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Every Attempt to Silence Speech on Gaza Proves We Must Speak Out
Action links are at the bottom.
The backlash is in full swing. People who speak out for Palestine, for Palestinians, for Gaza are being punished simply for using their voices to advocate against genocide and for the preservation of life. Many of the high-profile examples of people being punished for their speech involve absurdly banal statements. Some folks didn’t even mention Israel by name. The CEO of Web Summit has resigned after tremendous backlash over the comment, “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.” It would be comical if the implications weren’t so disastrous. Forced out for saying war crimes should always be called out. This obviously correct statement should’ve received no backlash at all, and instead cost this man his job. And yet, as we’ll get into here, the response to such a mundane statement hints at Israel and Zionism’s immense fear over public opinion turning, and on an even greater scale exposes the vulnerability of Western hegemony in this moment.
Paddy Cosgrave, the Irish entrepreneur and CEO who stepped down at Web Summit, is not alone. Authors, workers, and politicians who speak out against Israel’s actions in any way are being censured and forced out of their jobs. The famed 92nd Street Y in New York City canceled the talk of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen for signing an open letter condemning Israel's "indiscriminate violence" against Palestinians in Gaza. The editor-in-chief of eLife, a scientific magazine, told the world he is being replaced for sharing a piece from The Onion that called out indifference to the lives of Palestinian civilians. There is again a comic tragedy to someone firing an editor for sharing a headline from a satirical magazine that reads, “Dying Gazans Criticized For Not Using Last Words To Condemn Hamas” and not realizing how they are proving the very point they hope to suppress.
In short, by suppressing, firing, and attacking those who uplift the humanity of Palestinians and condemn war crimes, powerful people are making it clearer than ever that they are not in fact on the side of justice. Even more plainly, when they condemn Hamas as barbaric again and again, but then go after people who oppose crimes against humanity and say that thousands of innocent people in Gaza should not be slaughtered, they expose themselves as barbaric and depraved. I hesitate to even use the language of barbarism, as implying the absence of civilization has over centuries become synonymous with dehumanization. But as Israel runs ads in Times Square that say “Be Human. Stand for Israel” and relentlessly bombs Gaza, killing thousands, it becomes hard to ignore how nearly every move made both by the state of Israel and many Zionists has the opposite of its intended impact.
Perhaps the clearest example is that when the United Nations Geneva Twitter account shared the simple message “Even War Has Rules” the official account of the entire country of Israel responded directly with “Even Israelis Deserve To Live.” How do I convey the horror I felt when I first saw this:
As I’ve written to you before, I grew up being told that the existence of Israel was necessary for the survival of the Jewish people. And to see, more clearly than ever, that the stance of the Netanyau government is that the Geneva Convention should be ignored to protect the lives of Israelis, that Israeli survival is somehow in direct contradiction to the international laws of war, is terrifying. What it really confirms to the world is that Israel’s government believes themselves exempt from any rules of war, and that they’ll justify this exemption by claiming their nation’s survival depends upon it. This is both untrue, in that we are seeing in real time how the Netanyahu government’s approach to Hamas, both propping them up and trapping them in an endless siege, has only begotten more violence, and more broadly how the Zionist occupation and apartheid actually endangers Israelis in general.
But to admit this would be to admit the inherent flaws of Zionism, which are that colonizing Palestine was not in fact a perfect solution to the safety of the Jewish people. One, it leads to the endless violence and inherent conflict of settler-colonialism and resistance to said project, and two it breeds mass resentment against Jewish people, particularly after decades of Zionists intentionally conflating our religion with this particular political project. Three, and most significant of all, our safety should never be premised upon the oppression, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of other people. That should never have been a question.
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Now this entire façade is crumbling. Yes, Western leaders are doubling and tripling down on support for whatever Israel does, but millions of ordinary people are flooding the streets around the world. People are speaking up and taking action, despite the risks to their careers. In fact, when the editor-in-chief of eLife magazine announced he was being replaced, multiple writers and editors at the publication immediately announced they were stepping down. Despite near-inevitable legal repercussions the organization Palestine Action is taking direct action in the U.S. and the UK to shut down arms factories that supply weapons to Israel. Despite violence against protests in Illinois and Minneapolis and New York, people keep marching and the marches keep growing. It is not as simple as every action to stop solidarity with Palestinians having an equal and opposite reaction, but we are seeing something along those lines.
What we are seeing is that in every attempt to suppress people for saying "Palestinians are people too" or "war crimes are bad" or "end apartheid,” the powerful reaffirm the ideological underpinning of solidarity with Gaza. They reaffirm the need to stand with Palestinians, always and especially in this moment. For if it is not okay with Western leaders to acknowledge the suffering and humanity of an entire group of people, those people need our support. If it is not okay to condemn Israel’s war crimes, we must condemn them more loudly and fiercely than ever. If we are told, and we are being told both implicitly and explicitly, that the people of Gaza have no right to resist a siege, an apartheid regime, and a massacre, then we must join them in resisting these atrocities.
We must shut down the war machine that powers Israel’s bombing, we must cut off the funds that finance this slaughter, and we must do everything we can to halt this genocide and ethnic cleansing. And every person fired, every person censured, every opportunity lost for speaking up must double our resolve. Because every time someone is attacked for saying Palestinians are human too, every time someone is criticized for criticizing war crimes, our point is proven yet again. Every time the governments and power structure of the West try to silence anyone for saying the people under the rubble in Gaza matter too, those trying to force our silence prove the point that solidarity with Palestine is vital, that it is a matter of life and death, and that those speaking out must be supported. So don’t go silent. Don’t let calls for a ceasefire, calls for an end to the occupation and apartheid, calls for real peace and justice die down. Convert every ounce of pressure demanding you fall silent into fuel, into rage, into urgent and overwhelming action. Those who want to erase Gaza, those who want Palestinians to go quietly, who want you to let them quietly be crushed cannot win. Organize, fight, and don’t stop until Palestine is free.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for taking action. There are links below where you can rise up in solidarity. And if you’re able to support my writing, I’m immensely grateful - Josh
Apply pressure for a ceasefire now: https://ceasefiretoday.com/
Take action with Jewish Voice for Peace: https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
Take action with the Palestinian Youth Movement: https://palestinianyouthmovement.com/
Take action with IfNotNow: https://www.ifnotnowmovement.org/
Support Boycots, Divestmest, and Sanctions: https://bdsmovement.net/
Find a protest to attend: https://www.gazaispalestine.com/protest