Israel’s atrocities toward Gaza must be stopped

Support of Black Lives Matter, minority advocacy should be extended to Palestinian movement given historical discrimination
Israel’s atrocities toward Gaza must be stopped

In 1947, my grandparents celebrated the triumph of independence in India and the beginning of the postcolonial age. Halfway across the world, however, the Palestinian people were never able to experience liberation — as decolonization spread across the world, their homeland was left behind. The systematic invasion, dispossession and killing of Palestinians at the hands of Israel echoes what my ancestors were forced through.

The most recent chapter in this decades-long conflict began on Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas militants stormed southern Israeli towns, killing more than 1,000 men, women and children. They took 247 hostages, many of whom are still being held in Gaza. Several reports of sexual assault and bodily mutilation during the attack have also emerged.

Soon after, the attacks by Hamas received deserved condemnation from both our school board and city council. Yet, in the past six months, I have seen nothing close to a real condemnation of the current, ongoing atrocities in Gaza committed by Israel.

The Israeli Defense Force, Israel’s military, immediately called for a complete siege on Gaza, along with cutting off all electricity, food, water and fuel for the 2.4 million people, nearly half of whom are children. With the consent and funding of the US government, the IDF initiated the most drastic aerial bombing campaign in recent history, destroying civilian infrastructure — including hospitals, schools and mosquesand murdering more than 35,000 Palestinians, 70% of them women and children. Around 85,000 people have been injured or reported missing.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to evacuate their homes, fleeing south as Israel continued its aggression, leading to the current humanitarian crisis in Rafah. While the city  currently shelters around 1.4 million refugees, the IDF has pressed for a ground invasion, despite Hamas officially accepting a ceasefire. The bombardment, forcible transfer and violent language used by Israeli officials has led several human rights experts to label Israel’s military action as genocidal

This extreme, unjustifiable violence is wildly disproportionate to the actions of Hamas yet has faced nothing but blurry, vague words calling for “unity and empathy” during these “tough times.” Even something as noncontroversial as calling for a ceasefire, a demand from families of Israeli hostages, is contested by our city council, which refuses to make a resolution in fear of tearing the community apart. If our city wishes to not take a stance on a conflict, they need to uphold the same standard for both sides, rather than the selective condemnation of Hamas.  

In addition to the city’s response, I have been shocked by the reaction of many of my peers to these events. The vast majority of people around me have been completely silent or overwhelmingly supportive of Israel’s military actions, and I have been blocked or called brainwashed for simply reposting information about the bombardment.

The most disgusting and sadly ironic fact is the same people who were participating in the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, centered around the systematic discrimination and oppression of Black Americans at the hands of our government, now turn their backs on Palestinian civilians.

Our city has taken significant action when it comes to ensuring equality, as described in its Race and Equity plan. Yet, these views are somehow abandoned when it comes to Palestinians, who have been resisting conditions — reflecting those fought against by BLM supporters — for decades. In fact, the two movements have had historical solidarity, going back to the Black Panther Party.   

Palo Alto’s response has shown the limits of progressivism in the modern world — how one of the most liberal cities in America can support movements like Black Lives Matter, but refuse to acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians, is absurd.

Furthermore, the view that this conflict started on Oct. 7 is ignorant and misconstrues decades of peaceful Palestinian resistance.

The Palo Alto city council’s statement solely condemning Hamas made clear the city thinks Israel had zero blame for the situation in Gaza, erasing decades of history, starting from the beginning of the Zionist movement.  From November of 1947 to May of 1948, over 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes, which they had inhabited for generations, in an event referred to as the Nakba, or “the catastrophe” in Arabic. What resulted was the formation of the state of Israel and the beginning of decades of violence for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinians have endured a brutal occupation since 1967, when Israel gained control of the territories. As the Palestinian national movement grew, Israel’s attempts to squash the resistance failed miserably, culminating in the First Intifada in 1987. It was a predominantly nonviolent grassroots movement started after an IDF vehicle struck a car in a refugee camp in Gaza, killing four Palestinians. The policy of Israel’s security forces at this time was to use “force, might, and beatings”, resulting in widespread assaults on innocent protesters. 

The First Intifada represented a generation of Palestinians who had known nothing since birth but violent occupation. It paved the way for more global recognition of the Palestinian struggle and was the beginning of several peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian officials. While the agreements eventually fell through, this shows how Palestinians have been peacefully resisting occupation for decades, and how violence was never a first option for them. Viewing the Palestinian cause as simply the recent actions of Hamas is one-dimensional and historically inaccurate.

The failure of diplomatic and peaceful attempts at Palestinian statehood, only exaggerated by Hamas’ use of suicide bombers on Israeli civilian targets during the Second Intifada, made clear how few options Palestinians had to resist. 

Israeli aggression against Palestinians has been nonstop in recent years, through the illegal settlements in the West Bank, mass detention of Palestinians without charge or trial, restriction of movement between and within the occupied territories and the economic blockade of goods coming in and out of Gaza, leaving little access to clean water and reliable electricity. Routine Israeli bombardment in 2012 and 2014 — inhumanely referred to by Israeli officials as “mowing the grass” — severely weakened Gaza’s infrastructure, left large parts of the city in rubble, and killed over 3,800 Palestinians.

The Great March of Return in 2018, where Israeli snipers targeted thousands of peaceful protesters, killing more than 200 and injuring thousands more, showcased the depths of Israeli violence. A United Nations Human Rights report found reasonable evidence that the IDF “shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such.”

Before October of 2023, that year had already been the deadliest year for Palestinian children as Israel stepped up its military action in the West Bank. While Palestinians within Israel proper live relatively better off, there are still discriminatory laws and practices in place. According to several human rights organizations, the inequalities upheld by state law within Israel could constitute as apartheid.

These events that contextualize Palestinian existence are ignored by our city and other pro-Israeli activists as they continue to remain silent about the atrocities in Gaza. We must not let hypocritical, reactionary ideals plague our city officials and classmates. Acknowledging the Palestinian struggle — including Israel’s role in it — is an important step forward and demonstrates true progressivism.

The continued support for Israel’s military actions only perpetuates the decades-long cycle of violence — the impossible motive to destroy Palestinian resistance is proliferated by the occupation itself.

We have to work together as a community to recognize the struggle of the Palestinians as well as all other oppressed groups in the world. If we truly care about anti-racist and anti-imperialist beliefs, we have to uphold that same standard for everyone. Palestine cannot be the exception.

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