Whose War Is This Anyway?


On October 7th, 2023, the unimaginable became a harsh reality for many after Hamas executed a surprise attack on army outposts and surrounding villages in southern Israel. This assault, resulting in the tragic deaths of 1,200 Israeli and foreign nationals, predominantly civilians, caught Israeli intelligence agencies off guard. Hamas fighters seized approximately 240 individuals, and at least 29 children lost their lives as a result. This devastating event marked a profound turning point in an arc of history, leaving communities shattered and families dead, prompting urgent calls for intervention.

The Israel-Palestine conflict, rooted in the aftermath of World War II, lies at the crossroads of historical grievances and geopolitical intricacies. The UN proposed the partition of British-mandated Palestine in 1947, suggesting separate Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem as an international city. While Jewish leaders accepted this proposal, Arab leaders rejected it, setting the stage for a turbulent sequence of events. The declaration of Israel’s independence in 1948 led to a war with its Arab neighbors, marking the inception of a protracted struggle.

Subsequent decades witnessed wars such as the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the Six-Day War of 1967, resulting in Israel gaining control of Palestine-controlled lands, namely the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. These outcomes intensified tensions and spawned enduring disputes over borders and territories. The 1973 Yom Kippur War further escalated hostilities, underscoring the persistently volatile nature of the conflict.

Numerous attempts at peace have been made, including the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the Oslo Accords of the 1990s. However, the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and the subsequent collapse of peace talks impeded progress, leaving the question of a just and lasting resolution unanswered.

Beyond the battlegrounds of the Israel-Palestine conflict lies a stark truth—the detrimental impact of Islamophobia, mostly in exacerbating the challenges faced by Palestinians. Islamophobia, manifested through discriminatory practices, not only intensifies the struggles faced by Palestinians but also perpetuates a cycle of injustice. In the US, xenophobic attitudes contribute to the marginalization of Palestinians, obstructing any semblance of progress toward a just and lasting resolution.

Historical examples, such as the prejudicial policies faced by Arab and Muslim communities post-9/11, starkly illustrate the enduring consequences of Islamophobia and the urgent need for collective rectification. By resolutely disentangling the Palestinian people from the actions of Hamas, we can work towards a more just and equitable resolution that unconditionally respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved. 

To underscore this point, drawing an unambiguous line between the Palestinian people and Hamas is essential. The militant group Hamas is unequivocally designated as a terrorist organization. It does not represent the entire Palestinian population, and making this distinction is non-negotiable for a profound understanding of the conflict. While Hamas pursues its political agenda, it does not represent the totality of the Palestinian narrative.

The role of Western powers, notably the US, in perpetuating the inefficiency of the conflict is evident through historical and ongoing support for Israel. Military aid, diplomatic backing, and arms sales from Western nations contribute to sustaining the conflict, raising questions about the efficacy of foreign policy approaches and broader complicity in perpetuating injustices.

War is never an option.

War is never effective.

War is never consensual.

War is never fair.

A glaring contradiction lies in the Biden administration’s stance on the conflict. While President Biden has expressed concerns about civilian casualties and condemned acts of violence, the reality on the ground paints a different picture. The substantial $3.8 billion in military aid and financial assistance the United States provides to Israel implies a misalignment between rhetoric and action, suggesting that the US government’s involvement may be driven more by strategic geopolitical interests than a genuine commitment to humanitarian values.

The modern context of the Israel-Hamas War reveals not only historical complexities and geopolitical intricacies but also warfare’s inherent inefficiency in resolving deeply rooted disputes. How we fight wars nowadays does not match our current world.

In recent years, we’ve seen big changes, like countries becoming more connected, non-government groups gaining more power, and new technology being used. These changes have completely changed how conflicts happen worldwide, making old-fashioned military battles far less effective for dealing with complicated problems.

Due to globalization efforts, all economies have mainly become intertwined, and nations depend on one another for resources and investment. As a result, the consequences of war are no longer confined within the borders of warring nations but have far-reaching implications that can hinder the success of military actions.

The rise of non-state actors like Hamas has changed how conflicts unfold and exposed the weaknesses of traditional military methods. Hamas operates as both a political and militant group, aiming to resist Israeli control and establish a Palestinian state. Unlike regular armies, Hamas uses tactics within civilian areas, making it hard for traditional forces to handle them. Their decentralized structure and use of tactics like suicide bombings and rocket attacks show the challenges of dealing with modern warfare.

Despite the changing realities of our world, some leaders and elites continue to mindlessly cling to the outdated notion that military strength alone can address complex geopolitical challenges. This is often fueled by self-serving interests, where elites manipulate public opinion to rally nationalist sentiments and drum up support for aggressive actions.

For instance, China’s state-controlled media has readily embraced Russian propaganda in the Russa-Ukraine War, fostering a widespread pro-Putin sentiment among the Chinese populace. This sentiment resonates within my own Chinese family as well.

My Chinese grandparents still support Putin’s war. My parents and I despise Putin’s war. But our conversations have become more tense than ever because of it. I can recall one instance where my mother was on the phone with my grandmother, who resides in a quaint rural town in eastern China. Within minutes,  a standard catch-up call quickly escalated into a heated exchange, marked by pointed criticisms directed at each other’s nations.

The conversation took an unexpected turn, with my grandmother employing assertive phrases like “influenced by American propaganda” and “Joe Biden’s responsibility.” In response, my mother countered, urging my grandmother not to accept everything she comes across. Neither my mother nor grandmother get irritated often, yet I could almost feel my mother’s frustration and detect the strain in my grandmother’s voice as their discussion unfolded over the phone.

My grandparents and I have disagreed over politics, from the 2018 trade war to Taiwanese sovereignty to the Belt and Road Initiative. Yet, this moment felt like a breaking point. Conversations with my relatives in China are increasingly tense. There’s an unspoken unease, a fear that a single wrong word could sever our ties. We used to talk openly about everything, but now, especially during geopolitical tension, conversations feel like walking on eggshells.

The fractures within my family shed light on a broader issue: the manipulation of nationalism and propaganda to justify military actions. Take, for instance, the South China Sea Arbitration, where President Xi Jinping’s administration asserts China’s sovereignty over vast maritime territories, leading to heightened tensions with neighboring nations. To bolster its expansive claims, the Chinese government harnesses historical grievances, shaping public opinion to support its assertive maneuvers. This narrative finds resonance among numerous Chinese social media users, who fervently assert, “This land is Chinese territory, and we must not yield an inch of it.” Such manipulation of national pride fuels regional tensions and perpetuates the rationale for aggressive actions.

Leaders lying to their citizens is not only reprehensible but becomes especially egregious when it occurs in instances where civilian lives are at extreme risk. In times of war, the stakes are exceptionally high, and citizens trust their leaders to protect and guide them. However, when leaders deceive their people, they deprive people of the chance to make informed decisions and seek precautions to protect their families.

As we ask ourselves, “Whose war is this anyway?” the answer remains simple: It is a war by the elites, for the elites. Shielded by wealth and influence, elites seldom experience the devastating consequences of war firsthand. They remain detached from the horrors and sufferings that grip their nations in ivory towers of privilege. The illusion of invincibility creates a dangerous mindset where human lives are reduced to mere pawns in a game of geopolitical chess and a way to quench their ego-driven thirst for dominance. It is always the vulnerable, the innocent, and the marginalized who pay the heaviest price.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas persists, Biden has urged Israel to disengage from Palestine and cautioned against attempting to occupy Gaza after the offensive ends. President Biden asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop Israel’s military actions in Gaza for a while to get hostages back from Hamas militants and delay attacking the southern part of Gaza. However, in the wake of recent events, the significant destruction inflicted by Israel in Gaza makes altering the current situation more challenging than ever before.

Hopes for a swift resolution to the conflict in Gaza dimmed further as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that “100% of the population of Gaza is at a severe level of acute food insecurity.” Notably, this is the very time in history that a population has been classified in such a dire state.

During his meeting with Israeli officials, Blinken reaffirmed American support for a Palestinian state, hinting at a long diplomatic road ahead. Meanwhile, alarm bells rang across the international community as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres expressed deep concern about reports of a potential Israeli ground invasion of Rafah. Warning of a humanitarian catastrophe and regional instability, Guterres urged against escalation. His plea highlighted the growing fear of a broader conflict, echoing Blinken’s call for a peaceful solution.

Let us remember this profound truth: War is never an option. War is never effective. War is never consensual. War is never fair. Our leaders must construct a society where conflicts are resolved without sacrificing innocent lives, one where hope and dreams take flight, forever escaping the chains of governmental manipulation and rising from the ashes of combat.

Sophia Li

Sophia Li is an avid debater and freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter.