By Hibba Adeel
The following piece was submitted through the Vanguard’s Berkeley Student Publication and represents the views of the author and not necessarily that of the Vanguard and its editorial staff. The Vanguard invites robust but respectful dialogue on this and all topics. Alternative views can be submitted to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos by Hibba Adeel and Adeel Mukhtar
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently announced an expansion of “activities to the second stage” by the Israeli government through involving tanks and stepping up air attacks on Palestinian civilians in the already resource-deprived and war-aggrieved Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Before, the land known as Palestine was under the Ottoman Empire and originally was inhabited by the native Palestinians who resided in the region for years. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the British seized Palestine, in which they pushed and supported many Zionists in Europe to permanently settle into the land of Palestine that was already inhabited by the indigenous Palestinians.
Zionism is a settler colonial political movement that calls for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine with a Jewish majority, and Zionists were the people who supported this ideology. Plans to coordinate the settlement of Zionists in Palestine began through Zionists holding conferences and were eventually executed by moving Zionist settlers from Europe into Palestine. Though the British favored the Zionist settlers over the indigenous population and aided the Zionist plan, the British themselves had no genuine sympathy for historically oppressed Jewish people in Europe. Rather, they saw in the Zionist movement a mechanism through which British’s trade, colonial and economic interests could be pursued through the Suez Canal located in the region.
As the number of Zionist settlers began to grow rapidly in Palestine, they asserted Palestine as their rightful homeland in accordance with the Zionist ideology of that time through violent and oppressive means. Zionist leadership made it clear that Palestine would be a Jewish majority state and were not interested in co-existence by going out of their way to punish settlers who hired or collaborated with Palestinians, labeling Palestinian labor as a “illness” and forming a segregated trade union that excluded Palestinians.
This eventually led to the unjust establishment of Israel, resulting in the forced displacement of many Palestinians due to the confiscation of their homeland. The Palestinians that did stay behind were subject to village raidings and mass killings of their diverse communities as an attempt from these Zionist settlers to further displace Palestinians. This has only continued to this day by the modern Israeli Army (also known as the IDF) as an attempt to completely eradicate the region from native Palestinians. Just months ago the Israeli Army attacked the Al- Aqsa mosque, which served a breaking point for many Muslim Palestinians who revere the Al-Aqsa mosque as being a holy site in Islam.
The outside and inside of Al-Aqsa mosque was brutally attacked by Israeli forces months ago while worshippers were praying.
Recent Attacks and the Siege of Palestinians
Currently, the conflict in Gaza, under Israeli bombardment and blockade since October 7, began when Hamas initiated Operation Al Aqsa Flood, a surprise attack that included rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea, and air. Hamas said the incursion was due to the storming of the Al Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by illegal Israeli settlers. The Israeli military then launched a relentless bombardment of Gaza, along with stepping up raids and arrests in the occupied West Bank.
Despite the Palestinian citizens not committing any acts of violence themselves, the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip are being killed and blocked from fuel, food, medical supplies, and water—which they have been for sixteen years since the Israeli blockade, but more intensely recently—with no wrong done on their end towards the Israeli population.
The combination of the blockade and air raids have led to a dire situation. Palestinian students are unable to finish the current school year due to the destruction of their schools. According to Oxfam International, Israel is also using starvation as a cruel war tactic. Hundreds of premature Palestinian infants are at risk of death with the cutoff from fuel supply. Pregnant women question how they can give birth with hospitals in Gaza running out of fuel; whatever is left of the Gaza hospital system has basically collapsed.
Israel has been classified as committing war crimes as per international law and violating various United Nations resolutions since the Israeli government’s siege targets civilians, instead of the siege actually having any legitimate means to prevent violence.
In fact, with the usage of chemical weapons that can cause burns to the skin, the Israeli government’s decisions the past few days have actually cultivated more violence in the entire region, especially in the Gaza Strip. The death rates are self explanatory: More than 9,000 Palestinians have died and continue to do so in a never ending bombing contest in the Gaza Strip.
What is the Gaza Strip?
Referred to as an “open air prison” by Humans Rights Watch, Palestinian individuals are crammed in this densely populated land with harsh travel restrictions imposed by Israel. In other words, once in the Gaza Strip, most individuals cannot get out due to the visa and paper work process purposefully made complicated by Israel.
Going back to the history of the occupation of Palestine, as more Zionist colonizers settled in and made plans to seize Palestinian lands by attacking Palestinian communities, a catastrophe in 1948 referred to as the Nakba was one the major events that expelled Palestinians out of the state’s borders to become refugees in their homeland. These Palestinian refugees were forced to go to Gaza. Since Israel has control over the basic resources that go in Gaza, civilians also have faced limitations on food and water which have intensified to another level with the recent attacks.
Gaza’s travel restrictions on individuals, as well as on exports and imports, has made it a socioeconomically deprived region with poverty being the norm. Additionally, educational and survival resources are gatekept from civilians by the Israeli government in order to prevent the Palestinian population from growing and thriving. Despite knowing the state of the Gaza Strip, many political leaders have openly announced their support of Israel amidst the current attacks.
An International Focus: Biden’s Trip to Israel and its Political Implications
Shortly after the attack, President Joe Biden arrived in Tel Aviv to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Neytanyahu. During this meeting, President Biden asserted his support for Israel while Gaza was simultaneously being bombed by Israel. Biden has recently stated that he supports a “pause,” not “ceasefire” on Israel’s Gaza attacks. This claim led to many individuals questioning the irony of this specific statement that showcased the Biden administration’s apparent push to avoid regional escalation while also fully backing Israel’s bombing campaign.
Historically speaking, interference in the Middle Eastern regions has been typical of U.S foreign policy. The United States is one of the biggest suppliers of military weapons to the Middle East, and makes no exception when it comes to funding Israel’s military efforts. Such military aid and overseas funding from the U.S to Israel over the years has also fostered unnecessary danger in Palestine. Because of funding overseas conflicts, especially in the Middle East, US federal debt passed one trillion dollars in 1981 and reached 5.7 trillion under George W. Bush, making every resident in the U.S spend on average $2,200 a year on Defense through taxes.
While it is no shocker that America’s backing of Israel gives the U.S an ally that makes it easier for them to exploit their own political interests in the Middle East, the United States has also made massive profit from arms sales in supplying weapons. It’s a win-win situation for both Israel and the U.S. Because of U.S support, Israel has a huge diplomatic and military advantage that it historically and is still currently utilizing against ordinary Palestians who lack the resources to defend themselves.
What is pivotal to the situation is Israel and the U.S.’s refusal to call a ceasefire. One might think that Israel would want instability of the region to be put to an end, but instead Israel has enabled the United States to veto the United Nation’s desperate pleas for a ceasefire. United Nations spokesperson António Guterres has expressed multiple times that international humanitarian law has been violated on multiple occasions by Israel- in return his remarks have made Israel deny visas to UN officials.
The entire international situation raises the vital question that if the U.S can’t stand up to their ally Israel, what does that say about the policies of America? More importantly, why is the Israeli government talking about the lives lost but then continues to conduct airstrikes?
A Local Focus: Palestinian Struggles in America
Post the stream of attacks from Israel in H, the outcasting and violence towards Palestinians has extended outside of the region to abroad as well. Shortly after Israel’s operations, a six-year old Palestinian child in Chicago was stabbed to death by his landlord; his mother was unable to attend his funeral due to suffering from stabbing as well.
More locally in the Bay Area, police and FBI have been overstepping their boundaries and contacting organizers and community members speaking up for Palestine. It has reached a point where the San Francisco and Ohio chapters of the legal organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have issued “I would like to speak with you with my attorney present” as an appropriate response for when any individual is illegally contacted by government officials or police officers. Students at UC Berkeley speaking up against the atrocities of the Israeli government have been subject to doxxing, offensive remarks, harassment, and a lack of attention from Berkeley administration.
On November 3rd, UC Berkeley students protested for the safety of Palestinian students to be prioritized by campus administration while also urging world-wide action to be taken due to the Israeli government’s attacks and Biden’s recent bill that will further fund Israel. (Note: the number of Palestinian deaths have increased since this date).
The U.S House of Representatives has also passed a bill that would send $14.3 billion in military aid to Israel. What this means is that every American’s tax money will be used to contribute further to the Israeli efforts of ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Shortly after the bill passed, protesters in Oakland locked themselves to a U.S. military cargo ship said to be destined for Israel and prevented it from leaving the Port of Oakland for several hours.
Such discriminatory actions and outcasting of Palestinians locally emphasize the realities of the situation, which is that Palestinians tend to face the consequences of any escalation they have played no role in, whether it be facing the repercussions in the region itself or abroad internationally.
Debunking Israeli Propaganda: Keep an Eye Out for Inconsistencies
The propaganda as the attacks continue also speaks volumes on the misinformation spread. CNN reporter Sara Sindler apologized for broadcasting the unverified information that forty babies were killed by Hamas, stating that the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, along with President Biden, had claimed that babies were killed- but then, both retracted their prior statements. News channels and politicians have the responsibility of being credible; not reflecting consistent comments suggests propaganda is in play to manipulate the public in order to sway their view to align more with the government’s side.
With freedom of speech being penalized, a website called anti-israel-employees.com has utilized various Linkeldin posts to track down pro-Palestinian individuals and list them as “terrorist supporters” on their site in an effort to shame such individuals, who also have an affiliated “hate score” on the site. Such lists have also been cultivated to track college students who have expressed Pro-Palestine views. Individuals targeted on the site who were subject to the racist and inaccurate equivalency of their Palestinian support with support for terrorism believed it to be an effort from Zionist groups to misinform Americans on the Palestinian cause for liberation. Pro- Palestine individuals in the U.S facing the challenge of having their support for Palestinian freedom being affiliated with terrorism which emphasizes Islamaphobic rhetoric.
With a communications blackout and no electricity further isolating the already isolated Gaza from the rest of the modern world, getting access to necessary medical supplies and aid in life endangering situations has increasingly become difficult for civilians. The blackout has unfortunately given Israel more room to further spread its propaganda at a much wider scale. Amnesty International said the lack of communication “means that it will be even more difficult to obtain critical information and evidence about human rights violations and war crimes being committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and to hear directly from those experiencing the violations.”
Violence in Any Form Should Not Be Condoned, but Resistance Is a Right and Normal Among the Colonized
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has already expressed that Israel will take “vengeance” and settle scores with anyone who gets in Israel’s way. These statements and the executed vengeance that followed them after Hamas’ attack reveal the true intentions behind the Israeli government’s recent actions. It looks like an excuse for Israel to expand its territory and further suppress the oppressed and cover the whole upcoming annihilation as retaliation in defense. Things that could take years to happen for the further downfall of Palestine have happened in a few days which, in itself, speaks volumes about the dirty war politics exhibited by the Israeli government.
It is important to look at the historical context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine to truly understand the reasons and implications of the recent attacks. Violence is not condoned in any shape or form. However, when fingers are pointed accusingly towards any resistance to colonization, but are not towards the Israeli colonizer government itself, a strong presence of double standards and hypocrisy arises.
One must also ask, after so many years of oppression, wasn’t eventual resistance bound to come? Even outside the context of the current Israeli occupation of Palestine, history has proved multiple times that eventual resistance is natural amongst all oppressed groups and is expected from the colonized.
Israeli illegal settlements on Palestinian’s own land near Jerusalem have been there since (and only grown) since the beginning of the Zionist settlement plan.
Further said, it is important to note that the atrocities committed by the Israeli government are nothing new—they have been occurring since before the founding of the state now known as Israel—nor are they specific to Gaza as many Palestinians in the West Bank have been subject to investigations and humiliation as well.
All kinds of Palestinian groups are affected by the attacks as the current occupation of Palestine does not have to do with religion but rather is a situation of ideological-driven settler colonialism. On October 20th, a Greek Orthodox Church sheltering civilians was casually destroyed amidst the bombings. In the occupied West Bank Al- Ansar mosque was hit by the IDF and the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza has also been struck.
The Irony: (Limited) Aid While Also Being Bombed?
With the news of an official invasion from Netanyahu, Palestinians in the Gaza strip continue to go hungry and the humanitarian crisis of Palestine has worsened. It does not look like it will get better anytime soon due to an inadequate response from world leaders and the international community.
Although the Rafah border—which is Gaza’s only border crossing point that does not communicate with Israel and is between Egypt and the Gaza border— has opened up temporarily to bring in a few aid trucks and resources via Egypt, the UN and humanitarian organizations say the amount of aid brought in falls short of the needs of the population, with basically no aid being given by the Israeli side.
Only a limited number of individuals are able to get aid with conditions placed on what the aid constitutes as per the Israeli government’s rules. The entire Rafah-border aid situation is a counterintuitive cycle; some Palestinains are allowed to get aid, but Gaza is continuing to be struck even more by the Israeli government which only cultivates the need for more aid. The allowance of aid seems to cancel out with the continued bombings, raising the question if its intent was to even help Palestinians or just a strategic way for Israel to continue its incursions on the side, with aid just being a distraction for the international community to get them to shift their focus away from the actual horrors of the situation.
Millions of Palestinains in the U.S have taken part in protests against U.S funding for Israel and called for a ceasefire to end the violence that the UN is unable to put a halt to. Historically, taking a firm stand against violence perpetrated by Israel has never been among the UN’s past priorities or strong suits; a ceasefire is something they should be able to do without being constrained and feeling pressured by Israel and the U.S. However, the extremity of the recent events has served as a turning point in which even the UN is pleading for a ceasefire.
It is clear that whatever happens in the region will adversely affect Palestinian civilians given the state of Israel’s mission to ethnically cleanse them which has been proved multiple times since the founding of Israel, whether it be the Nakba or the more recent attacks.
A daunting separation wall in the West Bank City of Bethlehem racially segregates Palestinans and symbolizes Israeli apartheid.
The entire argument of the Israeli side is an oxymoron; to say that you condemn violence to only commit acts of violence against a group of people speaks volumes about the true intent of the Israeli government with their recent attacks on Gaza. The Israeli government should ask themselves how they can even talk about human rights when they have been continuously violating them since the immoral and unrightful existence of the state of Israel.