“I would like to say a word of appreciation to my friend President Biden and to other friends – the President of France, the British Prime Minister, the Chancellor of Austria, the Chancellor of Germany, and others.

They have upheld our natural and self-evident right to defend ourselves, to act in self-defense against these terrorists who both attack civilians and hide behind civilians. This will not help them, and we will continue to take action.”

May 14, 2021, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement by PM Benjamin Netanyahu

The international conflict has brought attention globally … including Arkansas.

“As events have continued to unfold in Israel, the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest would like to extend its thanks to the people of Arkansas for their support. Israel is continuing to respond to the attacks perpetrated against its innocent civilians, carried out by the terrorist organization, Hamas. It is our great hope that stability and security will soon be returned to The State of Israel.”

 Consul General of Israel to the Southwest, Gilad Katz

On Friday afternoon, May 14, 2021, a peace protest calling for a stop to the Israeli bombing of Gaza and to call to “Free Palestine” was held in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The OMNI Peace Action Committee called for an end to the Israeli apartheid occupation and Palestinian land seizure, which is the ultimate source of the conflict.

“The ongoing U.S.-backed Israeli bombing of residential buildings and civilian infrastructure has already killed 69 Palestinians, including 17 children and eight women, as of Thursday morning, May 13.  More than 390 Palestinians have also been wounded.  Seven Israelis have also been killed,” said chairperson Abel Tomlinson.

The University of Arkansas Muslims Students Association plans to gather at Bentonville Square beginning at noon on Saturday, May 15. “We hope to bring attention to the unjust eviction and occupation of the Palestinian people in the neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah (Jerusalem). This injustice and terrorization of the Palestinian people and the denial of their basic human rights is a violation of international law,” according to a statement.

The country of Israel is about the size of New Jersey, the fifth smallest state in the U.S by land (7,787 square miles, 165 miles long, and 40 miles wide).

Israel has the Mediterranean Sea to the west and borders Lebanon to the north, Golan Heights and Syria to the northeast, the West Bank and Jordan to the east, Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the southwest.

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians is not new, however, the current one has brought more attention because it appears globally more people are showing support, and have a heightened interest, for both Israelis and Palestinians.


“Seeing headlines saying, ‘Hamas bombs Israel,’ and, ‘Israel defends itself,’ is something I don’t care for,” said Haj. “That’s not the whole picture and it paints things in a much different light than the actual truth.”

Haj has a lot of family in the West Bank, and many family members have relocated to Jordan. “My father was born in Palestine,” she said.

Palestine State is recognized as a de jure sovereign state [partially] by the United Nations since 1948. Its population as of February 2020 was more than 5 million.

De jure: Coming straight from Latin, de jure is a term used mostly, but not always, in legal writing. Sometimes it’s not enough to have something written into law; if a law isn’t enforced, it might as well not exist. And if ordinary citizens are too scared of what would happen to them if they exercised their rights, then they don’t really have those rights at all. Unfortunately, many countries have constitutions and laws that sound good but turn out not to have much effect. So de jure is almost always used in contrast to something else; its opposite is de facto.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Haj believes this current conflict is an uphill battle and both sides need to be shown, especially because of the strong ties the U.S. has with Israel, in her opinion.

Ultimately, she wants people to see this from the other side.

“We are talking about an entire indigenous population who have been displaced, now multiple times, and have been living under oppression for decades. Palestinians just want to be able to live freely in their own country, and that right has been taken away from them. They can’t travel freely, they can’t do anything without the permission of the occupying forces,” said Haj.

This is not a conflict between two equal parties. This is not only about religion. This is about human rights, and too many people think that Palestinians don’t deserve basic human rights, said Haj.

Haj said Palestinians don’t seem to have much representation, and unfortunately, those who do emerge are groups like Hamas — that makes it difficult for Americans to resonate with.

Israel controls the Gaza Strip in the context of air and maritime space and a majority of the land crossings, but it is a Palestinian-governed territory. Gaza [and the West Bank] is claimed by Hamas in de facto as of 2007. As of 2020, the population was 2 million.


Many of the cruise missiles launched by Palestinians into Israel are intercepted by an Iron Dome Weapon System. The Tucson-based Raytheon Missiles & Defense has companies in Hunstville, Alabama, and East Camden, Arkansas.

The production of the short-range air defense system has been around for about a decade. It’s a partnership between Raytheon and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Its goal? To shoot down rockets fired by Hamas.

Raytheon Missiles & Defense teams with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to defend populated areas and critical assets with the Iron Dome Weapon System. It’s the world’s most-used system, intercepting more than 1,500 incoming targets with a success rate exceeding 90 percent since being fielded in 2011. Raytheon Missiles & Defense website photo.

This item is credited with 2,500 intercepts, “a success rate exceeding 90%,” the Raytheon company said. The U.S. has spent more than $1 billion to support the program.

U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) issued a statement on “hostilities in Israel” this week. In the second graph he touts that “Israel’s Iron Dome – part of which is manufactured in Camden, Arkansas – has prevented additional damage and loss of life.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter, co-signed by Sen. Boozman and signed by more than 40 Republican colleagues urging President Biden to stand with Israel and to prevent sanctions relief to Iran, who they say leads the world in sponsoring terror and “established financier” of Hamas’ terror activities.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) spoke on the Senate floor in support of Israel “as it faces continued terrorist attacks from Hamas. He stated that the Biden administration has created a policy of “weakness and appeasement.”

The assault on Israel by terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad is the latest and most concrete evidence yet that the Middle East is spiraling toward chaos. But instead of standing firm with Israel, the Biden administration’s policy of endless accommodation is fanning the flames of conflict.

Sen. Tom Cotton


EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – Palestinian relatives mourn over the bodies of four brothers from the Tanani family who were found under the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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