Perspectives on Current and Not-so-current Happenings in Occupied Palestine

by Zane Badawi

Contributor


[originally published May 9, 2022]

 

Recent events have gotten me thinking about my dad’s time in Gaza when I was young. He went as a journalist in 2012 and 2014, tasked with covering the mayhem ensuing in the bite-sized wars that erupt in the Gaza Strip on an all-too-regular basis, but he didn’t enter with a privileged media pass or sit back and observe the situation from afar. Rather, he journeyed to Gaza and hunkered down in the heart of the city as the war raged in real-time. He witnessed death and loss. He saw buildings – apartment complexes, hospitals, schools – turned to rubble indiscriminately. Naturally, I was worried; when I was nine years old, my father was in the midst of a war on the other side of the world, constantly under threat of rocket fire and blazing bullets, covering a war that did not care whose life it claimed. Even at an early age, I knew the dangers Gaza residents faced on a daily basis, let alone during a period of intense conflict. I had heard stories of violence, I had seen pictures of orphaned children and streets in ruin, but for my father to be surrounded by that violence made it all the more tangible to me.


Fast forward to 2021, and, in the warm spring air of the Mediterranean, bloodshed marked the end of Ramadan for millions of Palestinian Muslims. What is traditionally a time dedicated to congregation, celebration, and charity was overshadowed by an 11-day war that killed at least 256 Palestinians, 13 Israelis, and injured many more. Across the Atlantic, it was met with a week of news coverage and social media frenzy before being pushed to the wayside, as all things are.


As it was happening, though, I remember being surprised at the response I saw on social media; I had become so accustomed to the complete indifference of Americans towards Palestinian plight that I was genuinely caught off guard by the outpouring of support from names I recognized and respected. For some reason, this moment was different. It seemed like, for the first time, a wider group was recognizing and responding to the injustice occurring in occupied Palestine.


And then, in an instant, it fizzled out. Before a ceasefire had even been reached, most Americans shifted their focus to the newest developments in international news, to the winners of the latest Eurovision, to the new administration in the White House, to how they were going to spend their summer. I don’t mean to say that those who had been vocal about the situation suddenly stopped caring – only that the tide had washed the beach clean and they had other things to occupy their minds.


Now, a year later, conflict arises again. Clashes at Al-Aqsa mosque and threats by far-right Israeli extremist groups have ignited the fear that Israel would attempt to take over Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, during Ramadan. Along with this, rockets exchanged between Israel and various Palestinian militant groups indicate the very real possibility of another full-scale war, of which Palestinians are rightly fearful.


In the event of war, Palestinians have no recourse, they have no way out, no international support, no saving grace. In pacifism is more stolen land, more oppressive policies enacted, more families left without homes. In hostility is more condemnation, more stereotyping, less sympathy from those who hold the power to make changes.


For now, those with the power to make changes are in the West – and looking at a map of countries that do and do not recognize Palestine as a legitimate state is almost indistinguishable from looking at a map defining the borders of the Western world. This is a grim reality for Palestinians. We do not have the luxury of Western sympathy, which effectively means we are left to vie for ourselves.


We are not Ukraine. Our suffering is not met with fundraisers or global sanctions imposed on our oppressors. It is not met with months of coverage or statements of support from the global community expressing how brave we are for our resistance. On the contrary, our resistance is seen as a fundamental attack on Western values, as senseless violence and terrorism, as an abhorrent display of antisemitic extremism.


I’m reluctant to make individual claims about aggression and fault because there is more nuance to the situation than I could ever hope to convey here, but I think it’s plainly visible that Israel is a colonial project. It is an ethnostate that is forcibly displacing Palestinians, occupying their land, and spitting in their faces, all with the backing of the world’s most powerful nations. Bringing up who is responsible for what violence and which side is to blame for which wars is nothing more than a convenient distraction, which ignores the reality that Israel is actively violating international law, encroaching on Palestinian territory, killing Palestinian people, and denying them basic human rights.


Very few people, especially in the United States, recognize this, however. As tensions rise, it’s called conflict. When conflict erupts, it’s called war. And all the while, lopsided death tolls and mismatched arms races paint a picture of something less like war and more like demolition, where one side is always the worse for wear, where stones are met with lead, and where cold steel collapses generational homes. Words like “conflict” and “war” underscore the idea that this is somehow a fair fight, as if both sides are struggling, when the reality is that it is and always has been expansion against retaliation. Whether it’s threats against and marches on Al-Aqsa, movement of Israel’s capital to Jerusalem, or walled-off settlements in the West Bank that funnel resources away from Palestinian families, the State of Israel is constantly expanding, and Palestinians are left with no military options, little hope for diplomacy, and even less hope for litigation.


If peace is in our future, it seems to be far off. I think, first and foremost, peace begins with an end to antisemitism and islamophobia, and it certainly hinges on the dismantling of Israel’s expansionist mindset. But most importantly, peace will not be achieved unless the world learns to view Palestinians as human beings. No amount of diplomacy can save us from that fact. As long as the West harbors its anti-Arab mindset, as long as baseless claims are good enough to justify full-scale invasions, and as long as prayers are allowed to be interrupted with tear gas and rubber bullets, there will be no peace for the Palestinian people.