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The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

Beyond borders: Israel-Palestine conflict takes toll at McLean

Latest outbreak between Israel and Gaza has deep and divisive impact on students at McLean
Alexander Li
The flags outside McLean flew at half-staff until October 14th per Governor Youngkin’s order.

Disclaimer: This article was updated to change the name of a student who requested her name be hidden. Her alias in this article has been adjusted to “Leena”

On Oct. 7, a blockade and border attack sparked the latest rendition of a decades-long conflict in the Middle East. Israel and Palestine, nations with one of the longest-running feuds in history, are engulfed in the flames of war.

A day later, the United States deployed the USS Gerald R. Ford, America’s newest aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean, projecting force in a show of solidarity with Israel. Meanwhile, the only operational power plant in the Gaza Strip ran out of fuel on Oct. 11, leaving people to rely solely on generators.

The subsequent humanitarian crisis is a tragedy for millions of civilians in Gaza, but the impacts extend beyond the sands of the Middle East.

In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin declared on Oct. 8 that the flag of the United States and other official flags be flown at half-mast to “honor lives lost in the horrific terror attack on Israel” and to “hold those injured and held hostage in our thoughts” until Oct. 14.

At McLean High School, students, Jews and Palestinians in particular, have differing perspectives of the conflict in part due to the school’s diversity.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization backed by Iran, which has never attempted to hide its mission of destroying Israel. They have no regard for human life, they use their citizens as human shields,” Jewish sophomore Noam Gottesman said. “Israel already gave Palestine a chance to live peacefully, but those aspirations are long gone.”

Students who are connected to the conflict have been impacted profoundly by the events. It is difficult for individuals to separate themselves when their family and culture is deeply rooted in the region where the conflict is occurring.

“I feel very close to Israel for a multitude of reasons,” Gottesman said. “I have family in Israel, I’ve been to Israel twice, and my parents met in Israel.”

Yet both sides acknowledge the heavy toll the violence has on civilians.

“I have felt incredibly disturbed as I watch the killings of thousands of Gazans from the comfort of my own home,” said junior Leena, an alias for Palestinian student at McLean. “Because this isn’t something new, I’ve always felt bothered that no one cared enough about what we Palestinians have been experiencing for decades.”

Furthermore, American media coverage of the conflict is flawed, as the fog of war, disinformation, and divisive media views alter the news that is being reported.

“Everything but the truth is being shared,” Leena said. “Western media is completely backed by propaganda right now. While on live news, a reporter in Israel claimed that Hamas beheaded 40 Israeli babies. After the [livestream] ended, she tweeted that she had been lying, and that there was in fact no proof.”

Some Palestinian students believe that the conflict stems from Israel’s aggressive military operations in Gaza.

“For years, Israel bombed Gazan homes, schools, and hospitals completely unprovoked, and for years Israel has been targeting Palestinian civilians,” Leena said. “What people fail to realize is that this is a response to ethnic cleansing, displacement, and genocide.”

Historically, the United States has been an ardent supporter of Israel, supplying it with military aid, funding, and assisting it diplomatically in the United Nations. At the same time, neighboring Muslim countries have a strained history with Israel.

“Prior to this renewed conflict, Israel made peace with the United Arab Emirates [and] Bahrain… which would’ve been detrimental to Iranian dominance in the region,” Gottesman said. “I guess [that] as long as Israel and Iran’s current regimes both exist, there will most likely never be peace in the Middle East.”

Even though the flags are no longer halfstaff, optimism from both sides is at an all-time low. Conflict has only been rising in the weeks following the spark that started the conflict, with more and more nations being involved. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the USS Carney, an American destroyer deployed to the Middle East, shot down 15 cruise missiles and drones on Oct. 20 that were fired at Israel by Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

Rising tensions mean that a quick and easy end to the conflict is not seen as a realistic outcome by either side.

“I don’t think that there can be peace without bloodshed in this conflict,” Gottesman said. “Israel already gave Palestine a chance to live peacefully, but those aspirations are long gone.”

However, a peaceful resolution to the end of the conflict is wanted by all despite current tensions, and the first harvest of the fruits of peace have bloomed. Various American and UN-negotiated deals finally culminated in the opening of a border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. According to Egyptian state-owned Al-Qahera news, roughly twenty out of the 200 trucks carrying 3,000 tons of aid arrived in Gaza on Oct. 21.

Since then, fourteen more trucks have arrived, though Gaza requires around 220 trucks per day to be at living levels. Yet for those wishing for a total resolution of the conflict, these humanitarian developments are still not enough.

“I want the Israeli occupation to end. I want my people to stop being killed, and I want myself and other Palestinians to be able to move around in our land freely and without fear,” Leena said. “That’s all I really want.”

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    IStandWithIsrael,Put an end to antisemitismOct 27, 2023 at 10:38 am

    This is Bullshit. Israel isn’t provoking anything and they haven’t been bombing Gaza and Palestine for no reason, whoever wrote this article took Palestine’s side. You gave maybe one or two quotes from a student on Israel’s side and it was only about how we’ve given them chances. You repeated the quote twice and then ended the arrow with a quote by this “Leena” and it made Palestine seem like the victim. Israel isn’t Palestine’s property. The Jews have inhabited the area for around 2000 years and the only reason Palestine claims they should own Israel as land is because the Israelites have been targeted so many times and driven out. The Palestinians took advantage of this and claimed it whilst the Jews were banished. If you take anything from this know that more Jews were killed on October 7th than any day since the holocaust. The complete ignorance about what’s happening in Israel right now is sickening. Israel wasn’t the one who bombed the hospital in Gaza, it was hamas. Hamas terrorists have been terrorizing my people for years and bombing them. I am a proud bar mitzvah’d jew and I hope this antisemitism ends