The fight for a Free Palestine is your fight too (Deep Dive)

Usually I don’t really get into politics. As an anarchist thinker it just doesn’t interest me. After losing faith in politicians when I was still a kid, my opinion never changed. But, even though people keep saying the Palestine issue is political, I strongly disagree. In reality this conflict is over territory. And it’s between a nation state, Israel, with one of the world’s most powerful and well funded militaries, and an indigenous population of Palestinians that has been occupied, displaced, and exiled for decades.

The word Palestine originally derives from the Greek word Philistia which is the name mentioned in descriptions of the region in the 12th century B.C. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine typically refers to the geographic region located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Arab people who call this territory home are called Palestinians since the early 20th century. Over 135 United Nations member countries officially recognize Palestine as an independent state, but Israel and some other countries, including the United States, don’t make this distinction.

The “Occupation of Palestine” usually refers to the lands captured by Israel during the 1967 war that currently remain under Israeli military control, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Gaza. Despite the partitioning of the West Bank into areas A, B and C after the Oslo accords, to give some credibility to the Palestinian Authority, Israel has full military control. While settlers withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the army strictly manages the borders and airspace of the territory. They decide what is allowed in and out, and they periodically engage militarily in the territory. The “Occupation” can be understood as a system of military rule under which Palestinians are denied civil, political and economic rights and they are subjected to systematic discrimination and denial of basic freedom and dignity.

Yes, Palestinian citizens are entitled to vote and participate in political life and several Palestinians are members of the Knesset (the parliament of Israel), but they do not receive the same treatment as the Jewish citizens by the government. Israel still applies at least 65 laws that privilege Jews over Arabs. For example, the 1950 Law of Return grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians. Government resources, meanwhile, are disproportionately directed to Jews and not to Arabs. This is one factor in causing the Palestinians to suffer the lowest living standards in Israeli society by all economic indicators.

Israel continues to discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in areas of planning, budget allocation, policing and political participation. According to the Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Israel maintains over 65 laws that discriminate against Palestinians. For exampe, Israel continues to deny Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza married to Palestinian citizens of Israel the right to nationality by enforcing the discriminatory “Entry to Israel” Law. And in December, the magistrate court in Krayot, near Haifa, rejected a petition for access to education by Palestinian citizens of Israel living in Karmiel, citing the discriminatory Nation State Law. The decision said that establishing an Arabic school in the town or funding transport for its Palestinian residents to study in Arabic schools in nearby communities would undermine the town’s “Jewish character”.

Bombings in Gaza:

You’ve probably seen the recent escalation of events happening on social media. According to Al Jazeera’s live updates, from May 10th to May 18th in 2021 alone, we’ve seen 227 people killed, 1500 injured, 58000 displaced and over 500 homes destroyed in Gaza alone, because of Israeli air and ground strikes. In Israel, 12 people were killed and 564 injured. But this is obviously not a numbers game. And certainly, Israeli citizens are suffering too. But the attacks on Palestinians, in light of the ongoing ethnic cleansing and oppression that has defined recent Palestinian history, are inhumane and downright cruel.

The last large Israeli attack on Gaza was in 2014. Back then over 2250 Palestinians, including over 500 children, were killed. More than 11000 people were injured and over 160000 were displaced. Gaza has yet to recover from the destruction and damage of homes, schools, and infrastructure. In the weeks before the most recent attacks on Gaza, the Jerusalem District Courts authorized the displacement of Palestinian families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. This decision is the result of a decades long legal battle that will eventually turn Palestinian homes over to Jewish Israeli settlers. And, Israeli settler organizations initiated, with the support of the Israeli authorities, forcible evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

But even without an attack, Gaza is on the verge of complete collapse. Most of the population in Gaza relies on international assistance to survive and cases of disease and malnutrition are on the rise. More than half of the population is unemployed and 90% of businesses closed as a result of the Israeli blockade. The hospitals are out of up to 40% of needed supplies and medicine. Approximately 96% of water is undrinkable and electricity is only available for approximately four hours per day.

No, this is not about anti semitism:

Here it goes into some politics I guess. Please realize that it is possible to speak out against the violence of the Israeli state against Palestinian peoples without being anti semitic. When speaking up about the history of Palestine, start by talking about political Zionism. That led to the creation of the Israeli nation state which came at the expense of Indigenous Palestinians. Being against political Zionism is not anti semitic, in fact it has got nothing to do with it. Not all Jewish people are Zionists. Secondly, when speaking about the Israeli state or the government’s crimes, don’t equate its crimes to that of the Jewish people. We can speak against the actions of the state of Israel without discriminating against Jews. As we all know, governments and certain politicians around the world often engage in actions that we, the people, don’t actually agree with.

And this is very important to understand because Jews have been historically and systematically persecuted. They continue to face discrimination today all over the world. In standing against Zionists, against the actions of the state of Israel, we must stand with Jews. Palestinian liberation leaders, advocates and activists have been able to do so, and already there are plenty of Jewish groups actively working towards the liberation of the Palestinian people.

So why is this your fight too?

The liberation of all oppressed people should always be relevant to people of conscience. The forces oppressing Palestinians are also oppressing you at home. Those powerful forces behind colonialism, supremacy, patriarchy and capitalistic exploitation that committed genocide in the past and repressed social justice and liberation movements all over the world are still alive and well, and are always there to maintain the status quo. No matter what.

But the right to self determination is the right of people to determine their own destiny. In particular, the principle allows people to choose their own political status and to determine their own form of economic, cultural and social development. The principle of self determination is embodied in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations. Earlier it was explicitly embraced by US President Woodrow Wilson, by Lenin and others, and it became the guiding principle for the reconstruction of Europe following World War 1. The principle was then incorporated into the 1941 Atlantic Charter and the Dumbarton Oaks proposals which eventually evolved into the United Nations Charter.

Its inclusion in the UN Charter marks the universal recognition of the principle of self determination as fundamental to maintain friendly relations and peace among states. It is recognized as a right of all people in the first article common to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which both entered into force in 1976. And this is exactly why it is your fight. Because these human rights belong to all of us, and when these rights are denied to certain people you are at risk of losing these rights as well. Stand up now for the rights of the Palestinians, as they will stand up for yours.

Let me end this article with a quote by Nelson Mandela who fought against Apartheid and institutionalised racism his entire life: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”.

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