As we enter the holiday season, it is a good time to read behind the daily headlines from the Holy Land of Israel/Palestine. It is unfortunately true that the dominant Western media view on this region is following the tried and true path of providing no context whatsoever. The result is a one-sided repetition of what amounts to the Netanyahu view of the situation: Palestinians are terrorists, no different from ISIS in wanting to destroy all that is good in the world.
When it comes to Israel/Palestine, this point of view is grossly inaccurate. In fact, rather than using the lens of “terrorists against the world,” we would be better served by viewing this struggle for what it truly is, an occupied Palestinian population desperately trying to throw off an oppressive occupation in the Palestinian Territories, and, within Israel proper, Palestinian citizens fighting against second-class status.
By way of history, let’s remember that more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from their land beginning in 1948 (and continuing today) in what is known in Arabic as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe. Israel’s control of Palestinian land grew in 1967 with the institution of a military occupation, under which Palestinians continue to be ruled by military law while their Jewish settler neighbors are not.
Military rule in Palestine brings the following:
• Increasing Jewish settlements
• Confiscation of Palestinian land
• Demolition of Palestinian homes (since 1967, 48,488 structures have been destroyed
• Severe restrictions on Palestinian movement
• Palestinian imprisonment without trial, including imprisonment of children (since 1967, it is estimated that one-fifth of the Palestinian population has been imprisoned
• Violent military and police reaction to Palestinian demonstrations
And all this is done, supposedly, in the service of assuring that the Jewish people, my people by the way, will never again suffer a Holocaust or vicious pogroms, as they did in Europe. It is truly tragic that the oppression of Palestinians is being carried out in the name of those who have suffered so much.
This Israeli enterprise cannot continue without U.S. money and diplomatic cover. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and our government routinely vetoes United Nations measures critical of Israel. Perhaps the affinity between the U.S. and Israel lies in their mutual embrace of a manifest destiny-driven settler colonialism that devalues and destroys their respective indigenous populations.
Looking again at the headlines, we should not be surprised that Palestinians are resorting to individual acts of violence. How would you react in similar circumstances? This is not an endorsement of violence but a view of that reaction in the context of ongoing superior state and settler colonial violence.
What can be done? U.S. aid to Israel, rather than always increasing, can be stopped and conditioned on Israel’s adherence to international law and respect for human rights. The movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) can be supported. Begun in 2005 by Palestinian civil society, and now with worldwide support, it is a growing nonviolent, citizen-driven push to hold Israel accountable for its oppressive actions.
For some, this is a difficult narrative to hear. Nevertheless, there can be no peace without justice, and justice demands that we evaluate not only our government’s actions but our own colonial mindset.
Rand Clark is an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace-Santa Barbara.