Monday, January 16, 2012

Why you should support the Palestinians

Originally posted by the Socialist Alternative at

It has been over three years since Israel’s massacre in Gaza, which saw over 1400 people murdered, but those who lived through the experience recall it as though it was yesterday. Blogger Rafat Abushaban gives a sense of the terror and impotence felt by the Palestinians living in the Strip at the time:

Some of the blasts were so powerful that rocks and bricks flew for hundreds of meters, hitting all the houses close by. It was a shocking experience witnessing the huge explosions, while seeing and hearing the metal, bricks and wooden parts of your house falling apart all around you. Here I believe is the very basic rule of life in Gaza: the place that was thought to be safer than others is dangerous after all. You are never safe.

To “never feel safe” is a way of life for the Palestinians. Whether it is the threat of air bombardments over Gaza, which continue almost daily, or the threat of having their home bulldozed by the Israeli state in East Jerusalem; whether it is the prospect of being arbitrarily stopped at one of the many Israeli military checkpoints that dot the Occupied West Bank, or being harassed for speaking Arabic inside the 1948 borders of Israel; whether it is seeing a younger brother or sister tortured in Israeli jails for years for the “crime” of throwing a rock at a passing Israeli soldier, or knowing that if a family member in Gaza gets sick there are no medicines to treat them, the threats are constant.

Last year could have been declared one of the most unsafe years for Palestinians. Human Rights organisation Peace Now found that Israeli settlement building had increased by 20 percent. In November over 700 Palestinians were made homeless by demolitions. Hundreds reported that they were woken in the middle of the night, told they had hour to gather their most prized possessions, and forced to leave.

They were then forced to watch as their homes were bulldozed into rubble. And to rub salt into the wounds the Israeli Knesset passed a law mandating that Palestinians whose homes are bulldozed will have to pay for the cost of the bulldozing.

The apartheid wall – called by African American novelist Alice Walker “an insult to the soul of humanity” – continues to snake through Palestinian communities, dividing them, and stealing their land. This wall is twice as high and three times as long as the Berlin wall, and is a constant visual reminder to the Palestinians that they do not control their own territory, that they are monitored 24 hours a day.

In Gaza the brutal blockade continues. Medical supplies and equipment are running dangerously low. Basics like baby formulas, antibiotics and MRI and X-ray machine are still banned. Most homes have still not been rebuilt after they were bombed in the war, and many suburbs look like a post-apocalyptic film set: all rubble and detritus. There is little to no industry and unemployment and restrictions on freedom of movement lead to extremely high levels of mental illness.

Support for the Palestinians and condemnation of the Israelis has to go deeper than moral outrage. It has to be built on an understanding that what is happening today is built upon a foundation of what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls “a project of ethnic cleansing”.

In other words the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli state is deeply racist, even genocidal in intent. Pappe’s research has revealed that the final plan for Zionist colonisation of Palestinian territory in 1948 involved mass expulsions, using tactics that included

large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties, and goods; expulsion; demolition; and, finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning.

In short, the plan was “an initiative to ethnically cleanse the country as a whole”. With the order to begin the operation, “each brigade commander received a list of the villages or neighbourhoods that had to be occupied, destroyed, and their inhabitants expelled”. The establishment of Israel saw over a million Palestinians flee from their homeland and forced into neighbouring countries where they have often lived as second class citizens in permanent refugee camps. The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is a relationship between colonisers and the colonised.

If you are against colonisation then you must be on the side of the Palestinians.

Since the beginnings of Zionist colonisation, Israelis and their supporters have attempted to deny Palestinians not just a right to land, but the right to an identity, an existence. In a move similar to the declarations of “terra nullius” in Australia, the Zionist movement declared Palestine ideal for Zionist migration as it was “A land without a people for a people without a land”.

These sentiments are widely accepted even today. US Republican Newt Gingrich recently took to the airwaves to declare Palestinians an “invented people”. Rick Santorum, another leading US politician, stated in November that “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians”.

If you support rights of Indigenous populations to their land, you should support the Palestinians.
If you are against racism and apartheid, you should support the Palestinians.

Last year prominent African American activists and writers went on a tour of the Occupied Territories and Gaza. Many of them had grown up in the South of the USA under the racist Jim Crow laws and were shocked by the similarities. They were gob smacked by the “Israeli only roads”, by the differences between Palestinian schools and Israeli schools, and by the many thousands of subtle and not so subtle ways in which the Palestinians are persecuted.

Many comparisons have also been drawn with apartheid South Africa. Indeed one of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has made stark comparisons with the history of his own country:

I visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints. The inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured, farmers tend their land, or children attend schools. This treatment is familiar to me as it was to many Black South Africans who were corralled and harassed by the security forces of the apartheid government
Palestinian writer Linah Alsaafin said in a recent article, “Apartheid is very much alive in occupied Palestine. It is our reality that we breathe through our congested lungs every minute of our waking lives.”

If you are against the domination of the US as the world’s biggest superpower, then you should be on the side of the Palestinians.

The Israeli state acts as one of the outposts of US power in the oil rich Middle East. The Bush and Obama administrations have offered unprecedented levels of military aid to Israel since 2007. There is also joint research, development and field testing of anti-missile projects financed separately by the Pentagon.
According to the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in 2007, the US is scheduled to provide Israel with $US30 billion in tax payer funded weapons between 2009 and 2018 – a 25 percent average annual increase over previous levels.

While many previous dictatorial allies of the US are being swept away by the Arab revolutions, Israel maintains its firm commitment to US regional dominance. Indeed 2012 has already seen one of the biggest ever joint military exercises between Israel and the USA.

Obama has given a rubber stamp to Israel, despite its various atrocities. The US vetoed a motion in the UN which condemned Israel’s settlement expansion, and has threatened reduced aid to the Palestinians if they try again to become a member of the UN. In return Israel acts as a loyal ally of the West in the region.
Finally if you support the struggles of the oppressed against their oppression then you should be on the side of the Palestinians

Ever since the initial mass expulsions, the Palestinian movement has been engaged in a struggle for justice. They have suffered immense privation, many have lost their lives, but they have not given up. From the young children who express their frustration by throwing rocks, to the weekly demonstrations in towns like Bi’lin and Ni’lin against the apartheid wall, they remain steadfast.

One activist wrote of the struggle:
In the 1960s in the US, the saying was “We shall overcome.” In Palestine, we say “Samidoon” or “We are steadfast.” There is courage, perseverance, strength and a deep sense of justice that binds rights struggles around the world. The mantra of sumoud, or steadfastness, that Palestinians hold dear, is difficult to adequately convey in translation, but it is not unique to them. It is a common root from which the oppressed draw inspiration and build solidarity.

For all these reasons, the Palestinians should be supported.

~ brought to my attention by @CarlosLatuff via Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment