In 1948, over seven hundred thousand Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes and ancestral lands by the Israeli military in what is now referred to as the Nakba, or the “tragedy.” Seven decades have passed, and the expelled Palestinians have yet to be granted the right of return. Palestinians who remained on their land currently face subjugation and threats of genocide under Israeli occupation. Many believe lack of direct responsibility and interest in the matter is reasoning enough for dismissal of the Palestinian struggle. Palestine is not a negligible one-dimensional issue, but rather an interdisciplinary struggle that applies to varying initiatives and beliefs.
Israel’s occupation is driven by a genocidal agenda, with a regime intended to implement the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. This Zionist agenda negatively impacts spheres beyond social injustice, as it also has considerable environmental ramifications. Due to perpetual bombings and the unlawful use of toxic weapons like white phosphorus, two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living in an open-air prison under Israeli occupation. According to the United Nations, the air is too polluted to properly host human life. Additionally, Israel’s restrictions on the entry of materials and supplies has led to a severe shortage of clean water available for Palestinians. In Gaza, conditions are so bad that sewage has entered their aquifer and is flowing untreated into Gaza’s coastal waters, damaging marine life. A study conducted by the RAND Corporation, an American nonprofit global policy hub that offers research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces, reveals that 97% of Gaza’s water is now unfit for human consumption.
The Israel Defence Force–IDF–is also responsible for a plethora of war crimes and accounts of police brutality. With the use of brute force and the implementation of systematically oppressive policies, the IDF is complicit in the oppression and subjugation of Palestinian civilians. Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, many of whom are children, face mental and physical torture often with no right to trial. Amnesty International conducted a report in 2016 and 2017 revealing the reality of the situation.
“Israeli soldiers, police and Israel Security Agency (ISA) officers subjected Palestinian detainees, including children, to torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, particularly on arrest and during interrogation. Reported methods included beatings, slapping, painful shackling, sleep deprivation, use of stress positions, and threats. Although complaints alleging torture by ISA officers have been handled by the Ministry of Justice since 2014, and more than 1,000 had been filed since 2001, no criminal investigations were opened. Complaints that the Israeli police used torture or other ill-treatment against asylum-seekers and members of the Ethiopian community in Israel were also common,” Amnesty International reported.
The IDF uses excessive force during Palestinian civilian encounters, such as search and arrest operations, and when policing peaceful Palestinian protests and demonstrations. Israeli forces often resort to the use of live ammunition or other excessive force in cases that pose no legitimate threat to their safety. Some of the unlawful killings appeared to be wilful, which would constitute war crimes under international law. Israeli forces are yet to be held accountable for their unlawful tactics and behavior.
Human rights organizations and the U.S. Department of State alike have challenged Israeli police for their crimes, including, “…use of lethal force in the Gaza Strip since March 30, 2018, against Palestinian demonstrators who posed no imminent threat to life,” Human Rights Watch reported.
American law enforcement and the IDF share similar tendencies, from the use of excessive force to interrogation techniques. This is due to the fact that American law enforcement officials from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington state as well as the DC Capitol police have received training from Israeli officials. This puts U.S law enforcement under the influence of military, security, and police systems guilty of a long history of human rights violations. The training is primarily funded by taxpayer dollars.
The United States uses billions in taxpayer money to fund Israel every year. This is money that could instead be put towards US social welfare programs, health care, or education.
Under the terms of the Memorandum Of Understanding on military aid, the United States provides Israel with $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) annually. Amid the current bombings in the Gaza Strip, lynchings of Palestinian citizens, and forced dispossession of Sheikh Jarrah residents, the United Nations have called for an immediate ceasefire. President Biden has vetoed the calls–making the U.S the only country to do so–and instead approved a 735 million dollar weapons sale to Israel. With Israel serving as an adamant consumer of American-made weapons, the U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally.
In a time when unemployment and poverty rates in the US are increasing exponentially due to the pandemic, the US government chose to give Israel $3.3 billion in “security assistance” and $500 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation. While 600 dollars in stimulus checks for struggling Americans were intensely debated, the US’s multi-billion dollar handout to Israel was administered with no question. In an earlier incident of erroneous prioritization, during the U.S financial crisis of 2008, money continued to be channeled to Israel, whose economy was mostly unaffected by the global recession of the time.
Beyond economic and environmental factors, the Palestinian conflict is most importantly a humanitarian issue; it is applicable to every individual with an ounce of compassion and humanity. Western culture prides itself on its “inalienable natural rights.” Despite this belief in the natural rights to life, liberty, and property, Western countries (U.S, U.K, France, etc.) are the main proponents of Israel’s cause for the erasure of the Palestinian people and identity. The Palestinian occupation is a humanitarian crisis but is often too politicized to be acknowledged as such. Amnesty Internation published a report that best highlights the degree to which Israel is complicit in apartheid and genocidal war crimes.
“It displaced hundreds of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as a result of home demolitions and imposition of other coercive measures. Israeli forces continued to use excessive force during law enforcement activities in Israel and the OPT. Israeli forces killed 31 Palestinians, including nine children, in the OPT; many were unlawfully killed while posing no imminent threat to life. Israel maintained its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip, subjecting its residents to collective punishment and deepening the humanitarian crisis there […] the Israeli authorities arbitrarily detained in Israel thousands of Palestinians from the OPT, holding hundreds in administrative detention without charge or trial. The authorities used a range of measures to target human rights defenders, journalists, and others who criticized Israel’s continuing occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Syrian Golan Heights,” Amnesty International reported.
Palestinians under Israeli occupation are stripped of their freedom in every aspect of their lives, from the freedom of movement to the freedom to resist oppression. Whether you are an American taxpayer, an advocate for environmental or criminal justice reform, or are even a compassionate bystander, the Palestinian occupation applies to and directly affects all people. Action items include boycotting companies and institutions that fund the Israeli military, contacting your local legislators and urging them to take action against Israel’s war crimes, advocating for the Palestinian cause on social media, joining or organizing local protests, or even just keeping an ear open to Palestinians calling for help. Americans have the freedom to protest and call for change; it is time to use it.