by Ariana Arzani, Bissan Barghouti, Jamil Dakwar, Lisa Guraya, Afraz Khan, Ashna Khanna and others
As members of the AMEMSA community, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and highlight the atrocities currently occurring in Palestine. This is the tragic and ongoing result of 73 years of Israeli apartheid, violent dispossession and ethnic cleansing. Within the past two weeks, over 200 Palestinians have been killed, including 59 children. Israeli forces have now entered into their 10th consecutive day of aerial bombardments upon the open-air prison that is Gaza.
What led to the most recent spike in Israeli aggression?
In October 2020, an Israeli Court ordered six Palestinian families to be forcibly removed from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. This decree is a blatant violation of international law, but as has been the case for the currently 7 million Palestinian refugees who have already been displaced in accordance with Zionist settler colonialism, these families were also expected to leave their indigenous lands. The court initially determined May 2, 2021 as the date for their forced removal. In the leadup to and following this day, Palestinian protests against the stealing of property in Sheikh Jarrah erupted across Jerusalem. Israeli forces began targeting protestors with heavy tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets. (Sound familiar?) The same tactics were also utilized by Israeli forces as they stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites for Muslims, during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan and attacked thousands of peaceful worshippers. In all, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported 305 Palestinians were injured, 228 of whom were hospitalized for their injuries.
Since then, Israeli aggression towards Palestinians has only escalated. In addition to the precious lives lost, Israeli forces have bombed schools, murdered doctors, destroyed high rise civilian buildings including a Gaza tower housing AP and Al Jazeera offices, levelled houses within refugee camps and have actively participated in violent attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel who peacefully protested or organized to defend themselves in so called mixed cities of Haifa, Akka, Lydd, Ramle and Yaffa. These violent attacks include utilizing live fire in Ramallah to “disperse” peaceful protestors.
The Dehumanization of Palestinian Life
Coupled with the state-sanctioned violence of Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem is the all too familiar systematic denial of Palestinian humanity across news outlets and within our highest seats of power. Western media outlets continuously use the language of colonialism to report on the situation with words such as “clashes”, “conflict on both sides”, “inter-communal violence” or “violence in the West Bank” with no consideration of the epic power differential between the two peoples. Israel, a nuclear power, is one of the largest arms exporters in the world. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) boasts a military budget of $20.5 billion and possession of the multibillion-dollar Iron Dome missile-defense system which intercepts the vast majority of incoming attacks. Palestine, with its own right to defend itself, has no official state or regular army.
In these past few weeks, Jewish Israeli civilians have also been unjustly injured and killed and such attacks must be condemned unequivocally. However, the Palestinian people are vastly more vulnerable due to their status as an occupied people with no government force to protect their right to exist freely. In Gaza, nearly 2 million Palestinians have been living under an Israeli imposed 15-year blockade, severely restricting their movement as well as their access to food, medical supplies, and raw materials to build basic infrastructure. Living in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, the people of Gaza literally have nowhere to run when they are attacked as they neither have access to bomb shelters like their Israeli counterparts nor the ability to flee Gaza.
When the question “What about Hamas?” comes up, it is important to think critically of the settler colonial circumstances that cultivated such militant groups as well as the fact that Israel has killed more people this week than Hamas has in 20 years.
Why This is Relevant to the United States
In 2016, the U.S. signed a deal with Israel to provide $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years, the largest in U.S. history. Further, in December of last year, Congress approved as part of a COVID-19 relief package approximately $4 billion to Israel in additional military aid. This means the average individual American taxpayer gives $25.25 in weapons to Israel each year. Not only is the U.S. actively financing the violent dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but the U.S. is also committed to defending Israel’s war crimes, blocking a UN statement three times just this week condemning Israel’s military aggression. Further, U.S. aid to Israel bears no restrictions. In April, 330 U.S. Representatives, including over 125 Democrats and nearly all House Republicans, committed to ensuring U.S. military aid to Israel remain unconditional irrespective of the country’s human rights record. At the same time, several members of Congress (among other allies) have strongly expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Our fight for freedom from oppression in the U.S. is inextricably tied to the struggles for liberation across the world, especially the struggles against U.S.-funded military rule. The U.S. government’s inability to address the situation in Palestine for what it is — occupation, settler-colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing — is directly rooted in its inability to officially and sincerely acknowledge white supremacy and the institutional racism it consistently reinforces and protects. As residents within the U.S., we must stop limiting our scope of concern to “domestic” issues for such an approach dangerously assumes that the white supremacist, imperialist structures prevalent within our country have no bearing on the lives of millions around the world.
Standing in Solidarity and Getting Involved
The harrowing images and videos from the past two weeks have been extremely difficult to bear for many of us. We especially want to send love to our Palestinian brothers and sisters and we hope and pray your families and loved ones have been able to stay safe during this time.
Palestinians have shown us time and time again that in their struggle for liberation, their spirits cannot be broken. The characteristics that define Palestinian resistance have come to be known as “Sumud”, a form of resilience and collective action that in their essence maintain Palestinian culture, tradition and homeland as an act of self-preservation and determination. It is a concept deeply embedded within Palestinian consciousness and centers itself around teaching life and the preservation of identity. It is this spirit of resistance with which Palestinians educated their fellow Black Lives Matter protestors on resisting military aggression here in the U.S.
Our collective voices must rise up to stand together and free Palestine.
In an effort to serve as allies to our Palestinian communities, we strongly encourage everyone to please see the attached resources.
Members of the AMEMSA community (Ariana Arzani, Bissan Barghouti, Jamil Dakwar, Lisa Guraya, Afraz Khan, Ashna Khanna and others)