It is very hard, as I write these lines, to describe the full scope of emotions we’ve been trying to grapple with here. We still don’t fully understand the magnitude of this new war and its future repercussions. One thing is clear though: this is going to be a long and painful one, for both sides. And it is therefore the world’s responsibility to intervene and stop the madness from escalating. NOW.
That is precisely why Joe Biden’s predictable comments following the Hamas assault — promising “all appropriate means of support” to Israel and standing by its “right to defend itself and its people, full stop” — are especially alarming, terrifying, and reckless. The President of the United States — an active participant in the oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza — essentially gave Israel a carte blanche by saying Washington will back Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in every action it decides to take.
Surely enough, the United States then announced that it would be sending even more military machinery and artillery for Israel, including more jet fighters. This is a highly irresponsible position for Biden to take in this moment, and one that amounts to his own complicity in further war crimes against Palestinians everywhere.
It’s not just Netanyahu and his partners; I have never seen the Israeli media like this before, either. Even the most reasonable Israeli journalists and politicians who usually keep it together in times like these were calling for massacres in Gaza, freely throwing around lines such as “Why are there buildings still standing in Gaza?” and “We should be worried by Arabs in Israel” and “We should send Gaza back to the Stone Age,” to name just a few.
Meanwhile, since yesterday morning, public messages circulating on Israeli social media have been calling on Jews to randomly lynch Arabs on sight. The situation right now in binational cities in Israel (often referred to as “mixed” cities) like Lyd, Akka, and Be’er Sheva is especially worrying. Fears have returned of a full-on war between Jewish and Palestinian citizens in Israel, and of Jewish supremacist settlers launching more pogroms against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. And the world needs to be warned about this.
The current climate in Israel suggests we will soon long for the horrible days of May 2021, which will look like happy times compared to what’s about to come. The fear we had back then, when we legitimately felt we were seeing the beginnings of another Nakba, is making a comeback. Palestinian demonstrations against police repression around Al-Aqsa and the expulsion of families in Sheikh Jarrah prompted a war on Gaza and a wave of state and settler brutality against Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank. Settlers and police colluded together to attack Palestinians in the streets of binational cities, and the latter fought back. This will happen again, unless the situation de-escalates.
A fancy word for ‘revenge’
What happened to Israeli civilians on October 7 is truly shocking and appalling — there’s no way around it. The world is especially shocked because of its novelty; usually, the main victims of wars between Israel and Gaza are brown skinned and Palestinian, typically perceived as less human by international media outlets.
But with all the sympathy civilians should be getting from the world — all civilians, wherever and whomever they are — it is vital to remember that this is not without context. What happened to Israelis on October 7 has been happening to the people of Gaza in every escalation for more than a decade, while the international community stood back and allowed it. The world is complicit in the active dehumanization of Gazans, people who were collectively deprived of their basic human rights, and now all of a sudden, everyone is shocked that said people are doing something about it, as hard as it is to fathom their actions?
Palestinians in the biggest open air prison on earth are kept like animals behind fences with no clean water, electricity, hope, or dignity. In the 2014 Gaza war, an incomprehensible number of Palestinian children were killed — over 500. Just last year, 146 Palestinians in the West Bank were killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Where was President Biden when he allowed all this to happen, while arming and supporting the ethnic cleansing machine all those years? The writing was on the wall.
Israel’s “security doctrine,” which is another fancy word for “revenge,” essentially demands a disproportionate ratio between Israeli and Palestinian casualties; for every Israeli soldier or civilian killed or captured, Israeli politicians and generals will demand 10 Palestinian heads. Judging by that logic, thousands of women, children, and men in Gaza may now pay that price with their lives.
Thus, instead of “backing Israel” as it prepares to embark on a limitless killing spree in Gaza, it would have been better for Biden to treat what happened as a wake-up call that points to the roots of the evil: the inhumane siege on Gaza that prompted this war — the same siege in which the United States is deeply complicit — and the decades of dispossession that Palestinians have suffered since the Nakba.
Even though tempers are high, all of us need to stop and ask whether we should be sinking this whole region into more decades of war and hopelessness. We are on the verge of unprecedented massacres, the likes of which have not been seen since 1948. We are terrified of what’s to come. The conversation at the moment should be how we prevent this from happening, not how to allow Israel to take revenge. Let this serve as a reminder of the necessity of ending the Gaza siege, preventing further pain and hopelessness, and finally granting freedom to all Palestinians.
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