Local Israelis and Palestinians on the violence in the Middle East

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Though it may seem a world away, the violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip affects many in the United States.

Members of the Palestinian and Israeli communities in the Cape Fear have watched the violence play out on their television screens and over phone calls with loved ones still there who are living in fear.

“It’s hard to see entire neighborhoods being demolished by the Israeli army or the Israeli fighter jets. With so many children and thousands of them are now being homeless.” Musa Agil, a local business owner from Palestine said.

“My brother needs to wake up his three sons in the middle of the night, and actually run to the neighbor’s house because they don’t have their own shelter,” Naama Heymann, an Israeli citizen living in Wilmington said about recent bombings.

This new explosion of violence stems most recently from several incidents. One involved Palestinian refugees evicted from East Jerusalem houses because of a law allowing Jews to reclaim land abandoned during the war in 1948. Another surrounded Israelis dispersing Arab crowds during a religious holiday to keep the peace.

According to Agil, incidents like these are being used to treat Palestinians as second-class citizens.

“You know, I’m Jewish, you’re not. And God gave me this land. I’m a Muslim. My God did not tell me that,” Agil said.

Heymann feels for Palestinians but believes Hamas, a group that is recognized as a terrorist organization in the US, has used fear to tighten tensions.

“They hijacked Gaza. And, I feel bad about the Palestinians that live there,” Heymann said. “I’m sure that most of them want peace. Like Israelis, we want peace, we want to live together.”

Daniel Masters, a professor of international studies at UNCW, says the conflict goes all the way back to the 1880s. The fight over land, religious sites, and overall identity as a nation. He says in this particular case, Israel and Hamas are fighting fire with fire.

“What Hamas is doing is wrong and bad, and they shouldn’t do it,” Masters said. “But the Israeli response is bad, and they shouldn’t do it as well.”

Though peace seems out of reach at this moment, many on both sides still hope to achieve it. To get there, both Agil and Heymann believe compromises will have to be made.

“Peace is possible if they recognize the legitimate rights of self determination,” Agil explained. But they’re not going to do that.”

“Deep inside, I believe the Palestinians want peace,” said Haymann. “But as long as Hamas, who is a terrorist organization, is running Gaza… we cannot get there.”

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