In recent weeks, the years of suffering in Palestine have emerged in the world’s consciousness and have made a great impact in terms of support for Palestine. However, a call for a ceasefire does not indicate any semblance of peace for the Palestinians who are suffering under Israel’s apartheid. The media has a duty to accurately report on what is truly happening to Palestinians on their land. Moreover, the Western world has a dual duty to assist this ailing population and stop taking part in their oppression. The world as a whole cannot continue to portray the injustices and violence occurring to Palestinians as a two-sided issue; we must collectively open our eyes to these injustices and offer solidarity to the Palestinian people.
The unrest was inflamed after Palestinian families in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, located in East Jerusalem, faced displacement from their homes by Israeli settlers. Under international law, Israel, as an occupying power, cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory. According to United Nations rights office spokesman Rupert Colville, transferring civilian populations into occupied territory is illegal under international law and may amount to war crimes.
The United States is especially guilty of aiding in the violence and the oppression of the Palestinian people. The U.S. and Israel have shared close bonds for decades, and the U.S. thus funds Israel in a number of ways — namely in the selling of arms that are being used against Palestinian civilians. This allyship has bled into the media coverage that we see regarding Israel and Palestine, such as classifying the number of atrocities Israel is committing against Palestinians as a “conflict.” We need to label what is occurring in Palestine accurately as settler colonialism and apartheid. As of Saturday, May 22, the Palestinian death toll stands at 248, including 66 children, and more than 1,900 people wounded from Israeli air and artillery attacks. In Israel, rocket fire killed at least 12 people including two children. It is impossible to watch the footage of Israeli attacks on Gaza and look at the sheer number of Palestinians killed and wounded and claim that this is an equal fight. A conflict implies that there is equal footing, and in reality, Israel very clearly has the upper hand.
Though the American media will unlikely shift their biased viewpoints on the violence Palestinians face at the hands of Israel, people all over the world have a responsibility to educate themselves on what is happening in Palestine and why we must support them. There are numerous Palestinians actively using social media to help spread the truth about what is happening, and the world must shift its attention to them and learn from the very own voices of Palestinians and their experiences.
Many Palestinians living outside of their home nation must also deal with the suffocating truth that they cannot publicly criticize Israel and their government for fear of not being allowed back into Palestine or the potential danger their activism may cause for family living within Palestine. Palestinians live with a constant fear of retaliation when criticizing the Israeli government, and they additionally must fear an attack that inaccurately conflates any critiques of Israel with antisemitism. College students and faculty members are often slandered on the website Canary Mission, linking any of their critiques of Israel with antisemitism and terrorism. This creates a culture of fear among student activists and faculty who deserve to be able to critique a government without being labeled as antisemitic or inciting terror.
Antisemitism obviously has no place in the movement for Palestinian liberation. The Zionist goal of conflating Judaism with Zionism is deliberate in order to intimidate activists for Palestine into silence. Palestinians have condemned antisemitism for years. However, the current conversation about Palestine is too often shifted away from the Palestinian experience to instead address antisemitism. Unfortunately, the news seems to constantly and strategically move the conversation away from this. Palestinians are constantly fighting ethnic cleansing and genocide, they should be able to pour all of their energy into fighting for liberation. The cause for Palestinian liberation must not be diverted and the conflation between any critiques of Israel as antisemitic must end.
The Western public has a dual-sided job: to step back and let Palestinians share their truth while also advocating for those who cannot speak. America especially has a self-important savior attitude that it must put aside in order to genuinely help Palestinians. However, this does not mean that help cannot be offered in the form of sharing Palestinian stories online. Amplifying the voices of victims is the best way that most people can help others be aware of the ongoing struggle. America is in a unique position as an ally to hold Israel accountable for its crimes; therefore, the general public must keep this in the spotlight to hold politicians accountable.
Above all else, it should also be noted that what is going on in Israel and Palestine is not solely about violence. The media likes to glamorize the violence and vilify Palestinians. But at the core of this, men, women and children are killed every day by bombs funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Lives are being lost, families are being torn apart, entire bloodlines are lost in a single explosion ー this is not a simple matter of two countries unable to get along. In truth, this is Israel actively oppressing and stealing land from people who want nothing more than for their families to thrive like everyone else. Though it is understandable that people may want to wait and learn more before holding onto an opinion, it doesn’t take more than seeing Palestinian children cowering in fear at the sound of bombs to inform you on who is being oppressed in this situation.
This is not a “both sides” issue: this is a human rights violation that needs to be ended. The activism that we put forth must not become performative. Posting a colorful infographic to your Instagram story that most followers won’t bother to scroll through is not activism. Reading through the infographic your friend posted and leaving it at that is not activism. In other words, if you are not actively engaging with the information consumed and using it to better a cause, then there is no activism occurring. We all must do our part in reading literature by Palestinian authors, attending lectures, protesting and simply talking to people who are being impacted by Israel’s colonialism. After all, there is no better person to ask about the genocide that Palestinians are facing than a Palestinian themself. We must uplift the voices of the oppressed and ignore the mainstream media’s biased talking heads.
If we don’t give a platform to the voices of those who are suffering, then the world will never truly be able to assist the hundreds of people who are risking death every day because of their ethnic background. We must stand up for those being silenced and quiet our own voices for those who are able to speak to their own experience. A ceasefire means nothing to the people who have been oppressed and murdered for decades on end. A ceasefire does not mean that oppression stops. Death and destruction have not and will not end. The blockade on Gaza has not been lifted. A ceasefire does not solve the thousands of people Israel displaced in the past few weeks, and it does not bring back the entire families who were wiped out in an instant. A ceasefire is only a slowing down of the mass slaughter and violence of the Israeli occupation and apartheid that denies basic human rights and safety to the Palestinian people. Palestinians deserve more than to simply not die. They deserve to live free. It is imperative that we listen and uplift the voices of Palestinians and continuously demand an end to the occupation and apartheid because silence will never stop an oppressor from destroying lives.