What ever happened to “Free Palestine”?
In May 2021, when news broke of Israeli police attacking hundreds of Palestianian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the reaction of young people worldwide was encouraging. Social media was ablaze with calls to free Palestinians who have been systematically oppressed by the Israeli government.
But eventually the news moved on — and the support for Palestine seemed to move on with it.
Currently, the only thing happening in the world is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There is hardly any other news being covered. Never mind that Israel’s parliament passed a law March 10 denying naturalization to Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens, or that in February, Amnesty International published a report declaring Israel an apartheid state. Forget all that. We’re busy “standing” with Ukraine.
Don’t misunderstand me — the U.S. should aid Ukraine in their efforts to repel Russian imperialism. But the U.S. should also stop using American tax dollars to fund Israeli terror in Gaza and the West Bank.
In 2016, the Obama administration made a commitment to give Israel $38 billion in military aid over the decade 2017-2028. This amounts to $3.8 billion per year.
And how is our money being spent? Israel calls it “mowing the grass.” With their devastating, American-backed military might, Israel crushes Palestian militants armed with crude, homemade weapons — like a lawnmower trimming the weeds. Of course, when most people mow their lawns, they don’t also indiscriminately kill civilians and bomb vital infrastructure.
There has been much uproar, and rightly so, of war crimes currently being committed by Russia. But, America, have you forgotten your outrage about the Palestian children murdered with weapons you paid for?
Have liberals forgotten Israel destroyed Gaza’s only lab for processing coronavirus tests last year, during a deadly pandemic?
Israel has long claimed to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.” But democracy cannot coexist with apartheid which, according to Amnesty International, is “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination by one racial group over another.” That Israelis dominate Palestinians is abundantly clear.
In 2019, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is a state not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people — and this is reflected by the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinans.
When Israel was founded in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes by Israelis, in what was called their nakba, or “catastrophe.” Since then, Israel has denied these refugees the right to return to their homes.
Additionally, those living in Gaza do not have the right to leave. In 2007, Israel put into place an air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, leading the area to be called the “world’s largest open-air prison.”
The decade following the imposition of the blockade cost Gaza $16.7 billion, leaving its economy on the verge of collapse and its people in abject poverty. Meanwhile, Israeli citizens enjoy prosperity equivalent to those living in the wealthiest nations on earth.
How can Americans claim to champion democracy and human rights on behalf of Ukraine while simultaneously staying silent about the plight of Palestine? And even worse, how can any American excuse, ignore or justify Israeli apartheid?
American conservatives are notorious for excusing any and all crimes committed by Israel, and labeling anyone who criticizes Israel an antisemite. Those who do this are monsters who do not at all care about the Palestinian people.
America should be ashamed for its role in the oppression of Palestinian people. It must feel shame, for, as Marx said, shame is a revolutionary feeling.
“Shame is a kind of anger turned in on itself, and if a whole nation were to feel ashamed it would be like a lion recoiling in order to spring,” he said.
We must demand the U.S. government stop giving military aid to Israel. Only when we have admitted our role in Israeli apartheid can we begin to rectify it — America must confront its shame.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.