photography and multimedia journalism association


by Przemysław Kozłowski and Maciej Moskwa

Violence is ready to erupt here. Like a boiling geyser, it could happen within minutes or simmer for days.  It just needs a reason that is good enough to brake a fragile jug of peace and pour out hatred, flooding the country by blood. The ongoing militarization of the region makes Israelis and Palestinians ready within minutes to grab stones, rifles or missiles in order to attack, protect or punish.

In theory, the primary reason for an eruption could be the same for both sides - but the motives are vastly different. 

Israeli writer Etgar Keret once wrote: "They say that one picture is worth a thousand words. But the big question is, how much are a thousand words worth? In the region I come from, not an awful lot. Here, every person you stop on the street ... say(s) the same thing: why has this place we live in, which could so easily have been heaven, turned into hell? No matter who shares his solutions with you, the bottom line will always be the same. The "guilty ones" are "them". ... Right-wingers, left-wingers, Arabs, settlers, secular Jews, religious Jews, Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt politicians and dozens of other guilty parties."

The reason for the latest eruption of the conflict was the disappearance of three Israeli teenage students of yeshivas - Jewish religious schools.

On June 12, 2014, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah where hitchhiking in Gush Etzion, a group of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The three were making their way home, but never made it. They disappeared.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the teens had been kidnapped by Hamas. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping and declared cooperation of Palestinian Authority security with Israeli forces in searching for teens. Hamas denied kidnapping the three, criticized collaboration during the search, and called the kidnappers "heroes".

On the streets of Israel and the West Bank the opinions vary.
"Hamas kidnapped teens to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners."
"No idea what's happened. Everything that people say is speculation."
"Europe supports Hamas and kidnapping of Israeli civilians."
"Abduction is God's punishment for anti-religious legislation in the Knesset and Israel's readiness to abandon parts of the Land of Israel."
"There was no kidnapping. It's the Israeli government's game in order to play Palestinians off against Palestinians."
"They are not students, they are soldiers. There are pictures on Facebook of them wearing military uniforms."
"They were not kidnapped by Palestinians, but hidden by the Israeli army in order to do military training in searching for abducted people."
"Israel needs a war every few years, so they arranged kidnapping to goad the Third Intifada."
"Israel needs a war to steal the rest of Palestinian land."

And so on.

The Israel Defense Forces rapidly launched Operation Brother's Keeper. Under the guise of searching for the students, they raided Palestinian houses and streets in West Bank towns. They focused on Hebron. Palestinians responded to the intrusions with force, prompting heavy clashes. As a result, hundreds were arrested and six were killed.

On June 30, the dead bodies of the missing teens were found in the field near Hebron. A group of Israeli nationalists took revenge by abducting and killing a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Then, Hamas fired more than 20 rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. In response Israeli jets and helicopters struck 34 locations in Gaza Strip.

On July 8, in order to stop the rocket fire from Gaza and to destroy Gaza's tunnel system, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge. It lasted for 50 days and, as a result of the bombardmant, Palestinian rocket attacks, and ground fighting, 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians died. Further, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Palestinians lost 2,189 people, of whom 1486 are believed to be civilians.

On August 20, a Hamas official Saleh Al-'Arouri, admitted that their military wing was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli students. However, two days later Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader, said that the organization's leadership were not aware of the action taken by this group of Hamas members.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued since the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 and intervention of Arab armies on behalf of Palestinians. But the background of the conflict dates to at least 50 years previous, back to the Zionism inception and growing Arab Nationalism.