Let me get to the point right away. The killing and kidnapping of Israeli civilians by Hamas on October 7th is unacceptable, but so is the systematic, long-term state violence perpetrated by the Israeli government on the Palestinian people. It is outrageous that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land since 1967, that there has been a siege on Gaza since 2007, that the occupation of Palestinian land has escalated with far-right settler coalition. It Is outrageous that the fact that Palestinians have been subjected to daily assaults, killings, collective torture and humiliation by Israel for the last 75 years has been missing from the narrative.
The historical context is important. Israel came into being in 1948. Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9 million population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities.1 Before World War 1, before the Balfour Declaration, Palestine was an active part of the Ottoman Empire. Following World War 1, European powers pushed out many Jewish people into Palestine. In 1967, Zionist forces, in their mission to create a “Jewish state”, continued expel thousands of Palestinians, destroying their homes. Israel absorbed the whole of historical Palestine, as well as additional territory from Egypt and Syria. By the end of the Arab Israeli war, Israel had expelled another 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. Let us not allow anyone to distort history in the bid to erase Palestine.
Hamas is said to be the source of all problems. Well, the Palestinian Authority is a different leadership group in the West Bank. It cooperates far more with the Israeli government. What are they getting in return? Hundreds of innocent Palestinians are still killed in the West Bank every year2. They are stripped of their basic human rights. Israel’s settlement projects have brought 600,000 Israelis to the West Bank. Israeli authorities expropriate the land and carry out Palestinian home demolitions on a regular basis, either to expand existing settlements, or build a new ones.
Those of you who think the Israeli government is a bastion of Western democratic ideals, should know that according to Amnesty International, Israel’s oppression of Palestinians constitutes a system of apartheid that is no different from South Africa's apartheid Bantustan system. These are crimes against humanity. This conflict is not between two equal parties, one is the occupier, one is occupied, one side has all the privileges The world has failed to hold the oppressor accountable for these crimes.
Many western media outlets have covered the human death toll in Gaza as just numbers or reverberate Israel’s “right to defend itself” and “Hamas using civilians in Gaza as human shields.” Supporters of Palestine on any talk show have their humanity cross examined and their moral compass assessed, yet supporters of Israel are never asked if they condemn the daily human rights violations of the Palestinian people by their government. How come Ukraine’s right to defend itself is praised by international leaders and Russia’s invasion is condemned, but the same rules do not apply to Israel’s occupation of Palestine? The Palestinians are also fighting for the right of self-determination. Biden emotionally and graphically described the beheading of Israeli children by Hamas, an unfounded statement later retracted by the White House, while doubting the reliability of death toll figures provided by the ministry of health in Gaza.
It seems international rules of engagement in war only apply to one side. What makes the Israeli government different from Hamas? Is shooting a family at gun point worse than shell-bombing three generations of a family? The Israeli government says they are only targeting militants. Yet, over 11,000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s retaliation, more than 4000 of which are children.Over 70 percent of all those killed are women and children, the majority of which are civilians. There’s a new acronym coined by medical workers in Gaza, WCNSF, which stands for Wounded Child No Surviving Family. Why does Palestinian blood matter less? Is it nationality, origin, skin color, and faith that dictates the worth of someone’s life?
They have choked off access to medical supplies. Fuel is running out. There is no electricity. Telecommunications were made inaccessible. Palestinians have been cut off and disconnected from everything. People cannot call ambulances or civil defense. White phosphorus is being used on civilians.4 Refugee camps, hospitals, schools, mosques, and churches have been bombed. Aid workers and journalists have been killed. What is more, Israel is suppressing news reporting in the Gaza Strip, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF)5.
The fact that the Israeli army gives 24 hours' notice before bombing civilian infrastructure is said to be an act of magnanimity. Gazans are told to leave their homes or face death or collective punishment. Queen Rania of Jordan frames it as “the choice between expulsion or extermination between ethnic cleansing and genocide.” No one should ever have to make those choices. Historically refugees that have been displaced have been unable to ever return to their homes. In fact, a Palestinian expelled from his home in what became Israel, has never been allowed to return. They have every right to remain in their home, on their property.
Also missing from the narrative is the fact that Palestinians have tried diplomacy, political advocacy, armed and unarmed resistance. Yet their situation has not changed. The imprisonment of Palestinians, the freezing of Palestinian funds, and the dire socioeconomic conditions in Gaza, and the occupied West Bank remains.
As responsible and moral human beings we must call out these inequalities, injustices and glaring double standards. The right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, the right to safety and healthcare are non-negotiable human rights. Palestinians like any other human beings want to achieve their dreams, have safety, peace, and happiness, and the right to self-determination. There will be no peace in Israel and Palestine until the occupation of the Palestinian people has ended and there is a free, sovereign, independent Palestinian state.
I ask that you look at this war not as a Muslim, Palestinian, Jew, Christian, or Israeli but as a human being; if you believe that all human beings deserve fair treatment, respect, and dignity, regardless of class, creed, color, or culture, you should ask why Palestinians are treated with a different yardstick.