What would happen if you built a refuge for a group of persecuted people in a place where another group of people already lived? We must learn and understand why this moral quandary is at the root of the struggle we see and hear about for the past 4 decades. There are many things for one to understand.
One, Many Jews fled persecution in anti-semetic Europe, especially the Nazi Holocaust, a genocidal war. During this time, they were offered options by the Zionist regime. The Andinia Plan referring to ideas (dating to the 19th century) to establish a Jewish state in parts of Argentina. The British Uganda Program was a plan to give a portion of British East Africa to the Jewish people as a homeland. The offer was first made by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain to Theodore Herzl’s Zionist group in 1903. Others too in the form of the Madagascar Plan, the Fugu plan and others. And then there was Palestine.
Zionists encouraged massive immigration into historic Palestine, at that time a British Colony; where Jews had an age old connection and small Jewish communities had long existed among larger groups of indigenous people. But when the UN offered the Jewish immigrants the majority of the land in the United Nations Partition Plan 1947 for a new state called Israel, for the indigenous people who lived there, it was a massive destruction of life. They rejected the UN’s partition plan and several Arab states invaded the state of Israel. Israeli forces essentially erased over four hundred Palestinian village and towns. By the end of the fighting, Israel controlled 78% of the land of historic Palestine. (1949 armistice lines) and when ¾ of a million Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the fighting tried to their homes where the new state now stood, they were permanently barred by the Israeli government. While over a thousand of their neighbors who hadn’t left became second class citizens of the new state along with the new Jewish majority. Today Palestinian refugees and their descendants number in the millions. Most are in the Gaza strip, the West Bank and Jordan. Many are spread around the world with millions still living in refugee camps seeking to return to their home land. To sum up, one group of refugees found a much needed home. But in the process, a new group of refugees was created.
Here’s the second thing to understand, Israel was founded as a Jewish state. But what exactly does that mean? People had lots of ideas about what a Jewish state should look like. Some called for equality for all citizens. But what was created in practice was institutional discrimination against non-Jews. In other words, Israel ended up being built on a blueprint of exclusion. The Israeli government wants maximum land and resources for Jews, but not the Palestinians living there. That’s why inside Israel, Jews get special privileges including the right to land and housing that are denied to Palestinian citizens, who make up 20% of Israel’s population. That’s also part of why Israel has never defined it’s borders, in fact they still hold on to land, the West Bank and Gaza, that they conquered in the war in 1967. Since then, Israel has built Jewish settlements throughout the occupied West bank; building Jewish only cities and supplying them with infrastructure like roads and army camps, schools and even a college. Military occupations are meant to be temporary, but after 40 plus years, this one looks permanent and entirely unjust. In the West Bank, Israeli-Jewish settlers and the Palestinians live on the same land, but live under two completely separate and unequal systems of Israeli law. The Jewish settlers dominate the natural resources including water and agricultural land. And they are backed by the Israeli army. To maintain the occupation, Israel had demolished thousands of Israeli homes and orchids, confiscated thousands of Palestinians civilians land, bombed a countless civilian population in Gaza and punished resistance with raids, arrests and assassinations; all to gain maximum land, while making life so difficult for Palestinians, they will either leave or be too afraid to resist.
Palestinians have fought back. For decades they have tried to achieve national liberation through armed struggle, some groups still do. But the majority now support popular protest instead. The deeply harmful pattern of control, repression and violence profoundly harms Palestinians living under occupation and Israeli’s living as occupiers. This must be broken to reach a peaceful and secure future for both sets of people.
Now that you understand the problem, what about the solution? What about peace talks?
So far, over 2 decades of US backed peace talks have actually made things worse, by helping Israel continue the occupation. Its been years of talking while Israel massively expanded the Jewish settlements and literally redrew the map. Peace talks are good, if they are real, but not when feigned. So now what?
The current world super power, the United States, has been a terrible friend enabling Israel’s destructive and self destructive expansion into Palestinian land by funding the Israeli military. The biggest recipient of US foreign aid in the world.
But there’s another superpower that can make a difference, You. There’s a movement with hundreds of thousands of people around the world just like you, including Palestinians and Israelis, protesting, educating, divesting and boycotting all to bring nonviolent international pressure on Israel to stop violating human rights.
In the end, it doesn’t matter who is right historically, or who is true heir to the land, while little kids are shot dead, mothers raped and murdered, and atrocities all around. That needs to stop.
Remember, you don’t need to be Muslim to stand up for Gaza, you just need to be Human.