The crisis in Gaza

Since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge that started on July 8, Israeli airstrikes have more than killed 1800 Palestinian civilians and injured over 7000, despite having some of the most sophisticated and advanced military equipment. A number of UN humanitarian shelters and schools have been targeted, mosques and cathedrals destroyed, schools and hospitals bombed, doctors and medical staff injured. If this isn’t a public massacre, I don’t know what is.                         

While many of Israel’s allies condone Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, I do not. Condemning Hamas would be like condemning the residents of the Warsaw ghetto for resisting their Nazi oppressors. The Palestinians will resist any way they can, as is their prerogative.

Israel has imposed a near-total embargo on Gaza and has illegally occupied Palestinian land for over 65 years. The people of Gaza live in an open-air prison with limited access to food, water, humanitarian aid, gas and electricity for over half a decade. What you see happening now is only one of many ruthless massacres committed by the Zionist regime since the beginning of the illegal occupation in 1947. Israel spreads terror among Palestinian civilians and uses the notion of “self-defence” to justify its actions. No Israel, you do not have the right to defend yourself when you are illegally occupying another country.

So what can we do to help as supporters of the Palestinian cause?

Firstly we should all be supporting the BDS campaign. Boycotting Israeli products is the simplest and most effective means of resistance against aggression. The Israeli industry is perennial to its survival as a state and it is vital a clear message is sent to Israeli businessmen and exporters that their own government is responsible for their losses and the adverse consequences to their businesses.

Since Israel began their onslaught on Gaza three weeks ago, findings show that 1 in 5 Israeli exporters are finding it difficult to sell abroad because of anti-Israel boycotting and a lot of these boycotts are coming from the UK and Scandinavian countries. The Israel Export Institute has reported 66% of Israeli businesses have cut prices desperately trying to get people to buy their products. They have received more and more order cancellations and are now calling for government intervention to protect Israeli businesses from boycotts.

It may not seem like a lot but on a large scale, with a mass movement of international boycotts, Israel will feel the pressure. And it will hurt.

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There is a new app called ‘Buycott’ which allows you to join different campaigns. I am part of ‘Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel’ and ‘Avoid Israeli Settlement Products’. The app allows you to scan barcodes from your Smartphone and it will tell you where the product has come from. It couldn’t be simpler to use and I would definitely recommend it.

We should also continue to report on social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great tools to enlighten others and reach the conscience of the world as to what is happening without the filtering and bias of news reporters. It is also a really good way of pressuring news outlets to meet objective standards and report the truth.

This is a real test of the strength of the international community and the power of non-violent resistance against Israeli aggression. Never underestimate your role in this. Each and every one of us has a moral obligation to speak up. We cannot tolerate Israel’s utter disregard for international humanitarian law and the ongoing slaughter of men, women and children.

Let us continue to educate, boycott and resist.

In the face of injustice, there is only side to choose.

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Made in Palestine

It has been quite a while since I last contributed to Palestine 101 and I’ve only just realized why. I arrived back in the States a month ago and since then I’ve been seeing friends, family and living the comfortable life I have always lived.

If I am going to be honest with myself, I really just forgot. I left Palestine, I left the Middle East and I forgot. I forgot about everything; the occupation, the poverty, the poor living conditions, the weapons and the struggle of the Palestinians. It’s amazing how quickly I reverted back to my luxurious Western lifestyle and without even realizing, lost the inspiration and drive I felt to help the Palestinian struggle.

In all fairness, I guess you could say how could I be expected not to forget? When you have the gift of freedom and are able to live peacefully in a country where your rights as a citizen are safeguarded, how can you still remember the Palestinians?

For those that haven’t read my previous article on Palestine 101 ‘Palestinian or non-Palestinian’, I thought I’d give you a little background on me. My dad is American and my mom is Iraqi, but I was born and raised in New York.

Anyway a few days ago, I went out with my mom to buy some groceries. She always likes to shop in KNS Glatt Farm Inc, which is in Lawrence, New York. You can find pitta bread, vine leaves and chickpeas in the market – absolute essentials for Arab-style cooking!

I should probably mention this suburb of Long Island is also home to many Orthodox Jews. To think an Arab would travel from their own hometown to a Jewish market in order to buy food used in traditional Arabic dishes — a little ironic, huh? (Let’s leave that discussion for its own article).

So while I was at the grocers, I picked up a jar of olives to see how they had been made and I saw plastered in big, black letters:

PRODUCT OF ISRAEL

It didn’t take more than a second for all the memories to flood back and I was reminded of my experiences in Palestine and the injustice of it all. Now some of you might be thinking, ‘but this is just a simple package stamp? Who really cares?

For me, it was much more than that. This ordinary stamp is just another attempt at erasing the identity of the Palestinians. Israel has robbed them of their land and robbed them of their homes and now they’re trying to rob them of their cultural food, too? Since when did Israel start growing olives?

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This is a strategy used all over America to deny the Palestinians of their rights. It is a strategy used to lie to American generations about the history of the Palestinians. It is a way of covering up the truth and creating a false sense of connection with Israelis, who have kindly provided us with olives from their land. Wow have they thought this one through.

I for one refuse to be lied to.

Did you know buying a made in Israel product not only directly finances the occupation but also funds the racist, Zionist movement that wants to get rid of all the non-Jews from the region? I decided to do a little more research on the whole situation and ask around how much people knew and you would not believe what I found out.

Did you know all goods exported out of Palestine with a made in Palestine label are denied export by the Israeli forces? That’s why we don’t ever see them. These goods are only sold within the Palestinian borders and can’t be exported out.

It’s the exact same tactic used to cover up the realities of the occupation. The unlawful treatment of Palestinians is not broadcasted internationally because that kind of information would be detrimental to Israel’s public image (and subsequently its biggest supporter – the US). They have done the same thing by denying anything made in Palestine from being shipped. They just don’t want people to know.

So the next time you see a made in Israel label, take a step back and remind yourself of what it really means; it is a small but very significant example of the systematic and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.

It is so much more than just a label.

(Contributor 714)

The harsh realities of living under occupation

I have always wondered what it would be like to live in Palestine, to spend a few months living and breathing under occupation. I had always heard what it was like and read about it but I am the type of person who likes to experience things myself. Having been here for a month now, I have never been more grateful and appreciative of my own life back in England.

Since being here, I have seen and experienced first-hand the techniques used to intimidate, humiliate and discriminate against us. Being in Palestine has given me a taster of what it is like to live as a third-class citizen in your own country. Here, being Palestinian means the law is not on your side. It means you are not accepted as a citizen and it means you are born with a black dot beside your name.

Just to give you a small example of what I’m talking about – two days ago, I was telling one of my work colleagues about my trip to Jaffa and Tel Aviv last week and about how beautiful the old city of Jerusalem is. I started showing him pictures on my phone and going on about the little markets in the old city and how we should all plan a trip together for work. Cheeky me was hoping this would be an excuse to take a day off work and go on a trip.

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[One of the pictures I took in Jaffa]

Once I’d finished my story, he smiled and asked me to see the pictures I took again. He then told me he has not been to Jerusalem for 15 years because every time he applies for a permit, the Israelis refuse his request. He has not been on a beach or seen the sea for even longer than this.

The sad thing about it is people here have lived under occupation for so long that it has become part of their everyday lives. They have learnt to cope with the struggles of every day life that comes with living under occupation as best they can. I, on the other hand have spent my whole life in England, where I have never felt being Palestinian held me back. I tasted what freedom felt like and I vow to never take my freedom for granted again.

Not only has Israel robbed people of their land and homes, it does not even acknowledge the existence of the indigenous Palestinian population before 1948.

People seem to forget the only reason Jews are becoming a majority here is because of the forced exclusion of hundreds and thousands of Palestinians from their homes. Do you know 95% of the new Jewish communities were established on expelled Palestinian land in 1948?

They say Israel is “a land without a people for a people without a land” – sounds a bit strange when thousands of Palestinians had to be expelled to create their country, no?

In the West Bank, although Palestinians are the majority and make up more than 80% of the population, Israel continues to restrict our water access and usage. We are only allowed to use 20% of the water from the main underground aquifer. We have to apply for permits to build on the land from Israel and most often these permits are denied, which means houses are built illegally and can then be demolished legally. Israel maintains the domination of its people at the expense of our people. It is apartheid at its finest.

Just look at the separation wall that continues to grow. It is more than three times the size of the Berlin wall and stretches over 400 miles. Israel has caged us in like we are animals in a zoo. Each time I come here, the wall gets longer and longer and it makes me question how the Israeli regime is able to get away with such a horrific war crime.

Every time I see the wall, I feel like crying. I feel like screaming out about the unfairness of it all. Why is nobody doing anything about? How does the wall keep growing when it is internationally recognized as illegal?

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Wall

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The international community calls on us to negotiate and engage in peace talks, how can this be expected from a people who have never been allowed to assert their identity legally? How is this going to be possible with the existence of the apartheid wall and illegal settlements all around the country that continue to expand?

To imagine what it is like to live under occupation is only a fraction of what it actually feels like. I pray that one day the world will wake up and hear the cries of the Palestinian people, I pray that one day we will rid the world of discrimination and injustice and I pray that one day the Palestinians will be free from the oppressive Israeli regime.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King