• Tasnia Rahman

#FreePalestine: The Israeli Conquest and Palestinian Crisis

A review of the Palestinian crisis effectuated by Israel.


Unless you have been out of touch with current events for some time now, you may have noticed that the social media town is abuzz with the specifics of a particular humanitarian crisis. If you were anything like me, you may have vaguely known about the Israeli-Palestinian ‘conflict’ before it exploded on social networks but never actually explored the matter in-depth.


Well, I can’t make assumptions about you but this was (sort of) the excuse for my ignorance: there are a number of human rights issues plaguing the world right now, and it is definitely difficult for one person to keep track of all of them…. Besides, if it is not dominating the headlines of global news or trending on Twitter, it must not be grave enough to warrant more attention and activism, right?


‘Oh, silly me.’


The Palestinian crisis has hammered in just how acutely the public eyes and ears are at the mercy of media manipulation. Writers, marketers, press agents all influence the news to their own benefit which feeds our ignorance. Furthermore, tech giants such as Google control their search algorithms in worrisome ways. It removes autocomplete results that involve sensitive topics, and even outright blacklists some websites. The Internet perpetuates falsity and personal biases by ranking results based on geographical inference or personal search history. As a result, our perception of the Palestinian struggle has been largely influenced by what has been presented to us. In the past, the true sequence of events has been buried under social media censorship or diluted by the neutralized reporting of renowned news outlets. However, the tide has recently turned due to the details of the cause blowing up on social media and opening our eyes to this crisis.


We shall circle back to this 'media interference' premise in a bit; but for now, let us shift the focus to what is ACTUALLY going on in Palestine.


Image: Israeli Annexation of Palestine

Settler Colonialism in Action


Earlier this year, a Jerusalem court ruling demanded the expulsion of Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. These same Palestinians were displaced from Yafa and Haifa in 1956 under a Jordanian mandate. The evictions - intended to make room for Israeli settlers - would further the Israeli annexation of Palestine. Since this move is emblematic of Israel’s efforts to root out all Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Palestinians responded with peaceful protests to reverse the decision. True to form, Israel rained down upon these demonstrations with vicious violence, baseless arrests and skunk water (chemically enhanced sewage water). Unfortunately, the conquest did not halt here.


Al Aqsa Attacks


The injustice prevailed as Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at Palestinian Muslim worshippers praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque - Islam’s 3rd most holy site - in Jerusalem's old city. The attacks injured at least 163 Palestinians on day 1 and cumulatively 600+ in the initial 3 days alone.

Image: A Palestinian man prays as Israeli police gather during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City on May 7 (Reuters)

Palestinians then engaged in wider protests to denounce these offenses which were in turn violently shut down, once again. The protests were met with smoke bombs, stun grenades, and rubberized steel bullets. As the situation developed, Hamas - a Palestinian militant group - threatened to retaliate unless Israel’s police brutality stopped. Israel responded by launching into suppression mode with twice as much savagery than before, injuring twice as many Palestinians. On Jerusalem Day, extremist Israeli settlers got involved and stormed the Al Aqsa compound with the ultimate goal to divide the mosque into Jewish and Islamic parts, brainwashed into believing that they have religious and historic claims. At one point, Israeli forces confiscated the keys to the mosque and took full control of the institution. As the violence escalated, Hamas in turn fired missiles into Israel due to which a single injury was reported by the latter country.


Gaza Under Fire


Following the Hamas missiles, Israel began raining bombs on Gaza. Day 1 of such brutality saw 20 Palestinian deaths, including 9 children. 11 days into the airstrikes, as of May 21, the death toll in Gaza mounted to 243 civilians, including more than 100 women and children. Israel even formulated a ground invasion plan of Gaza and had 9000 Israeli militants waiting at the Gaza border to rush in and commit larger-scale genocide. To make matters worse, such savagery emboldened extremist Israeli settlers to take matters into their own hands and began attacking Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Israel. Mobs of such Israeli civilians carried knives, handguns, rifles, and chanted ‘Death to all Arabs’ as they terrorized Palestinians on the streets. They formed blockades on roads to stop Palestinian cars and beat people up. Perhaps the event that captures their hateful ravage the most is that they set a house full of Palestinian children on fire, critically injuring all residents.

Image: Deadly Air Strikes on Gaza

The Israeli police in turn arrested Palestinians - the victims - and provided protection to the Israeli perpetrators as they continued to attack Palestinians. By the end of the Israeli offensive, 1900 were wounded, 1800 housing units were destroyed, 74 government facilities were bombed, 33 media centers were destroyed and 91,000 people were displaced. During the same period, rockets fired by Hamas had killed 12 Israelis, including two children.


Image: Bombs flatten Gaza (AP News)

On May 21, due to mounting international pressure, Israel announced a ceasefire in Gaza.


Note: Hamas - the ‘terrorists’ against whom Israelis are ‘defending’ themselves by bombing Gaza was originally encouraged to grow and operate by the Israeli government. At the time, they wanted Hamas to combat another Palestinian organization, the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah.


Aftermath


Fresh attacks broke out at the Al Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, May 21, testing the truce just hours after it took effect. The police wounded about 20 people in the attack.


Furthermore, Israeli police announced that they will imprison hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel over the coming days for their participation in recent sit-ins in support of Palestinians within the occupied East Jerusalem and the besieged Gaza Strip. Such a rampage of arrests will occur as part of the police’s ‘operation law and order’. This will punish anyone who partook in demonstrations against settler violence. On May 23rd, Israeli police remarked that about 1550 people have already been taken into custody since May 9 and the campaign is intended to continue prosecuting the Pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Notably, Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise around 20% of the Israeli population.


Hence, the ceasefire, though most welcome due to an (most likely temporary) end to the Gaza bombing, is hardly a permanent and effective solution to the Palestinian crisis as a whole. Most significantly, Israel continues to ethnically cleanse and militarily occupy Gaza. It serves to address that Israel has historically never adhered to ceasefires in the long run. The Israeli colonization of the West Bank is also not resolved by this ‘fragile’ ceasefire.


Fixing our Communication


Now that we know a little about the Israeli violence, let’s go over some terminology and communication nuances to prevent from fostering misinformation and minimizing its disgusting abuse of power. To be abundantly clear (in case it is not already) this is a crisis on Palestine’s part and conquest on Israel’s part - but this is in NO WAY a conflict. The widespread use of the word ‘conflict’ or ‘war’ by global media insinuates that the two sides are matched in power. This could not be farther from the truth. The power imbalance between the two entities is astronomical. To begin with, Palestine has no military might to adequately combat Israel. The number of its ground, air, and naval forces is zero. Most importantly, Palestine has NOT committed crimes to violate UN resolutions. In comparison, Israel has 622,000 soldiers and has blatantly violated around 28 UN resolutions so far.

Image: Comparison of the Palestinian (left) v.s Israeli (right) armed forces

It is one of the most militarized occupying nations in the world, backed up with billions of dollars and weapons from the United States, among others. Not to mention that Gaza - a Palestinian territory - has been imprisoned, deprived, and massacred regularly by Israel since 2007. Israel is the oppressor while Palestine is oppressed. Labeling a ‘crisis’ as a ‘conflict’ and ‘protests’ as ‘clashes’ in day-to-day discourse only perpetuates the oppression by whitewashing and downplaying the actions of a neo-colonialist ethnostate.


Similarly, framing statements to highlight the misguided notion of a religious war instead of transparently reporting on the crimes of the Israelis by news outlets minimizes the Palestinian struggle. Western news media has long shielded the extent of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from public view by diverting the argument via neutral statements as well as the conflation of anti-zionism and antisemitism. For the unversed, the struggle against the Israeli apartheid is NOT a demonstration of anti-semitism. In fact, by debating this issue as a religious conflict, some social media users and news outlets are currently detracting from the Israeli apartheid*. To draw a popular parallel, when the Black Lives Matter was ongoing, the All Lives Matter tag was widely criticized because it drew attention away from the discrimination against Black people and prioritized white people’s sentiments at a time when the Black community was hurting badly. In the same way, if one has to repeatedly take the time to clarify that the outcry against Israel does not equal anti-semitism and that the Jewish community at large is not at fault, it shifts the spotlight away from the sufferings of Palestinians. When scores of Palestinians are being deprived and dying on a daily, the sympathies should remain with the Palestinian cause first and foremost.


To address the ‘neutral’ statements cited by media, if you tune into BBC, you will hear the narrative go something like this:


‘Israelis were killed’


‘Palestinians died’


To point out the obvious, the insinuation is that Israelis are murdered while Palestinians simply...drop dead. While it should be appreciated that most people would not be fooled by such blatant manipulation, the media’s attitude towards the Israeli conquest truly speaks to the role played by Western society in encouraging this crisis.


The bottom line of this preamble is that the language we use holds the power to alter perceptions. Thus, being aware of our inherent bias towards neutral statements will help us better understand and take action against the Israeli apartheid*.


Note: The use of the term apartheid is not to be taken lightly. Human Rights Watch - an organization that conducts investigations and reports on abuses happening around the world - has found Israel guilty of crimes of apartheid and persecution.


What Now?


As outlined above, we are definitely closer to the finish line but the battle is far from over. This crisis - not conflict - will only end when Palestine is freed from Israeli oppression and Israel is held accountable for its abhorrent crimes.


For anyone who does NOT support the genocide of innocent civilians and the nauseating violation of other basic human rights such as right to liberty should forge ahead with advocacy and activism until the Israeli conquest comes to a complete end. Here are a few steps which we can all take to catalyze the process:

  • Educate ourselves and others on the context and current events of this crisis

  • Spread awareness

  • Call it like it is: e.g it's a crisis and not a conflict. Acknowledgement fuels action.

  • Spark a dialogue about this cause among your friends and family and if they do not already do so, encourage them to advocate for the Palestinian liberation in their personal capacity

  • Post/share on social media and defy social media platforms’ censorship: The democratization of information creation RE: pro-Palestine, i.e firsthand videos filmed by victims rather than choreographed journalism from the press, has gained widespread traction and has tangibly helped mitigate the Palestinian crisis till now.

  • Participate in the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation by boycotting products with direct ties to Israel. Here’s a starting point for our product research

Social Media Activism


Remember the initial discussion around social media and news usage and consumption that we had? To recap, the way we receive and process global news/information is subject to censorship, manipulation, discrimination and personal preferences. Coverage of the Palestinian cause is no different; especially in reference to censorship. It is certainly unwelcome to have one’s news tailored by external influences but on the flip side, we can hack the system to our advantage by exploiting these same internet regulations.


One rule of thumb is that the more we share and promote dialogues around certain content, the more heavily publicized it becomes on the internet. Regardless of the source of a news story, making it a trend on social media will display it on other people’s social media radars who may not otherwise have ready access to such content ( i.e their search prompt could be altered by their engine or their intersectionalities would make it difficult for such news to pop up on their feeds). In the same manner, posting/sharing informational news about the Israeli conquest and Palestinian conflict will spread awareness and help put pressure on political leaders to make change happen in Palestine's favour. If you are still skeptical, let me review some of the positive implications of the social media buzz around Palestine thus far:

  1. At the height of the protests, UK activists shut down a key site of Israeli drone production in the UK

  2. Italian port workers refused to load shipment of arms headed for Israel

  3. Kuwaiti Government announced a law where anyone supporting Israel in real life or the social media from within Kuwait will be imprisoned for 10 and be fined an amount of KD 5000

  4. The Pakistani and Turkish government vowed to jointly raise the Palestine issue at the United Nations General Assembly

  5. Progressive House Democrats led by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution aimed at blocking the Biden administration’s recently announced $735 million sale of ‘precision-guided’ bombs to Israel

  6. The Israeli court postponed ruling on East Jerusalem evictions

  7. The ceasefire - albeit fragile - was called upon by the Israeli government

In fact, social media activism has threatened the Israeli government so much that it has been attempting to get applications like Instagram, Facebook and Tiktok to block pro-Palestine content. This is further proof of the fact that our voices are being HEARD and that we need to continue our support to save Palestinian lives.

Image: Woman using social media on her phone while holding the Palestinian flag

In summary, anyone who does not want human rights to be violated and innocent lives to be lost should advocate for Palestine, at least on social media, among other means. Supporting the Palestinian cause is not complicated - it is a show of solidarity with humanity.


Author’s note: Thank you for reading through this extensive article. I hope this piqued your interest and gave you some substantial reasons and means to (continue to) support Palestine. As you may appreciate, the Israeli conquest of Palestine is a developing news story that has various layers to it. So stay tuned for a second part to this article that outlines more statistics, reports on the ongoing events, and summarizes the reactions of political and other influential figures towards the Palestinian crisis.


Lesser-Known Terms:

*apartheid: inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime (as defined by the UN)

*conflation: the merging of two or more sets of information, texts, ideas, etc. into one.


Sources:

https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/east-jerusalems-sheikh-jarrah-becomes-emblem-palestinian-struggle-2021-05-10/

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/05/israel-palestine-sheikh-jarrah-al-aqsa-mosque

https://www.businessinsider.com/google-manipulates-search-results-report-2019-11

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/15/google-tweaks-its-algorithm-to-change-search-results-wsj.html

https://time.com/5318918/search-results-engine-google-bias-trusted-sources/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123275572295011847

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/30/how-israel-helped-create-hamas/

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