Taking a neutral stance on Palestine and approaching it with radio silence is a damaging way forward. Though, with so much information around, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to be supporting and why. We’ve made it our mission to collect everything you need to know in one place – to ensure you’re more clued up on the 73-year-long ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Designed as a somewhat educational masterpost, feel free to refer back to this information and educate those around you.
What is the Israel-Palestine struggle actually about?
It’s important for us to provide some context behind the struggle, to get you up to speed on why any of this is going on.
In 1920, Britain took control of the area known as Palestine after the ruler of that part of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, was defeated in World War I. At the time, the land was inhabited by an Arab majority and a Jewish minority. Tensions between the two groups first grew when the international community tasked Britain with establishing a ‘national home’ in Palestine for Jewish people. For Jews, it was deemed their ancestral home, though the land belonged to Palestinian Arabs, who opposed moving.
Between the 1920s and 40s, the population of Jews arriving in Palestine grew, with many fleeing Europe and seeking a homeland after the Holocaust of World War II. This meant violence between Jews and Arabs, and against British rule, escalated. In 1947, the United Nations voted for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city. That plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and never implemented. In 1948, British rulers left, unable to solve the problem, and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.
The 15th May annually commemorates the Nakba, which refers to the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians from 1947-1949 by Zionist forces, to make way for the establishment of Israel. Zionist militias and Israeli forces systematically destroyed and depopulated approximately 530 Palestinian villages. In total, over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, died resisting, or were massacred. By the time the fighting ended in a ceasefire, Israel controlled most of the territory. Israel’s ethnic cleansing produced one of the world’s largest refugee populations, and today, the millions of dispossessed Palestinian refugees continue to struggle for the right to return to their homeland (despite the violation of international law Israel is committing by barring them from returning).
In another war in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of Gaza. Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Gaza and the West Bank. They have never been allowed return to their homes, as Israel says this would overwhelm the country and threaten its existence as a Jewish state. Although Israel pulled out of Gaza, the United Nations still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory. Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The Nakba (Arabic for ‘catastrophe’) isn’t just an event of the past. Palestinians continue to face expulsion, home demolitions and land confiscation as Israel attempts to erase Palestinian history by illegally building on top of ethnically cleansed villages. Just as the Nakba has never ended, neither has the struggle for freedom and liberation.
What is still going on in Palestine?
Throughout April 2021, dozens of Palestinian families were threatened with eviction, with 100 people injured in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The 7th of May saw at least 200 Palestinians and 6 Israeli police officers injured in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as around 70,000 worshippers attended the final Friday prayers of Ramadan. The clash came after reports of Israel’s intention to evict Palestinians from land claimed by Jewish settlers. The 8th May, the Islamic holy night of Laylat al-Qadr, became the second night of clashes in Al-Aqsa Mosque, with 100 Palestinians being injured as a result of Israeli police storming the mosque, wearing riot gear, using stun grenades and water cannons. On the 10th May, the clashes intensified after protests spread across major cities in Israel and Palestinian territories. Israeli forces again stormed Al-Aqsa mosque, injuring more than 300 Palestinians.
Following the escalated tensions in Sheikh Jarrah and the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Israel and Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement of Palestine) clashed in Gaza once again. This sparked widespread protests and riots across Israel, particularly in cities with large Arab populations. After eleven days of fighting, at least 243 people were killed in Gaza and 12 in Israel.
There are countless examples of the Israeli forces using heinous means to meet violent ends – such as blindfolding a young Palestinian child and then walking down the road throwing explosives at Palestinian homes, using him as a Human shield. Although there’s of course destruction caused by both the Israeli and Palestinian governments, around 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes and around 40 Israelis were killed by Palestinian rockets since 2000. There is then a huge disparity in regards to the suffering of Palestinians.
Palestinians are disproportionally affected by the conflict placed on them by the Israeli occupancy, because of the dramatic imbalance of power Israel has. Whilst Palestine has no army, navy, airforce, or military budget, Israel has a ground force of 513,000 personnel, the navy of 20,000, and an airforce of 89,000, supported by missiles, battleships, and weapons of mass destruction via a budget of $20.5 billion, plus the $146 billion US Military Aid. In contrast to Palestine’s GDP of $876, Israel’s extensive wealth means they’re able to control Palestine’s entire water and energy supply, and grant their citizens access to universal health care ranked 3rd best in the world (whilst 43% of the Palestinian population is aged 0-14, a strong indicator of how poor the medical care is in this UN-labelled ‘unliveable place’).
Palestinians are unable to leave their country, leave their towns, access medical care, transport, clean water, employment or voting rights. Instead their movements are monitored daily by the Israeli military who restrict their food, water and necessities and damage their belongings. They face constant threats of violence and intimidation, along with the very real risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes without notice. The only COVID-19 testing laboratory in the occupied Gaza Strip has been damaged by Israel, amid severe shortages of medical supplies and a ruthless second wave of coronavirus – meaning all coronavirus testing in Gaza has completely stopped. Israel has also blocked any COVID vaccines from entering Gaza. The main road leading to Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the Gaza Strip, was also hit, blocking access to injured civilians, ambulances and emergency workers.
A ceasefire was agreed between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas on Friday, bringing to an end 11 days of fighting. Less than a day after agreeing to the ceasefire, Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound firing teargas and rubber-coated bullets at worshippers during Friday prayer.
Media surges in news coverage and trends for sharing information mean it can often be easy to think a situation is completely over or has at least died down, when unfortunately, this is not the case 9 times out of 10. Facebook and Instagram deliberately censoring Palestinians, labelling every post, story and comment as ‘sensitive content’, meaning it reaches far fewer people. There’s an ongoing paid Israeli censorship of hashtags such as #SaveSheikhJarrah and #FreePalestine, which is contributing to the silencing of anti-Zionist information. Unfortunately, in the case of Palestine, the struggle against the Israeli apartheid is no where near over despite a lull in news coverage. Sheikh Jarrah is now under blockade, meaning no one from outside of the neighbourhood can go in or out smoothly and Palestinians are resorting to sneaking in. We are still awaiting the court ordered legal opinion of Attorney General of Israel Avichai Mandelblit on forcefully expelling Palestinians to replace them with settlers. Silwan, another neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, has been facing severe colonial violence and segregation and is awaiting the same fate of Sheikh Jarrah, where residents of 6 out of 12 neighbourhoods are going to be displaced and expelled by Israeli authorities and U.S. settler organisations.
How can you support Palestinians from afar?
There’s proof that the work people are doing around the world to support Palestine is making a slow but steady difference. Our voices are being heard, governments are shutting down international trade with Israel and leaders are raising the issue in vital conversations. There are things we can all be doing to continue this progress, which will ultimately put enough pressure on Israeli leaders to #FreePalestine.
- Donate. Vote with your dollar by spreading the resources you have available.
- iF charity Nonprofit based within the Gaza strip, providing food and medical support directly to Palestinians.
- Palestinian Child Relief Fund Grassroots organization works directly within Palestine, providing medical care, supplies, food, medicine and other aid. They are the only nonprofit sending volunteer doctors each year to the Middle East.
- Rebuilding Alliance Grassroots organisation working directly within Palestine, provides meals delivered to homes and jobs to women to help with financial stability, soon to run an all-women restaurant.
- United Palestinian Appeal provide meals directly to refugees across refugee camps, running the “Small Business Development Program’ to help Palestinians achieve economic independence and implement sustainable upgrades.
- Museum of the Palestinian People share Palestinian stories through historic artifacts, personal narratives and artistic expression to transcend separation, fragmentation and boundaries.
2. Continue sharing informative posts on social media, it does more than you think.
3. Educate yourself. Start watching pivotal documentaries on the subject; ‘Born in Gaza’ on Netflix, ’5 Broken Cameras’ on Amazon Prime and ‘Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists’.
4. Educate your friends, family and the younger generation on the history and current condition of the conflict. Choosing silence makes your stance implicitly in support of Palestinian and Israeli suffering.
5. Cancel all academic, cultural, sport and tourism engagements in Israel or supported/sponsored by Israel (or its lobby groups and complicit institutions).
6. Join a BDS Movement Campaign or strategic Palestine solidarity group near you to act collectively and effectively.
7. Boycott products and services from Israeli and international companies and banks that are complicit in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. This includes all Israeli banks, Israeli fruits and vegetables, and major multinationals (e.g. Puma, Caterpillar, Volvo, Barclays Bank, HP, Pillsbury, Soda Stream, JCB, Sabra and AXA).
8. Show your active support of Palestinians by working with progressive networks to pressure parliament and government to: demand a UN investigation of Israeli apartheid, ban all goods and services of companies operating in Israel’s illegal colonial settlements, and end all military-security cooperation and trade (military funding in the US case) with apartheid Israel and similarly criminal regimes of oppression worldwide.
9. Protest and mobilise pressure in your community, trade union, association, church, social network, cultural center, or other organisation to declare it an Apartheid Free Zone, ending all relations with apartheid Israel and companies that are complicit in its systems of oppression.
10. Start signing petitions and open letters to pressure the start of the right conversations between world leaders.
Interrupt islamophobia, and interrupt anti-semitism.
The bottom line is that governments do not represent their people. The crimes of the Israeli government are not and should not be attached to Jewish people. The misconception that Jews are at fault for the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity has led to a devastating surge in anti-semitic hate crimes and hate speech and abuse. Jewish communities around the world are being terrorised and punished for the actions of the Israeli military. The Palestinian struggle for freedom is anti-racist at its heart; it demands equality & dignity for all. Racism has no place in the solidarity movement. There are some easy ways to avoid implicit anti-semitism and islamophobia in your everyday language and internalised views:
- Be clear about what the labels you’re using mean.
- ‘Jewish’ or ‘Muslim’ refers to people all over the world who are part of a religious group.
- ‘Israeli’ or ‘Palestinian’ are national identities.
- ’Zionism’ is the belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination (and not all people who call themselves Zionist share the same opinion about the exact territory, principles, etc. of the state of Israel). ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ should not be used as terms of abuse.
- ‘Arab’ is the grouping of people who’s mother tongue is Arabic and there is great diversity across the Arab world (i.e. Jordan cannot simply become Palestine just because they are Arabs).
- ‘Islamism’ is an academic term with French origins that refers to a broad spectrum of political ideologies. It is NOT a synonym for terrorism and should not be used as one.
2. Do not hold Jews responsible for the actions and decisions of Israeli leaders, or Muslims for the actions and decisions of Palestinian leaders.
3. Do not demand that Jews or Muslims must take a certain political position on the issue.
4. Do not assume that all Palestinans or Israelis support the actions of their governments and/or authorities.
5. Anti-Zionism is not always anti-Semitic (for example if someone is generally anti-nationalism and believes in abolishing nation-states), but it can be. For example if criticism of Israel goes beyond that of its government policies into using antisemitic tropes.
6. Do not state that Muslim’s should leave Palestine because they have the whole of the rest of the Middle East or that Israeli Jews should ‘go back to where they came from’.
7. Israel is not a conspiracy to take over the Middle East or the World, and Palestine is not a conspiracy to force a Caliphate on Israel/Europe/the World. These are two national identities who both want to exist in the same piece of land.
8. Israel is not Nazi Germany, and Palestine is not Daesh/ISIS.
9. Israelis and Palestinians are human beings, celebrating their suffering and death is counter productive and unacceptable.
10. Be sensitive towards people who are pro-Israel or pro-Palestine at this time – they may have friends/family involved in the situation. Israel/Palestine may represent something important to them such as their own sense of struggle and oppression or a place of safety in the times of persecution. Solidarity with one side or the other is not a crime, they can be pro-Israel/pro-Palestine and still be pro-solution.