The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.

In light of Gaza Strip situation, don’t forget benefits of living in United States

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has exercised restrained retaliation against Hamas terrorist strikes that have targeted civilian centers with rocket attacks over the past few years.

In just eight months, terrorists have launched more than 1,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel, and the conservative prime minister took action last Wednesday night, sending missile strikes from Israeli warships to Arab media outlets in Gaza.

A ground invasion of Gaza, in addition to offensive expansion, is likely to come in the next week or so, and to the Israeli community this is simply morally justified.

The Sunni terrorist organization, Hamas, has governed the Gaza portion of Palestine since 2007 when it won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament. It was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, specifically established to help liberate Palestinians from “Israeli occupation.”

We all know the confusing situation that led to this ongoing, two-and-one-half century-long conflict. It all started in the 19th century, when the Zionist movement initiated the establishment of a homeland for Jews in Palestine. Before that, Muslims, Jews and Christians had lived in peace with each other for 1,300 years.

British occupation of Palestine during World War I granted the Zionists their wish, giving them a homeland in Palestine. One problem — the land was already mostly populated by indigenous Arabs. With 33 percent of Jews making up the new population of Palestine in 1948, the United Nations voted to split the area in half. War immediately broke out between the Arabs and Jews.

Jews ethnically cleansed 80 percent of the Palestinians from the land they occupied and destroyed, depopulated more than 400 Palestinian villages, massacred thousands of Palestinians, causing almost a million Palestinians to become refugees.

In short, there are hard feelings and cold blood with both communities, especially with the unrelenting past the Jews have experienced. Civilians on both sides have come to terms with the fear and tension they experience each and every day. When you bring religion into the picture — which is what started the entire conflict to begin with — people are valiantly willing to die in the name of their creator, whoever it may be.

I recall a statement made by a friend of mine who visited the Palestinian Territories in 2005. While driving in a cab the driver told him:

“Everybody thinks that we hate Americans, but we do not. We know exactly what it is to be led by people who have total disregard for what we want and what we need.”

As Americans, we  may think we know what it’s like to grow up without any liberties, any sense of justice for all, or a government that isn’t even formally recognized by the United Nations. It’s simply an unfathomable thought.

We’ve always been granted with the liberty of doing just about anything we want. Many of us live our luxurious lives, following Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend and complaining about paying too many taxes, immune to the rest of the world.

In Palestine, “We the People” doesn’t have the same ring to it as it does here. Hatred, violence and fear fuel the lives of those who face dire consequences for doing the wrong thing. They will never be given the opportunities we all were given simply because they weren’t born in the right geological boundary.

Palestine and Israel are good examples of places you wouldn’t want to be around Thanksgiving time, but there are plenty of others.

China may seem normal when you visit with your family, but against a backdrop of rapid economic growth and modernization, the state continues to be governed by authoritarians who have absolutely no sense of freedom. Imagine Internet censorship, no reproductive rights, little or no labor or migrant rights — the list goes on and on.

Africa is probably the worst of them all. Inconceivable poverty, massive education deficiency and the worst forms of dictatorship on the planet are just a few of the struggles endured by residents of some areas of this continent. Living amidst ruin and death your entire life can only mean one thing: a loss of hope.

This weekend, be thankful for what you have, for those things you take for granted, and the people you love. Above all, be thankful for living in a civilized sovereignty that’s not brimming with corruption, strife and starvation.

Yes, Progressives, we have a lot of work to do. Fortunately, Uncle Sam still represents the best the world has to offer.