As I write this, Israeli occupation forces have just finished killing 14 and injuring 80 Palestinians in a five hour “sweep” in Gaza. Four of those killed and 26 of those injured were children (ages 10-16). In one week, Israeli occupation forces thus murdered 59 Palestinians (most were civilians). Little of this is reported in US mainstream media which is focusing on Martha Stewart and the explosions in Baghdad.
While everyone hears about Israeli victims, little is reported of the far larger number of Palestinian victims. The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the Intifada (Palestinian uprising against the illegal Israeli occupation) is now 2463 including 477 children. Reports by human rights organizations and UN investigators confirm that Israeli forces willfully target civilians . Further, in the past three years alone, over 3000 Palestinian homes were demolished rendering over 11,000 people homeless (Amnesty International).
Over 1100 Palestinians were killed in the large open-air prison called the Gaza strip. Here, over one million Palestinians live in a desert area with the highest population density anywhere in the world. Thus, 1 in 1000 Gazans was killed by Israeli occupation forces in just three years. Proportionally, this would be like having nearly 300,000 Americans killed in three years. But numbers do not tell the whole story as each victim (Palestinian as well as Israeli) is an equally precious human being. This is something forgotten as we defend Israeli apartheid.
Further, of the occupied Palestinians, 70% are refugees denied their inalienable right of return to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed. The majority are unemployed and live below the poverty line.
The building of the apartheid wall, the removal of Palestinians from their lands, and the continued violence are all supported: a) using our tax money to the tune of $5 billion this year and b) using our US governmental support (e.g. recent veto of UN security council resolutions).
I urge those interested in facts to read Israeli authors such as Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, Jeff Halper, Tanya Reinhardt and Tom Segev. Alternatively, skip watching Fox and CNN and run a WWW search on Palestine to get some varied perspectives. I urge all to think of why there are Israeli refuseniks in Israeli jails, why Israel is building an apartheid wall, why there is a growing divestment and boycott movement, and why do we continue to suffer as tax-payers for our government’s support of racist apartheid.
Shouldn’t we say enough is enough? If we insist on coexistence and separation of religion and state here in the US, why do we support a system that says any Jew (including converts) can get automatic citizenship and land in Israel while Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to their homes and lands simply because they are Christian or Muslim.
If apartheid was considered the problem in South Africa, why is it being touted as a solution in Israel/Palestine? And finally, why do some confuse symptoms (violence which kills far more Palestinian civilians than Israeli) with underlying diseases (colonial violent occupation and ethnic cleansing over the past 56 years)?
MAZIN QUMSIYEH, is an Associate Professor at Yale and Cofounder Palestine Right to Return Coalition.