Last week, an unsurprisingly-anonymous op-ed in this paper bemoaned the lack of “nuance” regarding what the author referred to as “the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” The article was fairly long, but a key sentence in this article read.: “I cannot understand this complicated geo-political and ethno-religious conflict as the ‘good’ versus the ‘bad,’ as one side against another side.” That’s too bad. The ongoing, bloody Zionist occupation of Palestine, and the systematic destruction of Palestinian towns and neighborhoods in favor of illegal Zionist settlements, is not actually so complicated. This is not, as the phrasing “Israeli/Palestinian conflict” suggests, a fight between two entities roughly equal in power: The State of Israel has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, one of the world’s most advanced armies in terms of military technology, and receives U.S. funding to the tune of $3 billion per year. For their defense, Palestinians have, at best, primitively-built rockets and outdated, smuggled firearms. Many have nothing more than stones. Efforts to “complicate” this circumstance of brutal oppression, rather than take the side of the oppressed, recall the words of anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Since the victory of Black South Africans against apartheid, Tutu has spoken out for the rights of Palestinians, because, in his words, “their humiliation is familiar to all Black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.” Indeed, the parallels are clear: The Zionist state maintains a massive network of segregated schools, buses, roads, and more. In Gaza, a horrific blockade prevents access to basic necessities including food, medicine, water, and electricity. Farmers routinely see their crops destroyed by settlers and government troops. Homes, schools, and more are frequently deemed “illegally built” and then demolished since it is near-impossible for many Palestinians to get legal deeds to their land. This is not a series of isolated incidents, and there is no Palestinian “aggression” that even begins to compare. Depopulating Palestine has been official policy since the Nakba in 1948, when Zionists forced the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians through military terror campaigns involving rape, murder, and arson. None of these original exilees have been granted the right of return, and many continue to languish along with their descendants in refugee camps outside their country. Inside Palestine, ongoing settler depopulation of villages means that more than 100,000 Palestinians now live as internally-displaced refugees. Since the occupation that began with the Six-Day War, the Zionist state has become even more emboldened in this policy of ethnic cleansing: In 1970, Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan said, “we must tell the Palestinians, that we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes, may leave.” This has been the status quo since then, and Palestinians are forced to “live like dogs.” While the average Israeli makes around $43,000/year, thanks to constant Zionist attacks, the average Palestinian makes less than $4,000, and, thanks to the blockade, the average Gazan makes less than $900. Any Palestinian resistance, whether American news calls it “peaceful,” “violent,” or otherwise, must be seen through the paradigm of resistance to genocide.
Along with Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela recognized that “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians.” This is materially true of every oppressed group of people surviving in spite of genocidal occupation. The United States funds the Zionist government as a bulwark against any state in the region that refuses to bow to the U.S. empire. This is not a conspiracy theory; current President Joe Biden once remarked, “If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved.” Going further, the Zionist state serves as a laboratory of repression for American police. In many U.S. states, police leaders travel to occupied Palestine and learn from the so-called “Israeli Defense Forces” how to keep Black American populations subdued. The most well-known of these programs, the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE), describes its mission thus: “GILEE focuses on enhancing homeland security efforts through international cooperation and training programs.” As Americans who have witnessed the past years of police attacks on Black Lives Matter protests, we already understand what “enhancing homeland security efforts” entails. In Palestine, as in the United States, militarized police (in Palestine, mostly occupying soldiers) often kill children and adults alike with impunity. Last year, a UN investigation found that the “low level of legal accountability for the killings of so many children by Israeli security forces is unworthy of a country which proclaims that it lives by the rule of law.”
In their anonymous op-ed, the author wrote about fearing for their friends and family during a “barrage of missiles” aimed at Israeli civilians. It is undoubtedly horrible to have friends and family members in a warzone, but “barrage of missiles” is a misleading line. While 32 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets since the Intifada in 2000, the Zionist state has killed more than 4,000 Palestinians in airstrikes over the same timeframe. Each night during the latest Zionist onslaught, I was terrified for the safety of my friend in East Jerusalem, and with good reason: He reported that, along with the Zionist campaign to steal the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem and the mass bombing of Gaza that targeted international news media and hospitals, armed groups of Israeli citizens and police were beating Palestinians in the streets across the city. They went door-to-door near my friend’s house, looking for Palestinians to attack. So far, he remains safe, but I stay up late every night to check in. The Zionist occupiers have already unilaterally violated the terms of last week’s ceasefire by again attacking worshippers and protestors at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest masjid in Islam, and there can be no genuine peace between two groups of people when an entire nuclear-armed state apparatus aims to make one of the groups “live like dogs.” This is not a situation that calls for nuance: Palestinians in the United States simply asking people to recognize their humanity face a sickening, predictable barrage of questions for the sake of “nuance” where there is none. How can anyone ask Palestinians to “condemn violence” when they are, in no uncertain terms, the victims of systemic violence? This so-called “conflict” demands unequivocal solidarity with the oppressed. Palestine will be free.