Hamas is evil. Hamas is evil. Hamas is evil. Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization, and the attack on Oct. 7 was atrocious. Yes, they are a group that wants to cleanse the area of all Jews. I, and almost everyone else, don’t have a problem admitting this. However, the same can’t be said for defenders of Israel who openly either deny, ignore or support the openly stated goals of ethnically cleansing all Palestinians from their lands.
As much as recent events are important, it is more important to understand the context that explains them. If you have read the article in last week’s Spectrum, the framing is clear: The problem is Hamas. Everything is explainable with this one word: Hamas. Every bad thing is a result of Hamas. All of Israel’s war crimes are necessary to defend itself from Hamas. If Hamas could be removed, all the human rights violations, war crimes and deliberate killings of civilians would go away.
So, let us imagine a world without Hamas or any other terrorist organization. What would it look like? Well, you don’t have to imagine. It’s called the West Bank, the other major Palestinian territory besides Gaza. There are no significant Palestinian terrorist organizations in the West Bank. What do they get in return? Palestinians continue to be forced out of their homes. Israel continues to expand its settlements, which are illegal under international law. Even the Prime Minister has been presented with a plan that would see the total amount of Israeli settlers increase from 170,000 to a million in the West Bank.
Let’s take this logic that if there is a horrific attack on a group, they should be able to defend themselves by annihilating the perpetrator to prevent future murder. They can also kill any civilians that might be in the way. They can bomb indiscriminately. The problem with this thinking is that if it were to be taken seriously, Israel would have to be destroyed.
Since Oct. 7, despite no connection to Hamas, as a result of Israeli settler violence, 132 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank. Only two Israelis have. A peaceful Palestinian funeral procession for multiple murdered Palestinians was ambushed by settlers, and more Palestinians were gunned down. Despite this obvious violence, Israel hasn’t persecuted any settlers. Rather, they continue to arm them.
Innocent Palestinians in the West Bank are going to continue to be murdered and forced off their land, so why don’t they get the same rights as Israel? Why aren’t they allowed to obliterate the murderous regime and all the civilians in their way to protect themselves and prevent future acts of terror against them? They are killed at far higher rates. They always have been. They are the second-class occupied group living under military occupation.
Again, this isn’t justification. I haven’t ever justified violence against Israel. Explanations of behavior and discrimination aren’t justifications. This isn’t a genuine call for Palestinians in the West Bank to retaliate. Instead, it’s an honest look at arguments that Israel is allowed to get away with but applied to the Palestinians.
Whether in the West Bank, Gaza or in Israel proper, Palestinians lives are treated as inferiors compared to Israeli Jews. Leading human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have produced details reports examining the countless ways which Palestinians face severe racial discrimination. The dismissal of this in the previous Spectrum article is laughable, especially for an American.
I don’t know how just because a scrap of paper says otherwise is taken seriously. Likewise in the US Declaration of Independence, it was famously stated that “all men are created equal.” So, “does that sound like a state that has the idea of genocide and ethnic cleansing as its goal?”
Since “all men are created equal,” racism didn’t exist. Maybe it was just a coincidence that a fifth of the population, all African, had the same rights as livestock. This was a country that clearly in writing valued equality so much that it never orchestrated one of history’s largest genocides spanning across a whole continent.
And yes, there are Palestinians in the Knesset, the parliament. However, that is the equivalent of saying because there are black members of Congress, as early as shortly after the Civil War, there wasn’t any racism. Therefore, Jim Crow didn’t exist, and the civil rights gains of the 1960s were meaningless.
Don’t create illusions that Palestinians living in Israel are even remotely treated the same. It can’t be conveyed in a few paragraphs. However, here is one such example that clearly demonstrates the legal disparity. Why is it that 90% of Palestinians in Israel, 21% of Israel’s population, control only 3% of the nation’s land?
As the leading human rights groups have thoroughly pointed out, there is a clear explanation. Under Israeli law from 1950, any Jew or person who has a Jewish grandparent can live in Israel and are granted citizenship. They have the right to “return” to Israel. This is in stark contrast to numerous Palestinians who are denied the right to return to the exact homes that they and countless direct ancestors once lived in.
Furthermore, Apartheid is saturated well throughout Israeli law. According to Amnesty International, “the state’s Jewishness is a legal consideration that allows the state to limit the right to equality and violate other rights that are protected within the Basic Law. Attempts to amend the Basic Laws to guarantee equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel have been unsuccessful, on the express grounds that such attempts ‘seek to deny Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people.”
Yes, Jews lived there thousands of years ago. However, this isn’t justification for Apartheid and the forced removal of any people from their land. Just apply it to any group besides Jews. If this position were to be taken seriously, the United States would have to cease to exist and be given back to Native Americans. All the descendants of Europeans should be forced into the dozens of other European countries. All Europeans are the same after all. Some of them can stay, but they will be squeezed onto 3% of the land and face extreme legal discrimination. Then, when they would resist this in deplorable ways, this would be further proof of the violent nature of Europeans and a further justification for their removal.
The idea that Israel, to quote their prime minister, “is not a state of all its citizens… [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and only them” is nothing new. The founder of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, along with many others a hundred years ago, wasn’t shy to admit that Israel was a settler colonial project. Colonialism then was a virtuous endeavor.
Today, as Israel ramps up its colonial project in the West Bank and government officials float plans for the complete removal of all 2.2 Palestinians from Gaza, long-term peace can only come about when the world takes a stance against Israeli ethnic cleansing and Apartheid.
Peace will be found when we treat the underlying disease of Israeli racism, colonialism and militarism. Addressing only the symptoms is futile. A seize fire is the most elementary step possible in this regard. Our government shouldn’t send weapons to any organizations that use them against innocent civilians and that has the stated goal of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
Israel is the military occupier. They are the nation overwhelmingly comprised of stolen land and homes. To make things simple, look at the West Bank and Palestinians in Israel. What more do they have to give to be allowed basic decency and equality? They have laid down their arms. What have they got in return? Only further violence and Apartheid. Yes, there is extreme hate on both sides. But this is an asymmetric conflict. Israel, as the overwhelmingly dominant power, has far more responsibility to begin the process toward peace, justice and reconciliation.
I want to end on a rather different note. At the end of last week’s article, the author mentioned his religion. While I don’t know what that may be, I direct this to all Christians out there. From a David Rovics song, “I’ve just got one question. And I want an answer. Tell me, who would Jesus bomb?”