Be Human, Stand With Palestine
Trigger Warning: This article includes a discussion of upsetting violence and includes graphic images which some readers may find disturbing. I feel this is necessary as the brutality of what is going on needs to be accurately put across, but reader discretion is advised.
You would have to live under a rock to not be made aware of the state sanctioned violence going on in Palestine right now — the internet has been set ablaze with informative posts and videos of the abhorrent hate crimes being committed against the Palestinian people. You don’t need to be Muslim to stand with Palestine, you just need to be human. You may be duped into thinking this is a solely religious conflict that has been going on for centuries, that this is all about ancient hatred between even more ancient religions, primarily Islam and Judaism. That is not true. While religion is involved, the conflict is mostly about two groups of people who claim the same land. At its heart, it is a conflict between two self-determination movements — Jewish Zionism and Palestinian nationalism — that lay claim to the same territory. In reality, this conflict only goes back about a century to the early 1900s. To understand what is going on in Palestine today, we need to understand its complex and complicated history, and I shall try my best to summarise that before speaking about the events taking place in Jerusalem.
In the early 1900s, the region along the Eastern Mediterranean that we now call Israel-Palestine was under the Ottoman Empire and had been for centuries. It was (and still is to an extent) a diverse setting, home to Muslims, Christians and some Jews (like the Samaritans who reside in Nablus), who generally lived in peace. In fact, the Palestinian Christian community is the oldest Christian community in the world. More and more, people in the region began developing a sense of being not just ethnic Arabs, but Palestinians — a distinct national identity. At the same time, in Europe, Jewish Zionism was beginning as a movement, which claimed Judaism was not just a religion, but a nationality that deserved a nation of its own after centuries of persecution. In the first decades of the 20th Century, tens of thousands of European Jews began to move to Palestine.
World War One
The Ottoman Empire totally collapsed due to World War One, and so the British and French Empires began carving up the Middle East, with Britain taking control of a region called ‘The British Mandate for Palestine’ from 1919 to 1948. Initially Britain allowed Jewish immigration, but as more arrived, tensions between Jews and Arabs grew, leading to violence. By the 1930s, the British began limiting Jewish immigration, and as a result, Jewish militias formed to fight the local Arabs as well as British rule.
On November 2nd 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, permanently changed the political and geographic landscape of the Middle East. Outlining British support for the establishment of a Jewish state, the Balfour Declaration set in motion a series of events that culminated in the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 in what had previously been Palestinian land. Ultimately, the declaration promised a state to the Jews despite Palestinian natives comprising some 90% of the population. According to Palestinian scholar Edward Said, the Balfour Declaration was “made by a European power […] about a non-European territory […] in a flat disregard of both the presence and the wishes of the native majority residents in that territory.”
World War Two and the Holocaust
The Nazi policy of Lebensraum was essentially settler colonialism — Hitler commenced ethnic cleansing in attempts to free up living space for his new Aryan Master Race to live and thrive. That meant…getting rid…of the current tenets. Due to this, more Jews flee Europe for Palestine, galvanising support of a Jewish State. In 1947, as violence between Jews and Arabs grew in Palestine, the United Nations devised a plan to divided the British Palestine into 2 separate states: one for Jews (Israel), and one for Arabs (Palestine), with Jerualsem, a city of religious significance to Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, to become an international zone.
This proposal sought to appease both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, and, thus, bring peace. Jews get their State, Palestinians/Arabs get their independence. The Jews accepted the UN’s proposal, but many Arabs saw it as more European colonialism attempting to steal their land.
Arab-Israeli War 1948–1949
Most Arab states, who had just recently gained their own independence, declared war on Israel in an effort to establish a unified Arab Palestine where all of British Palestine had been. Israel won the war, but, in the process, pushed past their borders under the UN plan, taking the Western half of Jerusalem and most Palestinian territories. Israel began expelling massive amounts of Palestinians from their homes, creating a massive refugee population and ushering in a Palestinian Exodus. The refugee population currently sits at roughly 7 million (though its probably more).
At the end of the Arab-Israeli War, Israel controlled all of the Palestinian territories except for Gaza (which was controlled by Egypt) and the West Bank (which was controlled by Jordan, it is the West Bank of the Jordan River).
Six Day War 1967
Israel and the neighbouring Arab states start fighting, and once the war ends, Israel seizes the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, as well as Jerusalem. Israel now occupies all Palestinian territories, leaving them responsible for governing the Palestinians, a people who it had fought for decades.
Camp David Accords 1978
Israel and Egypt sign the US brokered Camp David Accords, giving Sinai back to Egypt. Egyptian President Sadat is assassinated because of the outrage against the Accords in the Arab world. However, 1978 marks the beginning of the end of a wider Arab-Israeli conflict, as over the next few decades, Arab countries begin to broker peace with Israel. Israel’s military still occupy all Palestinian territories, and so the conflict becomes an Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation
Formed in the 60s to seek a Palestinian state, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) fought against Israel, including through acts of terror. They initially claimed all of what had been British Palestine, which meant they wished to end the state of Israel entirely, however, they would later go on to accept a two-state solution (i.e. dividing the land between Israel and Palestine, as had been proposed by the UN).
In 1982, Israel invade Lebanon. After the PLO leadership were expelled from Jordan in 1970–71 for fomenting a revolt, they entered Southern Lebanon, resulting in an increase of internal and cross-border violence, and the Israeli invasion. In September of 1982, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) ordered the Lebanese Christian militia to clear out PLO fighters in Sabra and Shatila, as a part of the IDF’s manoeuvring into West Beirut. The militia carried out the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, killing between 460 and 3500 civilians, primarily Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites. The IDF were aware of the militia’s actions, and did not take any action to prevent or stop the massacre. In 1983, a commission chaired by Sean Macbride, the assistant to the UN Secretary General and President of the United Nations General Assembly, concluded that Israel, as the occupying power, not only bore responsibility for the violence, but were guilty of genocide — the Sabra and Shatila Massacre carried out by the IDF and Lebanese militia was a genocide of Palestinians.
First Intifada 1987–1993
‘Intifada’ is the Arabic word for uprising. The First Intifada began with protests and boycotts, but soon turned violent, with the Israeli’s responding with heavy force. Many Palestinians and a few Jews died in the First Intifada. This was Palestinian boys with rocks against Israeli men with machine guns and body armour.
Around the same time, a group of Palestinians in Gaza, who considered the PLO too secular and compromised, created Hamas — a violent extremist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
Oslo Accords 1993
Leaders from both Israel and Palestine signed the Oslo Accords, which were meant to be the big first step for Israel ending its occupation of Palestinian territories. The Accords establish the Palestinian Authority, and allow a little bit of Palestinian self-governance in select areas.
Hardliners on both sides opposed the accords. Hamas launched suicide bombings to sabotage the process, and the Israeli right protest peace talks, calling the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a traitor and a Nazi. Not long after Rabin signed the second set of Accords, he gets shot by a far-right Israeli in Tel Aviv. Extremists on both sides derailed peace, creating permanent conflict in attempts to destroy the other.
Second Intifada 2000–2005
After the Second Camp David Accords in 2000 fail to find peace, Palestinians rise up, in a far more violent insurrection. By the time it ended, roughly 1000 Israelis and 32,000 Palestinians were dead.
Israel shifted even further to the right, becoming less interested in solving the conflict, and more in managing it, building walls and repressing Palestinians even more heavily.
In 2005, Israel withdraws from Gaza and Hamas takes power, splitting from the Palestinian Authority in a short civil war. Israel then blockades Gaza, and unemployment rises to 40%.
Gaza War 2014
Also known as Operation Protective Edge, the Gaza War was a military operation launched by Israel on 8th July 2014 in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas members (in an attempt to bring international pressure to bear to lift Israel’s blockade of Gaza), the Israel Defence Force conducted Operation Brother’s Keeper to arrest the militant leaders. Hamas fired rockets into Israel and a seven-week conflict broke out. Israel essentially flattened Gaza via airstrikes in an attempt to destroy Hamas, and more specifically the tunnel system they used for their operations, leading to the death of many Gazan civilians. The Gazan civilian casualty rates were estimated to range between 36% (according to Israeli officials), 65% (according to the UN), and 70% (according to the Gaza Health Ministry).
Settler Colonialism and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334
One of the greatest tragedies of history is its repetitiveness. Every war ever fought is always the same — people are going to die, one side will lose, the other will win, and eventually, after all the fighting is done, after innocent people have lost their lives, you’re going to have to do what you were always going to have to do from the very beginning: sit down and talk. Just as the Nazi’s had implemented settler colonialism against the Jews, so the Israeli government have against the Palestinians. Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that seeks to replace the native population of the colonised land with a new society of settlers — Palestine is the country Israel is colonising. Israeli’s began to move into the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, making their homes in the West Bank. Some moved for religious reasons, others just because the Israeli government subsidised housing there. The settlers are then followed by soldiers to ‘protect’ them, and the growing settlements force Palestinians off their land. Resistance against colonialism and imperial violence is not a crime or a clash or a conflict, its a duty, and a necessity.
In 2016, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 was adopted, which states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demanded that Israel stop such activity and fulfil its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention (which makes it illegal for nations to move populations and establish settlements in territories acquired in a war). However, it included no sanctions or coercive measures, and was non-binding. That being said, it serves as the view of the international community: Israel are in the wrong, their settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing is not just ethically wrong, it is absolutely illegal. This sort of brings us to the modern day — globally, it is recognised that Israel is in breach of international law, but continues anyway, with the support of massive amounts of Western financial aid from America and Britain.
What is going on in Palestine right now?
So if that’s the status quo now, why have all our feeds been filled with posts on Palestine? Well, on May 7th and 10th (during the final days of Ramadan — the holiest month for Muslims), Israeli Occupation Forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and unleashed tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-tipped bullets on Palestinian worshippers. They did so in an attempt to clear the Mosque for an invasion of Israeli settlers. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the 3rd holiest site for Muslims — imagine if someone started beating up peaceful worshippers at the Vatican or Lourdes, that’s the kind of significance we’re talking about. Some Jews, who have been mourning the destruction of their temple that used to stand in Jerusalem for thousands of years, began cheering on the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and while it was being attacked, some settlers attempted to break into the Al-Aqsa compound to celebrate Jerusalem Day, a commemoration of the Zionist invasion and illegal occupation of Jerusalem in 1967. Zionist forces barricaded suffocating Palestinians inside the compound, shooting innocent worshippers, who were there to pray, with rubber coated steel bullets. Indeed, as we have previously discussed, Sheikh Jarrah is just the most recent and notable example of the systematic dispossession of Palestinians in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel-Palestine, which has been going on since the founding of the apartheid regime imposed by the Israeli state. Israel has been gradually stealing Palestinian land, destroying and ethnically cleansing entire Palestinian villages, violently displacing families and building illegal settlements on top of them since the first Nakba (‘catastrophe’ in Arabic) in 1948 — Sheikh Jarrah isn’t the only, first, or last neighbourhood being violently threatened with dispossession, which Israel has no legal right to do.
Palestinians remained at the Mosque after evening prayers in order to protest Israel’s plans to forcibly evict more than 200 Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, which, as we’ve already established, is a Palestinian territory. Hamas, in ‘defence’ of Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian worshippers, launched rockets into Israel in retaliation, reportedly killing 5 Israelis and injuring over 100. More than 500 Palestinians were hospitalised this week, with at least 25 announced dead, including 10 children, after Israeli air strikes hit Gaza (including an orphanage and two media buildings).Many have used Hamas’ retaliation as justification of the Israeli violence, as if the actions of an extremist group condones collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population. Collective punishment, by the way, is considered a war crime by the UN and human rights organizations around the globe. As Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot said on the BBC on the 11th of May, “they try to blame the react rather than the act.” To quote Chomsky, who in fact was quoting an old man he had met in Gaza, “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
Do the civilians in Israel deserve to be bombed? No, of course not. But the Palestinian people do not deserve the far more brutal treatment that the Israeli government is dishing out to them (and has been for decades). Civilian causalities on both sides are unjustifiable. But let us not pretend that the Hamas bombings and the Israeli government’s decades long brutality towards the Palestinian people is equivalent — Israel has received $3.8 billion annually in foreign military aid from the US taxpayer since 2016.That is just the US: Israel is also supported by Canada, Australia, France, Belgium, Britain, and the list unfortunately goes on. The massive superpowers of our world aren’t only doing nothing to stop the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, they are actively supporting it, they are the ones paying for it! Hamas on the other hand has no such backing, and so cannot reek as much damage as Israel can — it is hardly a conflict of equal footing when you have one extremist group fighting against the 4th strongest army in the world, an army to a state that has an estimated 400 nuclear warheads. Putting aside Hamas, the Palestinian people are clearly the oppressed, and the clear oppressor, is the state of Israel.
Hamas and the Israeli government are similar in a few regards however. Hamas wishes to see the end of the state of Israel, and the Israeli government wishes to see the end of Hamas, and by extension the state of Palestine. Both are terror organisations. Now that might be quite evident with Hamas (although they do do a lot for Palestinian people in community development), but people seem to not think the same of the Israeli government. On May the 11th, the Israel Defense Forces had this to say:
“Our goal is only to strike terror.” Need I say more? Miko Peled, an Israeli-American author and human rights activist, once referred to the Israeli Army, “as one of the best trained, best-equipped, best fed, terrorist organisations in the world. And yes they have generals, and yes they have nice uniforms, but their entire purpose is terrorism.”
It is important to note that opposing Zionism as a movement, to oppose the right-wing Israeli government, to vehemently oppose the subjugation and suffering of the Palestinian population, is not anti-Semitic. There is nothing inherent in Judaism as a religion, or Jewish people, that naturally inclines them towards the evil behaviour of the Israeli government. However, Zionism is inherently flawed — it preaches an ideology of isolation rather than assimilation. This is not a religious conflict, it is imperial violence, and so we must separate the actions of the Israeli government from the Israeli people and from Judaism and its followers. Not all Jewish people agree with Zionism. “This is what Zionism does to our religion and our community. We need Judaism beyond Zionism.” the Jewish Voice For Peace, a Jewish activist organisation, said of the Al-Aqsa attack, “As long as Zionism has existed, so has Jewish dissent to it.” Indeed, there have been protests across the globe with Orthodox Jews in attendance, speaking out against the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians. Anti-Zionism may be used by ignorant and/or malicious people as an excuse for anti-Semitism, but this cannot and should not be condoned — the Jewish people are not at fault for the actions of the Israeli government. As we’ve already established, there are Jewish Palestinians who are also being oppressed by the Israeli government, and in fact most Arabs (including the Palestinians) spoke a Semitic language, and so, by technicality, are also considered Semites. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, what anti-Zionism is is anti-ethnic cleansing, anti-imprisonment, anti-massacre.
With rumours of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring “This is just the beginning,” what is to be done? The long-term solution to this issue is a two-state solution. Had Israel not exceeded the borders set by the UN proposal, had it not been fuelled with greed as to take other people’s homes and land, a two-state solution would have brought peace to the territories. Yes, Balfour should have never allowed for the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land without speaking to the Palestinians, but whether Israel should exist or not, the simple fact is that it does, and so we must now work around that. Should the state of Israel end? No. Should the state of Palestine end? No. Should both live in peace together? Yes, they have before and they can again, if the Israeli’s end their apartheid regime, stop treating Palestinian people as 2nd class citizens, and return Palestinian territories to the Palestinians.
But what can we do? In the face of our governments actively supporting Israel, and our media twisting the narrative of the violence, we as the public must take action into our own hands. The abundance of hashtags and posts you see on your timeline have raised awareness (and outrage) over the situation in Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem, which has two main consequences: a) more people willing to donate to charities to help Palestinians and b) protests in solidarity (not just marches but boycotts of major companies who profit off Zionism, like Starbucks, M&S, Coca Cola, Selfridges, Nestle, Danone, Timberland, and the list goes on). As many studies have shown, civil pressure is the first step of driving social change, and so, by sharing what’s going on in Palestine, in educating ourselves, we are taking the steps necessary for something to be done.
If we remain silent, avert our gaze from the suffering, keep our mouths shut over the injustice, close our eyes when we see innocent people, innocent children, get brutalised, then we shall be a shame to future generations, a repugnant stain on the record of humanity. Our children and our children’s children shall look back on us in disbelief that we allowed such an atrocity to occur in front of us, to allow a human tragedy to continue for so long without saying or doing anything. In the words of Albert Camus, “Peace is the only war worth waging.”
Should you wish to donate to Palestine, I have provided a link to Islamic Relief’s Palestine Emergency Appeal:
Palestine Emergency Appeal - Donate Now | Islamic Relief UK
Palestine is once again facing a dangerous escalation in violence, with hundreds injured in clashes. Israeli airstrikes…
This is of course not the only place you can donate, and I recommend you find pages you support and trust to give to the Palestinians.