It’s the go-to plot-line for some of the most popular stories of all time: fiercely feuding families, each raging with bitterness towards their enemies; each fueled by a relentless pursuit for power; each harboring an unwavering stubbornness.

But this isn’t some fairy tale. Not some CGI-filled summer blockbuster. Not a set of novels-turned-HBO-series.

This is really happening. Everyday. Right now.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ablaze for decades, and arguably – depending on which history books you’re reading, what channel you’re watching, or what sites you follow – for much longer than that. Each side sharing startling similarities: compelling arguments against the other; claims to land considered holy; fervor for being recognized as ‘legitimate.’ Impassioned with rich and hallowed religions, Israelis and Palestinians similarly use their faiths to validate claims over the region. As the years have passed, both camps have made their mistakes; both have reneged on promises; both have backed out on peace talks.  There are two points, however, that don’t exactly straddle both sides as equally: the deaths of those caught in the carnage, and the media’s reporting of it.

As of this writing, there have been 28 Israeli casualties confirmed – two civilians and 26 soldiers killed in combat. However, Israeli strikes on Gaza have resulted in over 560 deaths, mostly civilian, along with the immeasurable destruction of Palestinian communities (well, what was left of them). We are learning more and more everyday about Palestinian children being caught in the crossfire; how the Israeli people now have an app to warn them of any potential missile strikes from Hamas (because that seems fair); and of journalists who are criticized (and/or fired) for reporting on what’s really happening in the region.

Are people just now awakening to the horrors that have been going on for what seems like ages? It’s a real-life ‘game of thrones’ that is eerily mirroring the acclaimed TV series (spoiler alert): everyone is getting killed off. Both sides undoubtedly have blood on their hands; but anyone who honestly reports on it, or dares to criticize Israel’s role in this on-going debacle, is quickly dubbed by American mainstream media (along with any U.S. officials who go on record) as “anti-Semite.” Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the word “terrorist” or “terrorist sympathizer” gets thrown around either. You know, when they need a good sound bite.

Still, there are those who buck the system:

And social media has undeniably made exposing truth about this (and countless other under- and mis-reported issues) much more accessible to a wider audience; an audience that is starting to question the motives and political agendas of their own governments. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration has done what every American government has done since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israel War: confirmed its unwavering alliance (and continued arms funding) of the brash little country in the midst of one of the most turbulent regions in the world. Social media be damned.

A more startling example of how twisted the story can get via traditional media is this one, where an American Jew – yes, you read that correctly – is voicing concern over Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories during the annual Jerusalem parade (in Israel). He doesn’t exactly get the star treatment:

Now, his explanation of what happened after his [peaceful/non-violent] demonstration:

What’s not clear (and for a very good reason) is where exactly this young man’s “court appointed attorney” came from. Without direct involvement – which would’ve undoubtedly made inconvenient headlines – is it not within the realm of possibility that the appointed attorney along with the reigning judge who over saw the case were “directed” to make this go away (i.e. dismiss the case and free the ‘suspect’) by order (i.e. pressure) of the U.S.? Not because they actually care about this kid; hell no. But because the minute he went viral with his message – a powerful and articulately stated one at that – he became a liability; a smoking gun. He’s an American and more importantly (and dangerously), a Jew. And we simply can’t have someone like him say anything that may call to question the U.S.’s position within this gaza of thrones.

It’s bad enough that the video of the incident and the subsequent explanation by the young man was shared so quickly and by so many; the U.S. certainly could’ve executed damage control in an effort to avoid any obvious and potentially media-susceptible intervention. Even with Obama’s recent claims to be “seriously concerned,” he still affirms Israel’s “right to defend itself” amid the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians.
The aftermath of an airstrike on a beach in Gaza City last Wednesday. Four young Palestinian boys, all cousins, were killed. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The aftermath of an airstrike on a beach in Gaza City last Wednesday. Four young Palestinian boys, all cousins, were killed. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Another story was recently posted about the cease-fire/non-cease-fire back-and-forth that took place under President Sisi’s and Egypt’s “counseling.” Egypt? Really? So, instead of tapping into a stable country that might actually have some political pull with one or both sides of this conflict, we’re going with Egypt? Sigh.
Although a five-hour ceasefire did in fact occur to allow for humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, most U.S. media reported that an extended ceasefire was accepted by Israel, the Arab League and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas but was rejected by the military wing of Hamas, the group that controls Gaza. What is not being reported as accurately (and as loudly) is the reasoning for the rejection.
Egypt’s reluctance to give up its mediator position, even though Hamas – with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood – can’t stand Sisi (a staunch anti-M.B.er), doesn’t help either.

The rest of the world is finally starting to really speak out against Israel and its dealings with Palestinians, yet Israel is getting more and more belligerent with an arrogance matched only by its ‘big brother’ – the U.S. Frustrating = a severe understatement. Even Sec. of State John Kerry was recently caught with his foot in his mouth and then reverted back to singing the tried-and-true tune that goes something like this: “America and Israel, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

The minute we (America) actually start to take a stance that’s more aligned with the rest of the world, more aligned with human decency and more aligned with common sense, is the same minute progress may actually be made on this long, drawn-out subject. Slowly but surely others within the global community have been embracing this “radical” mantra, although it’s the U.S. that can actually do something about it. The “right of Israel to defend itself” is long overused. America should refuse to continue funding and arming a country that continuously (and unabashedly) denies that right to others. The right of Palestinians to live should be given the same weight and attention. This simply is not a fair fight.

This isn’t an Israel-bashing tirade mind you; the Israeli people are not the issue whatsoever. This is simply a call for justification and clarification of our continued support of a country that doesn’t do anything for us but bring misery. Our direct involvement and unwavering defense of Israel is the primary reason why this region is so unstable: other countries see Israel’s continual mistreatment of Palestinians and blame the U.S. for its refusal to remove itself from the situation. The Israeli people deserve better than to have their government continuously wage war in their name (sound familiar?), making violence and bloodshed a daily occurrence. 

Ethical reporting on what’s really going on, the outright questioning of U.S. involvement in the region and an international call – and persistent insistence on a realistic two-state solution are what need to happen for there to be any hope for this deteriorating saga. Unlike the show, this is a new kind of game; one where the thrones aren’t just made of ancient swords and the battles won with dragons, magic and unsullied soldiers. In fact, this isn’t a game at all.

 

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