Content warning: This article discusses the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine.
Since 1948, Israel has existed as a country — built on the murder and dispossession of Palestinians.
Since 1967, Israel has held Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza under military occupation.
Since 2007, Israel has forced Palestinians in Gaza to live in what a United Nations Special Rapporteur defined as an “open-air prison,” where virtually nothing enters or leaves due to a land, air, and sea blockade created by Israel. While Israel claims that the blockade around Gaza that forms this open-air prison is meant to protect Israeli citizens from Hamas, US military documents released by WikiLeaks in 2011 alleged that Israel is deliberately using the blockade to keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse.”
In 2018, the UN declared Gaza’s open air-prison as unlivable. Living quarters are cramped, with 2.2 million Palestinians forced to share the same 140 square miles. Youth unemployment stands at around 70 per cent, infrastructure is substandard, and electricity is frequently unavailable for hours at a time.
Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in Gaza do not have enough access to clean water and must deal with a limited food supply. Israeli forces frequently subject Palestinians in Gaza to home demolitions, arbitrary detention, air strikes, unlawful killings, and physical and emotional torture, just as they do to Palestinians in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Israeli citizens living in Israel or a very short distance away in West Bank settlements — which much of the international community maintains are illegal under international law — can maintain their dignity and enjoy everything that Palestinians in occupied Palestinian territory are denied.
To call it unfair would be an understatement. The fact of the matter is that Palestinians are living under an apartheid regime: a crime against humanity.
You do not need to take it from me — Amnesty International, a prominent human rights organization, conducted research between 2017 and 2021 to determine if claims like mine held any validity and came to the following conclusion in their 280-page report: “The totality of the regime of laws, policies and practices described in this report demonstrates that Israel has established and maintained an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis — a system of apartheid — wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948.”
Israel’s disgusting treatment of Palestinians under apartheid rarely makes headlines or generates enough criticism from the international community. This is why it is maddening to see institutions and countries across the world lighting up signs in blue and white to show solidarity with Israel or spreading statements about their condemnation of terrorism in the aftermath of Hamas’ attack against Israel on October 7, where militants took over 100 Israelis — mostly civilians — hostage.
The Israeli death toll since the attack has risen to over 1300. In their statements about the attack, these countries and their institutions either do not mention Israel’s response — like in the case of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s initial statement about the Hamas attack — or express support for Israel’s defence without explaining what that response looks like — like in the case of US President Joe Biden. Currently, Israel’s response to the attack involves carpet bombing buildings in Gaza so that the Palestinian injury and death toll is in the thousands — at over 9,700 injured and 2,300 dead in Gaza as of October 15 — and that the number of those displaced is over 423,000. These numbers are likely to increase drastically given that Israel has also completely cut off food, water, and electricity supplies to all the inhabitants there.
I believe that the Zionist state’s response to Hamas’ attack cannot possibly be framed as self-defence. Instead, it reveals the power imbalance between Palestinians, who have almost no resources, and their oppressor, a state that has a multi-billion dollar military budget and that seems to seek to commit massacres — like the massacres Israeli militias committed during the Nakba in 1948 — and to enact what a UN human rights official described as “ethnic cleansing” on an entire population. Ariel Kallner, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has even said in a statement on Instagram, “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 48.”
Moreover, the statements of these institutions and countries around the world do not mention the more general crimes against humanity Israel has inflicted on indigenous Palestinians in today’s age and throughout history, which were in part what provoked the attack in the first place.
To be clear, I stand firmly against Hamas and its decision to target Israeli civilians in the attack — their deaths are tragic and deeply painful. However, I do not believe that the aforementioned institutions have any right to condemn such violence without also condemning Israel’s crimes against humanity and actively demanding that Palestinians are liberated from occupation and apartheid, ensuring that their counterparts in the diaspora are able to return to the land that was stolen from them in 1948.
Until liberation and return become a reality, Palestinians will have every reason to resist. They will resist as they have done before with strikes, marches, and boycotts. However, if some of them branch out into violent resistance, as they sometimes do, and if more civilian lives are regrettably lost on both sides as a result, let it not taint the image of all Palestinians and discourage support for their cause. Instead, let the international community take the deaths of these civilians as yet another sign that the ‘arc of the moral universe’ is not bending quickly enough in the direction of justice and that they must take action.
Lina Obeidat is a first-year student at Innis College studying social sciences.
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