Palestinian Position: "Give me liberty or give
Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the Palestinian
people's uprising against the illegal Israeli occupation.
In spite of the enormous imbalance of power, and
in spite of the very heavy losses the Palestinians
are suffering on a daily basis, all signs indicate
that the struggle for freedom is not about to stop.
All indications show that the Palestinians will
no longer accept the miserable status quo, and are
willing to sacrifice their own lives for the liberty
of future generations.
During the past four years, 3,236 Palestinians have
been killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces, the
vast majority unarmed civilians, including 621 children.
In comparison, 1,008 Israelis have been killed,
112 of them children. Israel still practises the
abhorent policy of extra-judicial "targeted
assassinations," by which they have murdered
230 Palestinian leaders and almost as many bystanders.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been injured,
many of them permanently.
More than 7,500 Palestinians languish in Israeli
prisons under inhumane conditions, many without
due process, including women and children. Healthwise,
more than 30% of Palestinian children are suffering
from chronic malnutrition, which often results in
permanent damage. Gaza, one of the most densely
populated areas in the world, is without clean drinking
water and on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
Property damage has included the demolition of more
than 3,700 homes, and damage to twice as many, making
tens of thousands of civilians homeless. Hundreds
of thousands of trees have been uprooted, including
thousand year-old olive trees, a means of livelihood
to many Palestinian families. Checkpoints dot the
West Bank, strangling Palestinian movement and the
economy and contributing to an unemployment rate
of 50-70%. As a result, three quarters of the Palestinian
population now lives below the poverty level, at
less than $2 per day.
And now the horrendous wall that is being built
under the false pretext of security, is putting
more than half of the West Bank, including the precious
water acquifers, on the Israeli side, and further
ghettoizing the Palestinian communities. According
to many, this is Israel's latest tool for ethnically
cleansing the West Bank and making the establishment
of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
Despite all of this, the Palestinians are standing
strong, choosing to die on their feet rather than
live on their knees.
World Reaction Remains Apathetic
Visitors to the occupied Palestinian territories
frequently receive the simple request to "tell
the American people what you saw, tell them what
is really going on here." The expectation is
that any decent human being would oppose the crimes
that the Israeli government is committing against
the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Yet, the
world remains silent.
In the U.S., which as Israel's sponsor and the world's
only superpower holds the key to reaching a solution,
supporters of the Palestinian cause have faced an
uphill battle. Politicians, including Bush and Kerry,
race to please Israel and its supporters, even to
the extent of putting Israel's interests ahead of
their own country's. Mainstream media consistently
whitewashes Israel's crimes and uses suicide bombings
to portray Israel as the victim. And the American
public has been conditioned by decades of propaganda
to support Israel, or to be intimidated by potential
accusations of being "anti-Semitic." Even
avid anti-war protesters have been reluctant to
adopt the Palestinian cause, despite the striking
parallels with the situation in Iraq. However, Sharon's
unrestrained brutality has prodded some Americans
to reconsider their positions and shift their attitudes.
The realities of the conflict, no matter how hidden
by mainstream media, sometimes trickle through,
and support for the Palestinian cause is increasing.
In Europe, while public support for the Palestinians
is much higher than in the U.S., European governments
still maintain strong ties with the Israel. And
many of them continue to provide Israel with weapons,
knowing full well that they will be used to commit
war crimes against Palestinian civil society.
In the Middle East, the Arab governments appear
to have given up even on the worthless lip service
that they had been providing for years. Jordan,
Egypt, and Mauritania maintain diplomatic relations
with Israel, and at least a half dozen other Arab
countries have some level of ties with Israel. The
Arab public in these and other Arab countries is
paralyzed by it's U.S.-backed dictators, and seems
content with just providing humanitarian relief
aid (often blocked or delayed by Israel).
International Activists Can Make a Difference
A growing number of activists worldwide are putting
enormous effort in pushing for justice for the Palestinian
people. This support is crucial for Palestinian
survival against Israeli military might, but still
needs to increase and reach a level that will tangibly
Effective actions can be grouped into four categories:
Political lobbying, public awareness, volunteering
in Palestine, and financial support.
Political lobbying involves influencing elected
representatives and, in turn, government policies.
In the U.S., most politicians consider it to be
politically suicidal to express support for Palestine,
so aside from informational exchanges, an important
part of the activists' job is to be able to assure
these politicians of substantial public support.
Public awareness efforts include educating the public
about the realities of the situation, as opposed
to what is being reported on mainstream media. Alternative
media needs to be promoted, and informational resources
put to maximum use. Protests, lectures, film screenings,
flyers, posters, banners, even bumper-stickers help
influence public opinion. Engaging mainstream media
is also crucial, including monitoring coverage,
interacting with editors, and demanding fair reporting.
Volunteering in Palestine enables activists to build
a personal relationship with the issue, express
solidarity in a way no other action can do, and
report the realities as an actual witness. Although
the International Solidarity Movement isn't the
only group coordinating such efforts, it is one
that has achieved enormous success and has gained
the world's attention in its use of non-violent
resistance. Actions that volunteers can participate
in include riding in ambulances so that Israeli
soldiers would be less likely to block them at checkpoints,
walking children to school to protect them from
being shot at, staying in family homes slated for
demolition, helping farmers harvest their fields
without being attacked, and participating in peaceful
Financial support is desperately needed for humanitarian
aid in Palestine, as well as for pro-Palestinian
lobbying elsewhere. Donations are welcomed by charities
such as KinderUSA, which provides food and medicine
to Palestinian children, by groups such as the International
Solidarity Movement to help fund more volunteers,
by Palestinian media watchdogs and lobby groups
in order to be more effective in their work, and
for campaigns of politicians sympathetic to the
Palestinian cause. Aside from donations, supporters
may also purchase Palestinian-made goods, boycott
Israeli-made goods, and support the divestment movement.
All these actions need to be performed to a much
greater degree than they currently are. Palestinians
in the West Bank and Gaza are paying with their
lives every day. Those of us who's lives are not
in immediate danger have a duty to stand up and
oppose Israeli crimes and our governments' complicity
and support for these crimes. Without strong support
from the international community, the Palestinian
people's days are numbered. It is in our hands to
stop the state-terrorism that is being committed
against the Palestinian people, and to push for
justice and peace. Looking back at the past four
years, have we done all that we can?