Let’s face it. The last two weeks have been awful as we have seen one international crisis after another. The crisis at the US-Mexico border has been spurred on by violence and corruption in desperately poor Central American nations. The massacre of 298 innocent people in the despicable downing of a civilian airplane in Eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists. However, even these extraordinary events are beginning to pale in comparison to the latest armed conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine.
The situation has spun out of control as the death toll among Palestinians has exceeded 1300, the majority being civilians (Israeli casualties remain around 100). If you have been unable to trace the advent of this most recent conflict watch this video from VOX. Clearly a conflict that goes back centuries, the reasons cannot be easily understood. The best diplomatic minds in the world have been unable to craft a lasting solution. Of all the recent international crises however, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is most closely tied to the people of the United States.
As much as our diplomacy has tried to position the United States as a neutral third party, we clearly have a side in the conflict. The Israeli military receives about $3.1 billion a year from U.S. taxpayers and has received over $121 billion since the founding of Israel after World War II (compared to about $400 million in annual support for Palestinians). There is a good reason for that as Israel is a United States ally and a democracy in a region generally unfriendly to both. In fact, Israel enjoys enormous domestic support in America, as this week 60% of Americans reported a favorable view of Israel. Our ties to the Israeli military are so strong that The Onion can joke that, “Israel Calls For Increase In U.S. Taxes To Fund Attacks On Gaza.”
We must realize that the fight in the Middle East is also a domestic political fight in the United States. Its not a surprise then that I saw 200 protesters gathered on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis of all places calling to ‘free Palestine.’ The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a lobbying force in Washington on behalf of American Jews and others who advocate for strong American support for Israel. American citizens have to pay attention because our opinion matters in this one more than your typical armed conflict in some distant part of the world.
As an American citizen, I am not an impartial observer in this fight. Whatever you think about Israel and Palestine, its crucial to know some basic details about America’s involvement in that region. Our level of civic knowledge is crucial to this conflict and bears with it a responsibility that we should take very seriously.
Matt Impink is a former US History Teacher and Education Policy Advocate. He is currently a Graduate Student at IU’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) in Indianapolis and curates the Civic Blog. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @mrimpink.