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The World Ignores Palestinian Civilians. Or Worse.
Gaza is a densely populated, tiny strip of land with 2 million civilians. And it's being flattened.
It should go without saying that none of us want to see the slaughter of civilians. I mourn for the Israeli civilians who have been killed over the last three days. And I know many of the most powerful people in the world join me in that sentiment. Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, the leaders of the EU, they’ve all expressed their sympathy for the state of Israel and its people. But I also mourn for the dead in the rubble of Gaza, and for the thousands more who seem all too likely to be killed in the coming days. And, contrary to the reaction of Israelis being killed, we who care for Palestinian deaths are being cut off from the powerful, labeled terrorism supporters, and ultimately ignored, just as Israel’s bombing of an open-air prison is either ignored or supported by those in power across the West.
The moment Hamas launched its attack, wave after wave of sympathy for the Israeli state and the Israeli dead came forth from the White House, nearly every member of Congress, and countless influential figures across the United States. And yet, just two days later, when Israel's defense minister announced a “complete siege” of Gaza and described Palestinian fighters as “human animals” these same people were silent. When Israel announced it would cut off electricity, food, water, gas, and medicine to the 2 million people of the besieged Gaza Strip, those same people were silent. When the bombs started to rain down on residential buildings in the densely populated open-air prison which people cannot flee, flattening neighborhoods and killing hundreds of civilians, those same people were silent. Where is the concern for the civilians of Gaza? Where is the concern for what Reuters calls “the fiercest airstrikes ever” raining down on two million people who cannot leave, nearly half of whom are children?
I have yet to see it from those in power in the West. Instead, there are calls for aid to Israel. Instead people ranging from the Prime Minister of Canada to the Mayor of New York are calling anyone who advocates for Palestinians, anyone who marches to say that Gaza should not be blockaded and bombed and that the West Bank should not be occupied, supporters of terrorism. Much like the response to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, which urges people to not financially support the occupation, the response to these peaceful rallies shows that at the moment there is no right way to support Palestinians. And that appears to extend even to the basic humanitarian call to not bomb the hell out of countless civilians.
Even when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted out footage of his country bombing residential areas in the Gaza Strip yesterday, crickets. Well, crickets or overt support. The United States is moving military vessels and fighter aircraft into the region. An Israeli Knesset (parliament) member who is part of Netanyahu’s Likud party tweeted this weekend: “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of ’48.” The Nakba of 1948 was the mass ethnic cleansing that drove 750,000 Palestinians off their land when the State of Israel was founded. And people like Ben Shapiro are calling for Palestinians to be “eradicated,” while Senator Marco Rubio is using words like “savages” and “eliminate.”
I know that no one reading this stands with Marco Rubio. But I urge you, I implore you to consider how the rhetoric of Israel’s own defense minister is genocidal in itself. To call millions of people human animals is following a long history of language used to justify or excuse slaughter. We as Jewish people in particular are aware, should be highly aware and sensitive to that. We should rebuke it fully and completely. And even more important are the actions being taken. A full and total siege by air, land, and sea that does not let in food, water, or medicine. Israel bombing the southern exit from Gaza into Egypt, which serves to trap the people of Gaza even more completely. Bombing residential towers all night, crushing entire neighborhoods in an extremely densely populated area. These actions are intertwined with the rhetoric of dehumanization, and they speak far louder.
So even if we disagree on some dimensions of what’s happening in Israel-Palestine, I sincerely hope we can agree to not remain silent while countless Palestinian civilians are bombed in Gaza. I hope we can agree not to support sending more arms while the Defense Minister of Israel spouts genocidal language and the Prime Minister tweets out videos of civilians being bombed. I hope the people of Palestine and Gaza will merit the same sympathy and compassion in your heart that the Israeli civilians get. I hope no bias or hatred or fervor that can come so quickly and violently alongside the words “terror” and “terrorism” can get you to cheer on the bombing of civilians trapped behind a blockade. I know there is only so much convincing that came come through your screen, from me to you, but I hope a door can be cracked open and we can extend our hearts, and our support, to the civilians of Gaza today and urge our leaders to speak, to not be selectively silent about innocents being slain. This is both the moral position and the only one that might, just might, be able to lead down a road to real justice, and lasting peace.
Thank you for reading. And thank you for the wave of support for my last piece as well. If you’re able to support my writing I would be very grateful. - Josh