Forced to flee but nowhere to go
Gaza on the brink of ethnic cleansing, or genocide.
Right now Rafah, the last safe zone in Gaza, is threatened. Netanyahu has announced plans to attack the area filled with over a million refugees. Palestinians have reached Rafah after being attacked and told to flee their homes, then flee again, then again. As the plan for the IDF to launch a full ground invasion of Rafah was declared, and Netanyahu told the Palestinians sheltering there that they’ll have to leave, the people of Gaza and the world cried out. They cried that there is nowhere left to evacuate to. They have nowhere else to go.
Every major publication is now running articles with headlines reading something like “Netanyahu tells IDF to draw up plan to evacuate more than one million people from Rafah” but buried in each and every article is a damning line that goes, “But it is unclear where next they could go” (CNN) because there is nowhere else to go. First Israel told Gazans to evacuate the North, then the middle of the strip, now they are being told to leave the southern edge of Gaza. They are backed against the Rafah crossing, against a wall and the sea, with nowhere left to run.
Egypt does not want to accept over a million refugees, and has sent more military personnel to the border with Gaza in light of Israel declaring this next attack. And we should be clear, very clear, that Egypt should not have to accept the people of Palestine, who should be allowed to live in peace on their own land. Egypt is in no way responsible for the ethnic cleansing that Israel is inflicting, and broadcasting openly to the world.
Officials high in the Israeli government have discussed and proposed the ethnic cleansing of Gaza from the beginning. As early as October the Associated Press reported that “An Israeli government ministry has drafted a wartime proposal to transfer the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, drawing condemnation from the Palestinians and worsening tensions with Cairo.” And the U.S. has appeared very open to the idea. Not only has the White House specifically stated that “we are not drawing red lines” for Israel, but as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace lays out, our government has considered financially supporting this scheme:
“On October 11, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the United States was working with Egypt and Israel to create a “humanitarian corridor” in the Sinai for Palestinian civilians fleeing Gaza. Then on October 20, the White House sent Congress an official funding request to “address potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.” President Joe Biden has since stated that he recognizes the importance of preventing Palestinian displacement. But as one analyst noted, the funding request was a clear indication that the Biden administration was giving Israel a “green light” to carry out ethnic cleansing.”
This plan originates with Israel, and likely took shape before October 7th. South Africa highlighted before the International Court of Justice that Israeli officials themselves have openly threatened “to make Gaza permanently uninhabitable” and that “far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir” have called “to resettle Palestinians outside Gaza.” The court then ruled that Israel must do everything it can to prevent a genocide. Instead, Israel is now telling people up against a wall to evacuate. There is no plan for what that could look like, and logic says that thousands and thousands of Palestinian civilians are about to die. Not only because Israel has murdered at least 28,000 civilians in just four months, but because there is nowhere for these people to go. The options are the border with Egypt opening and ethnic cleansing ensuing, genocide, or a miraculous cessation of the onslaught.
Earlier this week I spoke on a panel after a screening of the movie Israelism by IfNotNow and the Slow Factory. The movie is about American Jews coming to unlearn Zionist propaganda and seeing the apartheid and occupation of Israel for what it is. Over 5,000 people attended, and naturally most were hungry for answers. The panel was asked numerous questions about what we can do to stop this genocide, and I of course answered by talking about organizing. At this moment we need to know that politics is not a spectator sport. We need to understand that we can have the power to force change, if we build it and get involved and develop the ability to act collectively. As another panelist pointed out, we need to act here and right now. We can’t wait. Getting involved with long-term organizing is crucial, as is making sure that our organizations are doing everything they can to push for a ceasefire, for the end of U.S. support for Israel, and for a free Palestine. These two aims are and should be intertwined. We must work for peace now, while simultaneously increasing our capacity to work for peace in the future.
It is not enough to be horrified, to cry out, to condemn. As I’ve said before Gaza demands our effectiveness, not just our attention. It demands our collective power and action, not just our tears and anger. I say this as someone who feels at the end of my rope, worn out, enraged but struggling to see the light. Yet what I have experienced, what those of us outside Gaza have gone through, is so minimal compared to the disease and starvation, the physical and existential torment that Palestinians have been subjected to over the past four months, and what they are enduring as we speak. That doesn’t mean our anger and pain isn’t real, it just means we must keep perspective. We must know that we can keep pushing. We must continue, because every day hundreds and thousands of Gazans cannot.
So dive into action. Join organizations shutting down the war machine. Join groups putting their bodies on the line to disrupt business as usual. Support BDS. Demand a ceasefire. Keep sharing resources and help others plug into action. Get your union to do more. Bring up the need to shut down the manufacture of weapons and bombs and drones and all instruments of death. I’m going to share a list of great organizations at the end here, but plug in however and wherever you can. It’ll take all of us doing everything we’re able to do. Local organizations in your area might be better for you and your community to take action with. The key is to do what you can, everything you can. The people of Gaza are up against a wall with a gun to their head. Ethnic cleansing or genocide are the options unless a third path is forced open. So we must act decisively to make another option a reality. And we must do it now.
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Take action. Find local branches of the groups below, or other groups organizing in your area:
Support Palestine Action: https://www.palestineaction.org/
Dissenters against the War Machine: https://wearedissenters.org/
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: 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/take-action