israel treatment of palestine

By Paulo Santos, Horn of Africa Analyst

As a Portuguese, European, and African by birth, grappling with the ghosts of our past demands both introspection and honesty. Europe’s history with its Jewish communities is a tapestry woven with blood and persecution, leaving behind a haunting legacy that reverberates through the ages. My own background adds another layer of complexity to this reflection, serving as a reminder of the interconnectedness of histories and the importance of acknowledging the diverse experiences that shape our understanding of the world.

The Portuguese Inquisition, and the Lisbon Massacre of 1506, serve as a stark testament to this dark era. In Lisbon’s Rossio Square, a solemn plaque bears witness to the over a thousand lives extinguished—most by burning—underscoring a past marred by intolerance and brutality.

But Portugal’s sins are but a chapter in Europe’s broader narrative of persecution. From the iron grip of ancient Rome to the merciless inquisitions of medieval Spain and Portugal, the continent’s history is stained with the blood of innocents. And the climax of this horror came to fruition during World War II, as the Holocaust laid bare the vile consequences of unchecked anti-Semitism and bigotry.

Confronting these truths today, especially amidst the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, necessitates a candid reckoning with our past. As a European and as an African, I must navigate this discourse with humility, acknowledging my own ancestral historical culpability while critically examining the biases that continue to shape our policies and perspectives.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Tapestry of Historical Wounds

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex saga of historical grievances and modern tensions, underscored by profound disparities in infrastructure, legal rights, and daily life. In the occupied territories, Palestinians are subject to military law, while Israelis live under civil law—a disparity evident even in the road systems, with separate routes designated for Jews and Arabs.

This divide fuels a sense of injustice and marginalization among not only the Palestinians, but also the Muslim world and now even young Westerners, often leading to radicalization. Meanwhile, Israeli military actions and Palestinian attacks perpetuate a cycle of violence, deepening animosities on both sides.

However, history offers glimpses of solidarity amid strife. During the Spanish Inquisition, the Ottoman Empire dispatched ships to aid Jews fleeing persecution—a reminder that Jewish-Muslim relations have not always been marked by conflict.

In a recent conversation with a distinguished, well-educated older gentleman from Somaliland, reflecting on Europe’s posturing in the aftermath of the Holocaust, he voiced a sentiment shared by many outside the Western world: a profound disillusionment with the hypocrisy of Western powers, particularly in their handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I would understand Germany’s position—they will never atone for what happened during the Hitler times. But the rest of Europe? The UK? The USA? I would not expect that.” This sentiment underscores a broader sentiment among many outside the Western world regarding perceived double standards in Western policy, particularly concerning Israel and Palestine.

Indeed, the West’s misguided policies, born out of historical guilt and strategic alliances, have only deepened the wounds of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The stark disparity in treatment between Israelis and Palestinians, coupled with Western complicity in perpetuating this injustice, serves as a rallying cry for those who seek fairness and equity.

In recent years, Western perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have undergone a noticeable evolution, especially among younger generations. Notably, my observations of media outlets, including CNN, have revealed a departure from past biases towards a more balanced approach, particularly in the latest conflict.

Traditionally, media coverage heavily favored Israeli narratives, often sidelining the realities of Palestinian life under occupation. However, recent reporting, exemplified by CNN’s coverage, has offered a more nuanced portrayal, shedding light on the complexities and injustices experienced by Palestinians. This shift challenges conventional narratives, sparking conversations and prompting deeper reflection on the root causes of the conflict.

As younger generations come of age and wield increasing influence in politics and civil society, their evolving perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will undoubtedly shape future policies and discourse. The challenge for Western nations lies in aligning their policies with these shifting perceptions, recognizing the demands for justice and equality voiced by their younger constituents.

The path forward demands a departure from entrenched narratives and a genuine commitment to dialogue, empathy, and accountability. Western nations must prioritize human rights and international law in their dealings with Israel and Palestine, advocating for a just and sustainable resolution that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved.

Ultimately, the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rests in the hands of those who dare to challenge the status quo and envision a more just and equitable world. By embracing these shifting perspectives and engaging in meaningful dialogue, Western nations can contribute to fostering a future where peace and reconciliation prevail in the Holy Land.

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