Reflections on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

by Farida Rady. Graphic credit to Visualizing Palestine.

Once I decided to write this, it took me several attempts to finally sit down and write it. I began writing this in May, and only now am I considering publishing it, because I had so much to say and no idea how to make it coherent enough for an article, and because it is so difficult for me to feel like an article on Palestine is ever “complete.” Formal or academic writing on Palestine has been near impossible for me, so I hope to use this as a starting point for further academic exploration of the issue.

Palestinian Voices:
One of the only things that brought some solace once the March of Return began and Israeli forces responded by killing unarmed protestors was a video of Noura Erakat explaining the situation with the utmost clarity. The ability of Palestinians or Palestinian allies to stay calm, articulate, and historically accurate in the face of ignorance, disinterest, or blatant aggression has never failed to impress me. I have been lucky to bear witness to so many go through this process of restraint that I too have experienced.

A particular argument that tends to come up whenever Israeli aggression finally makes headlines is that Palestinians refuse to come to the negotiation table. This is frustrating for several reasons: A) it is objectively incorrect and B) it neglects the fact that when Palestinians do negotiate, the world doesn’t listen. On my first point, Palestinian entities and leaders have time and time again negotiated during “peace talks” like in Oslo in 1993. It’s also important to note that in many of these “peace talks,” a Palestinian delegation wasn’t welcome, like in Madrid in 1991 when the only Palestinian representation allowed was a joint delegation with Jordan. On my second point, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador the United Nations, left a UN Security Council meeting once Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN began speaking on the situation in Gaza. The fact is that Palestinians are willing to negotiate, even though the terms have always been unfair and irrepresentative of historical injustices. Regardless of that, Palestinians do show up, engage, and converse, and the world turns its back, just like Nikki Haley did.

Bodies and Worthiness:
In the past, I refused to believe that there was something about Palestinian bodies that made their death less of a problem in the international community. It was too painful to think that there was something about being Arab, or being Palestinian in specific, that made those lives inherently less valuable in the global perception. After yet another massacre, I have finally come to accept that. If this had happened quite literally anywhere else in the world, there would have been more outrage. While I am grateful that I do not engage in selective outrage and mourning, it breaks my heart to know that many people pick and choose whose lives matter more. It breaks my heart even more to know that these selections are often based on geography, race, religion, or sex.

On the power of protest:
Every time I attend a protest for the Palestinian cause in Toronto I am amazed and moved by the vibe there. The natural desire for freedom embedded deep within every individual in the crowd, regardless of religious views, age, or any other distinctive identity marker was implicative of the universality and totality of this cause. The belief in justice, in equity, in liberty, in rights, and ultimately, in humanity and human and civil rights was the underlying cause of this turnout in response to the recent massacre in Palestine and thus, the Israeli occupation as a whole. At a protest I attended a few years ago, I realized that many of the older members of the protest may have been present when the occupation began and may have personally experienced the horrors of 1948 and so on, and many of the younger members have never been to Palestine, and are driven only by stories, pictures, and videos of their beloved homeland. I watched in admiration but was overcome with sadness as a young boy sang along to a traditional Palestinian song at the top of his lungs. This boy was so inherently Palestinian and patriotic, and it saddened me to know that he does not currently have what we all regard a regular right – the right to return to his home. Nonetheless, it made me happy knowing that there are so many determined individuals backing this cause. It’s worth mentioning that this one demonstration (among many other movements for the Palestinian cause and other movements) was in part, led by members of our generation, who dedicate themselves to the fight for justice.

Neutrality never was an option, but the latest massacre is yet another reminder of this. There is no neutrality in apartheid, in genocide, in ethnic cleansing, in blatant oppression. There is no neutrality in unlawful killings and detention, the apartheid wall (deemed illegal by the ICJ), holding people in administrative detention, promoting and building illegal settlements, restriction of movement, torture, collective punishment, and forcible eviction. There is no neutrality in perceiving of besieged Gaza. We must remind and be reminded that these are not two equal sides – instead, this is a genocide and apartheid where one side is unwittingly oppressed and the other is brutally oppressing. This has never been and is not a minor disagreement in political views – I believe this is a moral choice.

Arab Disunity:
It’s worth mentioning, for the millionth time, my disappointment in Arab leaders’ failure failed to come together and effectively respond to the Palestinian issue. Claims to Arab brotherhood and pride are rampant, but when it comes to serious issues – like Palestine, like Syria, like Iraq, like Egypt – we stand divided and weak, and that, in my opinion, is nothing close to ‘proud’ or ‘brotherly.’ So to the Arabs and to the world – while you’re in the comfort and safety of your home watching the events unfold on television, please remember that Palestine is fighting for its right to exist. One of my proudest moments as an Egyptian and an Arab were during the Revolution of 2011 when I saw Palestinian flags raised in Tahrir Square, or when I walked the streets of Cairo in search of revolutionary and political street art and found many pieces on Palestine.

US Embassy and Jerusalem:
After Trump’s announcement, it was difficult not to feel defeated. Signaling an end to any hopes of productive peace talks, the US once again did what it’s proven to do best: unwarrantedly intervene in the Middle East, only to leave the geopolitics of the region even less stable than before. That day, this fight against apartheid, against oppression, against a colonialist settler state seemed like a losing battle…but nonetheless, I remain positive and hopeful. I hoped that crossing this red line would revive activism, reminding us that the Palestinian cause is alive and incredibly pressing. I sought to channel my energy into something productive and encourage those around me to what they can – donate to a Palestinian humanitarian cause, participate in a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, educate those around you, and simply continue to engage in the issue. Have difficult conversations about the topic. We must remember that Israel has consistently violated UN Resolutions and international law including the Geneva Convention, and since its (illegitimate) inception, has left hundreds of thousands of people stateless. We must remember that besieged Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world and that Israel has subjected Palestinians to a system of control, oppression, heavily militarized governance, and state violence for almost 70 years. Israel, an occupier state, continues to implement its settler agenda, and this push to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is but one method of doing so. With that, Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.

Moving Forward:
I am unsure of how to end this article, mainly because I feel like I can and should write about this issue endlessly. I also tend to feel stuck when it comes to Palestine and Israel, because it’s such an immense issue and I am often left in an ambiguous space. I will leave you with some final thoughts and reminders:

1) All the states in our world have failed the Palestinians, and we should take all action we can to address that.
2) A numeric reminder: 418 Palestinian villages have been lost as a result of the Israeli occupation. It has been seventy years since the Nakba. Let that sink in.
3) If you care about Palestine, go out there and do something. Whether that means stomping your feet at a protest, writing, educating, engaging in conversations, signing a petition, volunteering with NGOs, or getting involved in BDS campaigns, I can’t say. Just do something.
4) The fight for justice in Palestine encompasses a constant resistance, and is an ongoing process of education and enlightenment. Be patient, but be perseverant. Speak your truth with no apology.
5) The exploitation of the Holocaust to advocate for oppressive Israeli policy is an insult to Holocaust victims, survivors, and the Jewish community as a whole.

With love and solidarity to Palestine,
Farida Rady

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