A 73 year fight for justice
In support of #FreePalestine - the history behind the attacks and ways to take action.
by Fabiha Askari and Hedy Ismaiel
Fabiha: As I have seen events unfold in Palestine, all I have been able to think about is all of the times I have read in history books about similar events, atrocities, human right abuses and violence.
I often used to think to myself, “Why did no one speak up? How did people ignore this? How could you stay impartial? Why did no one try to stop this?” Yet, here we are today - finding ourselves stuck in the same cycle as those before us.
In a mere eleven days of attacks in Gaza, we saw the deaths of almost 250 Palestinians and 12 Israelis.
Now, more than ever, is the time to realise that we are currently active creators of history.
'We cannot stay silent - in times like these, silence is betrayal.'
We cannot, under any circumstances, ignore the lessons we should have learnt from the past. We cannot stay silent - in times like these, silence is betrayal. We cannot be impartial. We cannot allow any more violence, loss and pain to continue before our very eyes. Enough is enough.
A Brief History
Hedy: Let me give you a brief overview of the historical context (facts sourced from this Encyclopedia article.) In 1917, the British government released the Balfour Declaration, promising Jews a homeland in Palestine.
It’s key to note that Palestine was falsely portrayed as ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’ - even though its estimated population in the early 1900s was around 689,000. Palestine was far from an empty desert; it was a beautiful country with streets, buildings, airports, education facilities, art compounds and Palestinians who had lived there for centuries.
During and after WWII, Jews from all over the world started seeking refuge in Palestine. The number of immigrants rose immensly and Zionists start pushing and literally fighting for an independent country on Palestinian land.
In 1947, the UN approved splitting Palestine into two states; Jewish-Israel and Arab-Palestine. Israel accounted for 56% of the land even though they only represented 30% of the entire Palestine population. In 1948, Israel declared its independence.
Between 1947-1949, there are early examples of ethnical cleansing in Palestine. Zionists seized and confiscated 80% of Palestinian land and 700,000 Palestinians became refugees.
Between 1948-1966, massacres were carried out against Palestinians in the villages of Qisarya, Deir Yassin, Qalqilya, Kufr Qassem, Khan Younis and As-Samu’.
In 1967, Israel illegally occupied the rest of historic Palestine and began building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - despite the UN calling on Israel to withdraw from the illegally occupied territories.
After signing the Oslo agreement, Palestine is split into three section: under full Palestinian control, under joint Palistinian-Israeli control and under full Israeli control. The area under full Israeli control, however, contains the majority of West Bank’s agricultural land, water and minerals, to which Palestinians are granted limited access.
'Israel withdrew from Gaza but formed a water, land and air blockade on it (this has become known as the world’s largest open air prison).'
In the early 2000s, Israel reoccupied cities in the West Bank, built walls and created military checkpoints to control Palestinians’ movement. Israel withdrew from Gaza but formed a water, land and air blockade on it (this has become known as the world’s largest open air prison).
Since then, the same events have continued. Israel continues to illegaly occupy Palestinian land and kick Palestinians out of their homes to move settlers in. Gaza has been viscously attacked and bombed every few years.
Israel has complete control over the Palestinian water supply; routinely sprays Palestinian farmlands with herbicides to prevent agriculture; withholds Palestinian tax revenues; prevents Gazan students from pursuing higher education, and enforces countless other policies that oppress Palestinians and support the Israeli military and economic occupation.
This month of May alone has seen atrocious events that brought Israel and Palestine into the media spotlight. Israel has kicked people out of their homes, violently attacked peaceful protesters and bombed schools, shelters, mosques, news organisations, Gaza’s only Coronavirus testing laboratory, health care facilities, killing hundreds and injuring thousands of Palestinians.
'This is not a ‘conflict’ or ‘dispute’, as the western media call it.'
We must start using the right terminology to describe what is happening in Palestine. This is not a ‘conflict’ or ‘dispute’, as the western media call it. It’s apartheid, it’s colonialism, it’s ethnical cleansing.
Israel has committed countless human rights abuses against Palestinians, and yet faced no consequences from countries with the power to do so.
As long as Israel is not held accountable for its crimes, how can we expect change to occur?
It’s Not That Complicated
Fabiha: I have seen a lot of discourse in the last week about how ‘complicated and complex’ the situation is and quite frankly, I am tired of hearing this as an excuse to stay silent. Almost all - if not all - issues are ‘complicated and complex,’ so why is silence regarded as violence in all other cases apart from Palestine?
No one is denying the complexity or the historical groundings of this issue. But to say that only Palestinians, Israelis and ‘experts’ in the field should have an opinion is simply wrong and dangerous. It is also incredibly hypocritical to do this - especially if you do speak up about other issues not related to your identity or expertise but choose not to speak up now.
Reluctance to speak out against the Israeli government and the crimes they’re committing is choosing to remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression.
Criticising the government of Israel at this time is necessary but in no way whatsoever should this be associated with Jewish identity. There are many Jewish people who support the liberation of Palestine and who are openly condemning the actions of the Israeli government.
Hedy: Unfortunately though, anti-semitisim has been weaponized by many (primarily the Israeli government) against those who speak up about the Israeli massacre towards Palestinians.
Instead of raising awareness about the current genocide and fighting for the rights of Palestiniens, the focus is shifted towards explaining that you’re against anti-semitism.
But anti-semitisim and anti-zionism are two completely different things. By correlating one with another Israel is literally allowed to get away with murder.
Hedy: Seeing as we cannot physically defend Palestians, there are a few different actions we should take.
I was personally surprised how many of my European friends started reaching out to me after I shared posts on social media about Palestine. They told me they were never taught about the history of Palestine, had no idea what was going on there and if they ever heard about it on the news, it was always Palestinians as terrorists and Israel as victims defending themselves.
It warmed my heart that just through sharing posts on my profile, people were for the first time finding out about the genocide Israel and the media have been ignoring for 73 years. This led them to further educate themselves and share information with their own followers, reaching an even wider audience.
'Israel can no longer spin the truth and Palestinian voices are finally being heard.'
It seems like the whole world is finally witnessing the heinous and unspeakable crimes Israel has been committing for far too long. With the incredible amount of posts circulating the internet, Israel can no longer spin the truth and Palestinian voices are finally being heard.
And this is exactly why the simple act of posting on social media is more important than you might think. Israel is losing control of the narrative and it is not something they are taking lightly. The Israeli defence minister and alternate prime minister have demanded Facebook and TikTok take down pro-Palestine content.
So again, don’t underestimate the power of social media. Keep posting, whether you have just 1 follower or 1 million, you never know who your posts are going to reach, educate and affect.
Fabiha: The momentum and solidarity must continue.
There is no set rubric to follow on how to show your solidarity and support for this cause, and anything and everything you do is incredibly significant.
There is a countless list of actions you can take, but perhaps the most important is to educate yourself, talk to others and share the knowledge that you learn. Follow credible sources and think critically - the existence of misinformation existing on the vast realm of the internet cannot be denied.
Attend protests, donate, write to your schools and universities to educate their students about this and allow them to express their solidarity. Write to your local MP and to the foreign office.
Continue to speak up and stand up for Palestine. Not just today, because it is in the media spotlight. Demand freedom and stand with your Palestinian brothers and sisters, now and always.
Hedy: I urge you to watch this 20 minute documentary from Vice, which shows just a few encounters from the past weeks that highlight Palestinians' reality.
I would also recommend watching @subhi.taha‘s instagram IGTV videos, where he explains current situations in a simple, understandable manner. Follow @eye.on.palestine to see what is happening on the ground in Palestine and to stay updated.
Fabiha: This link tree has a lot of further resources for ways you can take action.
If you attend a UK university, you write a letter demanding they cease investing in companies complicit in Israeli violations of international law. Find more information and a letter template here.
If you're based in Lancaster, or want to see our Friends of Palestine link tree as a template, you can find it here.
Fabiha Askari (she/her) is a second year History and Politics undergrad at Lancaster University. She enjoys reading, writing poetry and political activism and cannot go a day without caffeine! Find her @fabihaask
Hedy Ismaiel (she/her) pursued her studies in Sustainable Management to fight for the issues that matter most to her such as persevering and protecting the environment, and demolishing social injustices. In her free time she loves being surrounded by her friends and engaging in all sorts of activities. Her happy place is definitely the beach and anywhere with puppies.