tl;dr: Sometimes Israel-Palestine Is Scary, But Sometimes There Are Circuses

Disclaimer: My personal opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict would be described by most as “pro-Palestinian.” I don’t like the language that is used here–it implies that I am “anti” something, but it’s the most commonly used descriptor for my stance on the issue. My opinions are strongly held, but in sharing these educational videos and articles with you, I want to be as objective as possible. I think its important to remain non-partisan in an educational setting. As such, the videos I’ve provided here were the most balanced that I have found to be worth sharing, but know that my choices may have been influenced by my personal feelings.

I’ve dedicated most of my academic and professional life to studying the Israel-Palestine conflict. But I still don’t understand half of what is going on. It may be one of the most hotly contested, complex situations in living memory, and it’s virtually impossible to talk about without making someone angry. I’m sure someone out there will read what I’ve written here and find something to rage quit over.

I think it’s still important to try to encourage dialogue about the issue. It’s a complex subject–not exactly dinner table talk–but it’s an important discussion to have. It is also relevant to your everyday life (if you’re an American). Israel is one of the top recipients in the world of US foreign aid. The projected military aid to Israel in 2015 is over $3 billion.

So, before you decide this issue is too complicated for your understanding, or too heated for your comfort, think about where that money is coming from. No matter where you fall on the issue, you should know what you’re spending your tax dollars on.

The following are educational videos by some amazing people who have managed to boil this conflict down into short, easy to digest segments. Check them out–they do a better job explaining this mess than I ever could.

Let’s start with an easy one. John Green! Yay, totally not scary. It is even in cartoon-form:

Of all of these creators, John Green and Crash Course do the best job of remaining nonpartisan. This is good from an educational standpoint–I’ve learned through my work with high schools that educators’ primary concern when teaching this subject is usually “balance.” John manages to not omit any facts that may be construed as contentious, while also emphasizing that no one party is at fault for the conflict. I particularly appreciate his explaining that very little of the present day conflict has to do with theological differences. It’s a common misconception, and I’m glad he took the time to debunk it. I would also recommend checking out For Critical Thinkers for more information on the roots of the conflict, and a more technical analysis of the present-day situation.

Next up is Test Tube. I can’t recommend this channel highly enough. I would have put it in my first post if I hadn’t just discovered it a couple of days ago. Test Tube provides content on a variety of topics, and their examinations of newsworthy issues are short and sweet.

The above explains the significance of Jerusalem in the conflict, as well as its role in peace talks. Jerusalem is one of the five key factors to focus on when studying Israel/Palestine peace agreements: settlements, water, the right to return, borders, and Jerusalem. The fight over this city began long before Israel was brought into being as a state, but it is crucial to understanding the present-day conflict, and prospects for peace.

Note, the following videos were made over the summer and some of the facts are outdated, but still give a general idea of the situation at hand.

If you’re interested in catching up with more recent news, I would highly recommend watching the following Vox video. Vox has also come up with a great primer article on the conflict, “9 questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict you were too embarrassed to ask.” So you might want to check that out, too.

Operation Protective Edge, the most recent Israeli military operation in Gaza, officially ended in August, but Gaza is still in a major state of crisis. The operation left over 2,200 people dead, the vast majority of them Gazans, and many remain homeless, injured, and ill. Billions of dollars were pledged by the international community to help aid Gazans, but almost none of this has materialized.

The situation in Gaza is closely tied to the fate of the West Bank, but it is often cast in a darker light, in part due to Hamas–which the US has classified as a terrorist organization. Because of its status as a terrorist organization, Hamas is given little credibility and is often ignored on the grounds of “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” Fair enough, but it’s important to understand that Hamas is a complex political player, and is a huge factor in understanding the present day situation in Gaza. Test Tube does a great job explaining who Hamas is and what their role is today:

Sometimes reading up on Israel and Palestine can be disheartening, and a lot of the time I feel like not much has changed over the course of hundreds of years:


But then sometimes there are circuses in Palestine, and there’s a spark of hope. It’s worth reading through all of the depressing, confusing, heartbreaking material, just for that.

I hope these videos served as a good intro to this week’s topic–let me know what you think in the comments! Stay tuned for more posts on settlements and the right to return, coming up later this week.


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