Do you have a stance on whether or not people’s rights should ever have been determined by the colour of their skin in America? Or South Africa? Do you have a stance on slavery? Do you have a stance on the woman’s right to vote? Over the next 800 words, I’m going to tell you why and how I think that people should have an active stance on a modern-day equivalent tragedy. This is a beginner’s guide to the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Let’s take up the issue of slavery. Most people (I hope) would say something along the lines of:
“yes, I would vocally oppose slavery, and would have acted to protect the enslaved, because the abuse of a person’s basic human rights is obviously wrong and unjust”
It’s easy to self-righteously claim that you would have acted when you don’t actually have to do anything.
Slavery may have been abolished, but as I’m sure you well know, the world ain’t perfect yet.
The Situation in Palestine
For the last 7 decades, Palestinian men, women, and children have suffered the daily abuse of their basic human rights, the illegal colonial occupation of their country, and violent oppression under one of the most advanced military forces in the world.
Every single day, more illegal Israeli settlements are built inside Palestine, and the Israeli government subsidises this housing development as part of a relentless policy of colonial expansion.
These settlements are built on forcibly-annexed Palestinian land and protected by conscripted Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli policy of conscription ensures that all of its citizens see the worst side of Palestinian people; the side which has boiled over from 7 decades of restricted rights, discriminatory treatment. After completing several years of military duty, these soldiers will often hold hateful views of Palestinians, perpetuating the Israeli aggravation of the conflict.
How to Take Action
You don’t have commit to peace in the Middle-East with a series of heroic inspirational speeches on global TV… Unless you really want to.
Just imagine that you, your friends, and your family all live under the military supervision of a foreign regime that assumes you are guilty until proven innocent, subjects you to discriminatory laws, and can imprison you for 10 years for peacefully protesting.
Your only hope would be that someone, or anyone, with greater rights and freedoms than yourself would make some effort to stop the injustice.
The situation and history of this conflict are complex, with countless atrocities on both sides. There’s no expectation for anyone to find a solution to the conflict, however, once you know the facts, surely it’s difficult for one to avoid any judgment on the matter – the matter of decades of blatant violations of human rights, freedoms, and justice, that has been perpetrated by the Israeli military against Palestinian people.
Making an effort could mean sharing a Facebook post/ learning more about the situation/ writing a letter to your MP/ making Palestine activism part of your identity/ visiting or volunteering in Palestine/ talking to your friends and family about the situation/ joining Amnesty International/ joining the BDS Campaign or learning about what it is/ shouting [more] shit about Donald Trump and his merry band of bellends in Washington.
So… you’re saying that I should be a pro-Palestinian warrior of righteousness?
In my opinion, being pro-Palestine or pro-Israel is unhelpful, because it can appear emotionally-charged with nationalistic anger, and is based more on subjective experience that it is genuine facts. Strong advocates of either side often prevent fruitful discussion and negotiation because they simply talk past each other, and I argue, fail to fully understand the circumstances or desires of the other side.
To me, a more productive approach for the international community (which includes both you and me) is to campaign for equal rights for both sides. This does NOT mean neutrality. The way I see it, taking a neutral stance on the conflict infers an approval of the current imbalance of power in which Israel is dominant. Israeli citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and justice, while Palestinian citizens do not.
Putting both states on an equal footing is exactly what has been proposed by Palestinian civil society organisations, and is the basis for the global BDS Campaign. The BDS Campaign seeks to achieve this equal-footing by empowering the international community to boycott, divest, and sanction Israeli companies and settlement businesses until the Israeli government is willing to afford Palestinian people basic human rights.
Despite what prominent Israeli officials have claimed, an opposition of the Israeli government does not mean an opposition to the existence of the Israeli state, its citizens, or Judaism.
Don’t be pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, be pro-justice, human rights, and state sovereignty. Currently, that means:
- Opposing the systematic mistreatment of Palestinians by the Israeli military
- Opposing the Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land
- Opposing the aggravating and colonialist policy of the Israeli government.
Why? Because this stuff is like slavery, like denying women or black people rights, it’s just so obviously wrong.
Citizens of the international community, you who are free from punishment, oppression, injustice, and violence, might you recognise your good fortune? Might you use it pro-actively?
Don’t look back in 50 years and say that you’d have been motivated to act if you’d only known how bad it was. Be a beginner. Free Palestine.