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Sources: Video on the Israel-Palestine Crisis

Hi, my name is Yu Sheng and I run Heckin’ Unicorn, and today I wanna talk about something that is a little bit different than our usual content. In light of Human Rights Day, I think it’s only right to talk about the humanitarian crisis that’s happening in Palestine. 

I have to be honest: I used to know very little about the details and events of that region. But after the 7th October Hamas terror attack, I began reading up, and realised that I’ve gotten it all wrong. 

So today, I want to talk about the things that I have learned, that have shaped the way I think about the situation, with the hopes that it can help correct some of the misconceptions you might have. 

To prevent misinformation, we will only use information and reports from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. These organisations have robust fact-finding processes in place, which give us a higher confidence in the truth of their findings. All of our sources can also be found at this link. 

One last thing: I wanna be clear that I absolutely condemn violence and terrorism, no matter who the perpetrator is or what their cause might be. I hope that by the end of the video, you would join me in my call for the end of violence. 

This video is recorded on 5 December 2023, so there may be later developments that I will not be able to mention. 

So… let’s begin. 

Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine 

I think the first thing that shocked me was the fact that Palestine has been under Israel’s military occupation since 1967. That’s 56 years now, just 2 years shorter than Singapore’s independence, which means that generations of Palestinians grew up under military occupation. 

Here are the details. 

In the West Bank, Israeli authorities have confiscated more than 2000 square kilometres of land from Palestinians — almost 3x the size of Singapore. They have denied Palestinians from building in the West Bank, while razing thousands of Palestinian properties and building over 23,000 Israeli-only housing units in the last decade or so. In December 2016, the UN Security Council declared that these Israeli settlements are illegal, and asked Israel to stop immediately. Israel did not stop. 

Israel also employs an elaborate series of walls, checkpoints, barricades, military zones, and Israeli-only roads and highways to maintain a segregation of Israelis and Palestinians within Palestinian land. To illustrate how extreme the segregation is, patients in Palestinian ambulances have to get out and switch to a different ambulance at checkpoints in order to enter East Jerusalem. 

In Gaza, the situation is worse. Since 2007 (which is 16 years now), Israel has turned Gaza into an “open-air prison” by imposing an illegal blockade. They largely ban Palestinians from leaving Gaza, ban the operation of Gaza’s airport and seaport, tightly control Gaza’s airspace and waters, and restrict the entry and exit of goods. Gazans have little hope of freedom or economic growth. 

Since 1967, the Israeli military has also arrested and detained over 800,000 Palestinians, including children as young as 12, who were often arrested without warrants, detained without charge, and tortured under Israeli custody.

Israel’s rule over Palestinians is so extreme that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN all concluded that it amounts to apartheid, which is a crime under international law. 

In September 2022, a UN Commission report concluded that Israel’s overall occupation of Palestine is unlawful. 

But that’s not all. The Israeli military has, on many occasions, demonstrated a horrifying intent and willingness to indiscriminately harm and kill Palestinian civilians and children. Here are just 2 examples. 

In December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a 22 day assault on Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 300 children. 

The Israeli military was found to have fired highly precise drone attacks at children and civilians, where no Palestinian fighters were present. Israeli soldiers were also found to have shot at women and children (as young as 2 years old) waving white flags, used civilians and even children as human shields, fired tank shells into Palestinian homes that killed unarmed civilians and children, and attacked paramedics and ambulances repeatedly. An Israeli officer even told Amnesty International that they “shot at anything that moved”. 

In 2018, during the “Great March of Return” demonstrations in Gaza, a UN report found that Israeli military snipers shot at 6,000 unarmed demonstrators with live bullets, including 940 children, 43 clearly-marked paramedics, and 41 clearly-marked journalists. 189 Palestinians were killed, including 35 children. 

And the most horrifying part is this: the UN commission found grounds to believe that the Israeli soldiers could clearly identify and intentionally shot at children, journalists, paramedics, and persons with disabilities, who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posed an imminent threat. These actions may constitute war crimes. 

I used to think that this conflict is between 2 countries that kept fighting with each other, but I was wrong. Israel is a violent occupying power that has kept fighting against both armed and unarmed uprisings of the people they illegally occupy. 

But let’s now take a step back. Even in light of all of these, Hamas’s 7 October terror attack still remains unacceptable and unjustifiable. More than a thousand people were killed, and over 200 hostages taken by Hamas. These actions are acts of terrorism and a clear violation of international law, and there is no justification for the indiscriminate killing, injuring, or kidnapping of civilians. 

And as we unconditionally condemn Hamas’s acts of terrorism, we also need to understand that those terror attacks do not absolve Israel of its wrongdoings throughout its entire occupation of Palestine. 

Critically, because we condemn the killing of innocent civilians and children, we cannot turn a blind eye on Israel’s current aggressive and indiscriminate retaliation on Gaza for the 7 October attacks. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in the aftermath of the attack gives the impression that this is a new conflict that Hamas has started. We now know that that is not true: Israel has kept Palestinians under belligerent occupation for 56 years. 

He also deceitfully called for the residents of Gaza to leave the area, but we now know that that’s impossible because of his own government’s blockade of Gaza. 

The contradictions in his statement are all the more alarming when we look at Israel’s current indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza. As of the time of recording, the Israeli military’s assault has killed an estimated 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza, which includes about 5,300 children. 

Israel cut off water, electricity, and other essentials into Gaza, which likely constitutes war crimes. Doctors had to perform operations without anaesthesia, and even use vinegar as an antiseptic. 

On 13 October, Israel issued an evacuation order to 1.1 million Palestinians to leave northern Gaza within 24 hours, which is likely illegal and a crime against humanity. 

Israeli forces have been found to bomb residential buildings full of civilians with no military targets in the area, and even attack refugee camps. Surviving parents often need to identify the burnt bodies or body parts of their dead children.

Israeli forces were also found to have carried out unlawful bombing and destruction of hospitals and well-marked ambulances. The Israeli military has claimed that Hamas used the hospitals as “command centres”, which as of recording are unverified claims. 

Indiscriminate killing of civilians during wartime is illegal. Giving a warning doesn’t free anyone from their legal obligations, and even the presence of Hamas fighters in a civilian building doesn’t make it legal to attack the building and its inhabitants. 

Half of all civilian infrastructure in Gaza has now been destroyed. On 16 November, over 35 United Nations experts warned that Israel’s current military assault points to a genocide in the making, and urged for an immediate ceasefire, followed by the end of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. 

Which brings me to the point of this video. I hope that you would agree that the senseless violence needs to end, and that a permanent ceasefire needs to happen. 

We need to seek justice for the victims of the 7 October terror attacks, but justice cannot come in the form of indiscriminate civilian killings or genocides. Standing up against terrorism doesn’t mean wholesale condoning of the Israeli military’ and state’s immoral and unlawful actions. 

We also need to seek justice for the Palestinian people, who have for over 7 decades been either displaced from their homeland or kept under belligerent military occupation. Palestinians deserve to be free. 

As a non-religious person, I sincerely wish for the freedom of Palestinians, for their right to be recognised; for their ability to live; for their children to be able to grow up and grow old peacefully. I wish also for the freedom of Israelis, to experience genuine peace and love that’s not conditional on the subjugation, abuse, or killing of others. 

Before I end, I want to remind us to please respect the humanity of people. The Israeli government or military do not represent all Israelis, and certainly not all Jews. Similarly, Hamas does not represent all Palestinians, and certainly not all Muslims. Islamophobia or anti-semitism cannot be our response to a humanitarian crisis. 

To all of you out there, please stay safe and stay loved.

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