Untold stories: The other side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

“It’s justified for the Palestinians to defend themselves.”
As a Muslim, Adiba Rysa feels that Western society has made her personally accountable for the conflict raging between Israel and Palestine.
As a Muslim, Adiba Rysa feels that Western society has made her personally accountable for the conflict raging between Israel and Palestine.

The root of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict can be traced back to the early 20th century, with driving forces being the desire for self-determination, national identity and religious freedom.

Ever since the British Mandate and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the state of Israel has had a great impact on the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis through displacements, loss of homes and the establishment of a population of refugees. This was further escalated by the Palestinian military group, Hamas, launching an attack on Israel, the ultimate factor that prompted the ongoing war. 

Since October 7, war or, as senior Adiba Raya comments, “genocide” has been raging in Palestine resulting in the loss of over 30,000 lives, and continuous trauma has been inflicted on both population groups, Palestinians and Israelis.

In the following question and answer, Raya has shared information and her opinion on the genocide as well as how it has been portrayed in the media.

Q: Can you share any personal stories or experiences from people directly affected by the situation in Gaza and Palestine?

A: So let me just give you a little bit about my background. I’m Muslim American; however, I am not a Palestinian, nor am I Middle Eastern. So I don’t have any family that are directly in Gaza. I don’t know, I don’t really have connections with people who are directly affected by the war, because I’m not from that culture. However, I can tell you my own experience.

There was a teacher in this school – directly after October 7 — when he was describing the conflict that was happening, he called Hamas a terrorist organization. When I heard that, it was something that was very hard to hear. Even though I don’t have any connection with what happened on September 1, I still feel accountable, because that’s what Western society has made me feel, made me feel bad for what happened to a group of terrorists.

I’ve also had a lot of Islamophobia. People have accused me of being a Jew hater. I’ve gotten a lot of radical things to toll on me just because I support policy. So those are my personal experiences with that. And I’m not friends with anybody who has suffered losses, families, there’s thousands of them. 

Q: Do you believe that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas and other groups in Gaza?

A: Having the right to defend oneself, it really begs the question of what is Israel defending in the first place, and why do they want to defend themselves, or who they are defending themselves against? This conflict started way before October 7, and October 7 is when Hamas retaliated, Hamas being the only “government” that’s left in Gaza, even though there’s nothing there. They are undersupplied and they don’t have enough money. They don’t have enough. They don’t have anything. Hamas is the only government that can resist them. And nobody’s asking, “Does Palestine have the right to defend themselves?” Nobody’s asking, “Does Hamas have the right to defend itself?” So frankly, if there was anything that happened I don’t think an oppressor has the right to defend itself? So my answer is no.

Q: Do you believe that the Palestinian resistance against Israel, including the acts of violence they have committed, is justified?

A: Killing is never justified. But the question is, in what circumstance did you kill and why did you kill? If people are infringed of their rights, if they don’t have these rights, then what are the measures somebody has to take to gain them? And if those measures are resistance, even if it’s violence, resistance is the last resort. So if I think that it’s justified for the Palestinians to defend themselves against, even with violent crimes, I think that they have all the right to defend themselves. However, I don’t really think I can comment on violent crimes because violent crimes have been done for so many years. So that kind of is up to each individual person, if you think what they’re doing is right or not, but you cannot deny that they deserve their freedom. And by which means that they get their freedom. That’s up to them. That’s not up to us. We don’t decide that.

Q: How do you think that narratives are portrayed in the media? Do you think that influences the way that people are thinking?

A: Definitely. Social media is one of the biggest pieces of information that people have on conflict. So anything that’s been happening on social media has had a huge effect on Ukraine. I can tell you about the Uyghurs in China, the Muslims of China, who are you suffering through like forced labor encampments, social media has been a part of that, the genocide in Congo and Sudan and everybody uses it. Social media has had a huge impact in spreading the information of these. There’s no question that the media is very biased and very filtered. Where you’re getting your news from is very important. There’s no doubt that Western media is very Islamophobic. It is very one-sided and it comes to a point where they’re trying to filter it with this news. If they’re upset, the Palestinians, it’s not just an issue between the Jews and Muslims, because there are thousands of Christians who have died in Gaza right now. So it was never an issue about religion. However, in the media, it often portrays religion because of their supremacy that we mentioned before. If you’re someone who’s Middle Eastern, if you’re someone who has brown skin, it doesn’t matter what you are, you are lesser. You’re lesser than someone who’s white, someone who’s like, you know, born by someone’s American because that’s what society has made it be. They’ve definitely tried to shove a narrative that Hamas is this terrorist, violent organization where it’s really the victim. And that’s why there’s this huge question about just Israel having its right to defend itself against the violent terrorist mosque regime? So yes, definitely, social media influences the way people are thinking. 

Q: Do you believe that certain perspectives dominate the media?

It’s hard to find unbiased opinions on war crimes, but it’s our job to create our own unbiased opinions.

— Adiba Raya

A:Yeah, exactly. Every conversation with a pro-Palestinian starts with, “Do you think Israel has the right to defend itself?” But why don’t they ask if Palestine has the right to defend itself? It’s clear the media wants you to think in a certain way. Even with the college encampments happening, the media focuses on the most violent protesters rather than police brutality. It’s hard to find unbiased opinions on war crimes, but it’s our job to create our own unbiased opinions. This generalization and stereotype of Palestinians as terrorists is what the media feeds us, so it’s crucial to educate ourselves and form our own unbiased views. The media shows one person representing the whole encampment, and that’s why these encampments are portrayed as violent. There’s an attempt to filter news, especially when it comes to Palestinian issues, influenced by Western media’s Islamophobia and bias. It’s important to seek diverse sources of information and critically analyze the narratives presented.

Q: What do you think the long-term implications would be?

A: The long-term implications of this conflict can be seen in the immense suffering of the affected people. They have lost almost everything – their homes, careers, access to basic needs like food and water. The situation is unimaginably horrific, with reports of massacres in supposed “safe zones” and children dying from malnutrition and trauma. These people will never be able to return to their normal lives, as they must rebuild from scratch. The psychological and emotional scars they have endured will be lasting. This conflict is a stain on history that will not be forgotten, highlighting the social injustices faced by the oppressed. The implications are ones of widespread destruction – of physical infrastructure, mental health, and overall way of life. It is unclear how or when these communities will be able to recover.

Q: Do you have any last thoughts that you would like to share?

A: A lot of the questions that you asked me were politics based. At the end of the day I don’t want anybody to read this Q&A and think that I don’t care about Israeli lives, that I don’t care about their children or their mothers or their fathers. I think that all hostages should be released from all sides. No life is worth more than the other and that everyone has their right to the basic human rights – life, liberty, water, food, safety and freedom. Everybody has the right to that and this genocide will be something that scars everyone. It’s devastating what’s happening to the people who are losing their lives there but everybody’s responsibility as people, as bystanders to the situation to educate yourself because without education, people are going to be blind and if you’re blinded then you won’t be able to do anything and you won’t be able to help anybody. I know a lot of people don’t want to get involved in this or people don’t like to talk about it and you do whatever you feel comfortable with. If you don’t want to talk, don’t talk about it. However, I think that as a general human being privileged with life with freedom and happiness, you have so much privilege you have to remember that at the end of the day even if you’re having the worst day in your life, you woke up and some people didn’t have that privilege to wake up and live another day. You have 24 hours for another day – at least to educate yourself on what’s going on. So if there’s one thing I can ask everybody to do, it’s don’t be biased and don’t be blind. Obviously it’ll never be okay what’s happening but you can learn that you are so privileged to be able to take another breath, then do something for those people who can’t.

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About the Contributor
Skylie Molina
Skylie Molina, Staff
From catching a wave alongside a dolphin to studying for the next exam, my days are packed with a little bit of everything. I am a junior in my first year of journalism. Passionate about conservation and climate change, I am the founder and president of the VNHS Environmental Club. Involved in many other activities, I am a 3rd year varsity cheerleader, and found love for surfing. Outside of school, you can find me reading, spending time with friends or family, or doing math homework, and listening to some pop music.
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