The U.S.-backed Israeli government continues to escalate its heavy aerial and ground bombardment of what is commonly referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison — Gaza. At the time of writing, 145 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 41 children and at least 29 women, AP and Al Jazeera offices have been destroyed, and an Israeli airstrike killed at least 10 members of a family in a Gazan refugee camp. If Israel wants to refer to itself as “the only democracy in the middle east” it must cease inflicting what journalists refer to as the “systemic collective punishment” of the people of Gaza.
The recent violence was a predictable consequence of Israeli provocation over the prior weeks. For example, barriers were erected to prevent Palestinians from celebrating Ramadan, the Al Aqsa Mosque was raided, and most notably Israel continues its forcible evictions of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, a place that has always been the cultural heart of the Palestinian people. Retaliatory rockets were fired from Gaza, only to be met with a severe ground and aerial campaign from the Israeli government.
The Biden administration must use its leverage in order to pressure Israel to seek alternatives to military action or threaten it with losing the more than $3.8 billion in foreign military aid, $8 billion of loan guarantees, and countless subsidiary payments (e.g. tax deductible donations to the Jewish National Fund) it receives from the United States.
The bombing of Gaza or what the Israeli military refers to as “mowing the grass” codifies the mistreatment of Palestinians. An already frenzied Israeli public is pushed further into the arms of right-wing demagogues, and Israeli government is given carte blanche to continue expanding its settlements in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
Although the intensity of bombing and communal violence against Palestinians is likely to increase in the coming days with the complicity of the Biden administration, there are reasons to be hopeful. Unprecedented protests have erupted across major cities in the United States and around the world. For the first time there is an organized congressional opposition to Israel aggression, and social media and even traditional media awareness of the ongoing violence and occupation feels larger than it has ever been. We must make it our responsibility to ensure that this shift doesn’t fade when the violence ceases, but instead provides the catalyst for meaningful change.