Comment | Gaza- not the only issue

Over the past month there have been growing tensions in the Middle East. The most widely reported and well known issue is that of the Gaza strip. Israeli forces and militant group Hamas have been exchanging blows in the form of sporadic fighting and bombing, resulting in mostly innocent Palestinian civilian deaths, and Israel coming under fire for its indiscriminate tactics.

However, whilst this issue is the most well known, the rapid growth of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) is by far more worrying and poses a greater threat to, not only ourselves, but hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East. IS, borne out of organisations such as Al-Qaeda, grew in strength and notoriety fighting the Assad regime in Syria. However, in recent months, it has begun expanding its influence and control throughout Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Its ultimate goal is to create a hard line Sunni Islamic caliphate stretching over the continent, claiming religious authority over Muslims across the globe, and crushing anyone or anything that stands in their way.

To put this issue in perspective, since 2006 there have been approximately 5,000 Palestinian civilian deaths related to the Gaza conflict. In comparison, the UN has reported that IS are responsible for 5,576 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2014 alone. That is not to mention the atrocities committed in the past month, with 500 innocent Yazidis being slaughtered in Iraq, many reportedly being crucified and buried alive. Even with these recent revelations, there is little public or media condemnation. While in July there was a massive public outcry about Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, now there is seemingly nothing regarding the genocide and ethnic cleansing being performed by IS. No protests, no celebrity endorsement, no resignations. Many people took to social media to express their shock and disgust at the actions of Israel- now, the social networks are silent. Either no one knows what’s going on, or no one cares.

With all the publicity the Gaza conflict received, it is unsurprising that there seems to be fairly widespread pro-Palestinian support, with it becoming almost fashionable to have an opinion and to express it. This apparent media favouritism is further highlighted by the comparison of the recent kidnapping of over 100 women and children by IS in Kojo, Northern Iraq, to the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram in April. Whilst the latter was met by widespread public condemnation, including worldwide protest, campaigning and media attention, the former was relatively unreported and remains relatively unknown.

IS is one of the greatest threats to the West and the Middle East of modern times. Britain must realise this is not an isolated issue, the fighters know no bounds- some members are British, making it entirely plausible for them to return to the UK to carry out terror attacks. This threat is not limited to ourselves, but to the hundreds of thousands of civilians that stand in their way. It is only recently, with the growing number of atrocities and the execution of James Foley that this issue is getting the attention it deserves. As a country we must not be blinded by the flashy lights of the media and become distracted. It is necessary to look past the news presented to us to be aware of the breadth of complex issues in the world.

Alex Smye

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