[Trigger Warning: Mentions of death]
“I dream of my brother coming back to life.”
“We did nothing, we were sleeping.”
These words, among many, truly broke my heart. There are a lot of times that I get ashamed of what I have; a home, food, clean water, and loved ones who I can always keep in touch with. When I know that there are people in real-time that have just been deprived of these; and it all seems very unfair. And more so these days, every time I go through my social media, I see all these displaced people. I am naive for having thought that we have grown past all of this violence, ethnic cleansing, and colonization in the early 20th century.
And then I see a father shouting in grief, holding pieces of his child inside bags in his hand. Pieces. Of his child. We have children who saw their families get killed in front of their own eyes, with no space to mourn. Children who wrote their names on their arms and feet to be identified if ever they get killed. Children who have become victims of war, too early in their young lives. No, scratch that, what I see is not war, it is barbarism - genocide. It is an oppressor exercising its power on the powerless, supported by one of the biggest military powers in the world. I am convinced - there is something wrong with humanity.
On October 7th, another news of a large-scale war aggression by Israel made it to the headlines again when armed Hamas fighters launched an attack by breaking through a border security fence in an act of resistance against the brutality brought on by the Israeli colonial settlers. But no, this did not set off the entire ‘conflict’ at all. In fact, the killing of innocent Palestinians has been going on for over 75 years now. Let’s start off with a short history lesson.
Before 1948, Israel did not exist and the land was called Palestine. Jews who had fled persecution in Europe sought to create a national homeland in what was then a predominantly Arab and Muslim population in the Ottoman and later British Empire.
By the start of World War I, several significant political parties were engaged in conflict over control of these territories. There was a developing political movement in the Arab world seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire in order to create a unified Arab state that would encompass Palestine. Then there were the Zionists – a political movement that sought to establish a Jewish state in the face of a huge anti-Semitic turmoil in Europe and Russia. And of course, there was Britain who issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), which supported the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" despite having previously promised to support Palestine as a member of an independent and unified Arab state. The British pledged to assist Zionists in obtaining this territory instead.
They did this by ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the land – through mass killings and forcing more than 75% of a million Palestinians to flee their land in order to create the state of Israel, ‘born in a bath of blood’ in 1948. And from then, the size of Palestinian land has continued to shrink, leaving only what is now the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – territories which Israel also has full control over. And it seems that 75 years on, Israel’s ethnic cleansing project is still not finished.
“Why does this not mention the 200-plus hostages held by Hamas?” “How about the 1,400 people killed in Israel?” “This is antisemitism!”
Well then, let’s take a look at some numbers too, because everyone suddenly loves some good ‘ole numbers, it seems. Since October 7, at least 7,326 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip. Among these, nearly 3,000 are children. That’s over 130 children killed every day. Now with all due respect, this is not at all comparable to the Holocaust. If anything, the roles are reversed. And apparently, standing against genocide is now anti-semitism.
These numbers are not just statistics, these are real people - real people getting killed on a daily basis. And it’s sad that we have to use the ‘statistics’ of innocent children dying, to draw out any sort of compassion for people to comprehend just how wrong everything is. Have we as humans become so desensitized with death and war?
Now, let’s talk about this ‘terrorist organization’ that the Western media is so bent on condemning – negligently framing the essence of the whole ‘conflict’ into just a peaceful state protecting itself from a dangerous militant group. Hamas is an Islamist Resistance Movement and one of the two main political parties in one of the Palestinian Territories. For starters, Hamas does not represent or govern over all Palestinians. However, Hamas does have some degree of control over one Palestinian territory, Gaza. While the other Palestinian territory called the West Bank, has no presence of Hamas at all. The Palestinian Authority semi-governs these Palestinian territories but has no full governing control over them. Israel, however, has full occupying control over both.
It is crucial to take note of these facts because they disprove Israel's assertions that Hamas is a threat to the establishment of a Palestinian state. This completely undermines the essence of why Hamas was established in the first place - a defiance of oppression brought on by Israeli occupation of their indigenous land.
In order to justify bombing these Palestinian territories, they propagate this narrative in the media. They claim that their goal is to expel the terrorists so that peace can reign. That said, there is no threat of Hamas in the West Bank, yet the UN has reported that 111 Palestinians have been killed there by Israeli forces since October 7 alone. Clearly, Hamas can no longer be the underlying issue here. Perhaps, Israel is.
To be clear, Gaza is not a sovereign nation like Israel. It lacks a fully autonomous administration, military power, and complete sovereignty over its territory. Gaza is an occupied territory in Israel. As a result, Israel has complete control over what and who enters and exits Gaza, as well as full control over access to the area's airspace, water, food supply, electricity, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid - not to mention firearms. For this reason, Gaza is frequently referred to as the biggest outdoor prison in the world by many people.
No, actually, normal prisoners are treated better than the people of Gaza right now. Convicted murderers and rapists are at least entitled to receiving meals every day, an actual toilet, electricity and water, and a bed to sleep on without the constant fear of a bomb dropping on them. Gaza cannot have even that right now and they are innocent people. They are subjected to a large-scale massacre and we’re seeing it all live. This is not a debate or a conflict.
Again, Gaza does not have a military. Palestinians are only relatively protected by militant resistance groups like Hamas. They lack Israel's level of military strength by a wide margin. The United States alone provides $3 billion in military assistance to Israel annually. Gaza does not have that. Gaza has been stripped of anything at this point. And Israel dares to claim that it was a Palestinian militant rocket that destroyed Al Alhi Hospital resulting in large-scale fatalities with the true death toll yet to be estimated, when they do not have that arsenal. Whereas, Israel has one of the most powerful armies in the world.
It is ironic that Israel has declared war on Gaza despite the fact that the two countries clearly demonstrate a power imbalance. They are carpet bombing a tiny strip of land that used to house 2.5 million Palestinians, leaving them with little to no space to run for safety. They target hospitals, churches, and exit points, and instruct civilians to evacuate Southern Gaza then proceed to bomb them. Israel is not fighting a defensive war, it is making a deliberate act of erasing entire bloodlines.
As Palestinian-Filipino activist and content creator Subhi said, this cannot even be called “the country of Israel versus the country of Palestine, because Gaza and the West Bank are only occupied Palestinian territories – they are territories in the settler colony of Israel”. Palestinians do not have their own sovereign state, hence their persistent fight for liberation.
Now, one might callously contend that the Palestinians' ‘aggressive’ techniques of resistance are what brought them to where they are now; dead or buried beneath concrete walls with no means of help. Some people persistently attempt to shift the narrative to condemn the actions of Palestinians by asserting that they are the violent Hamas puppets. However, it’s important to note that there was a peaceful protest at the Gaza border in 2018-2019, known as the Great March of Return, where every Friday for a year and eight months, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza gathered along the military fence that Israel installed around the territory in order to confine them inside. This is where they peacefully protested, unarmed might I add, to demand the Palestinian Right of Return and condemn the Israeli blockade of Gaza that has been in place since 2006. Despite this, over 200 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire and more than 30,000 others were injured for peacefully resisting their occupation.
During that time, Palestine had already been under occupation for 70 years, but they still decided to a peaceful protest – only to lead to their own death. Israel has always intended to kill Palestinians, whether in retaliation for nonviolent or violent protests.
For the record, none of this means that I tolerate or defend terrorism. Ultimately, I just don't believe that our understanding of the Palestinian struggle will ever be sufficient to dictate how these people should resist Israel's occupation – armed or not. No matter what form of resistance the Palestinians take and as long as the rest of the world continues to turn a blind eye to these war crimes, this persistent attempt at Palestinian genocide will go on.
That said, peace is not enough, because Israel and the West have used the notion of peace as a tool to silence the oppressed. The majority of the time, when they express a desire for peace, they really just mean that they want Palestinians to cease resisting in order to 'maintain the peace'. The premise of peace in this context implies that, because Palestinians would not use their freedom the way ‘we’ want them to use their freedom (like how they exercise their religion and how they moralize themselves), we deprive them of the freedom that they deserve and have been fighting for decades. Justice must be served first before there is true peace. Walang kapayapaan sa ligalig na kalagayan.
Peace is not enough because real peace should not mean silence. Promoting peace as the answer to resolving this "conflict" affirms the skewed idea that Palestinians are jeopardizing the peace in the world by their resistance. These same individuals advocate for the belief that the world's destruction is due to the "innate violence of these Arabs" - that Palestinians are terrorists and Israelis are the defenders of peace. Therefore, Palestinians who attempt to resist and denounce the "peaceful" system that was established from their coerced silence, are labeled terrorists and demonized by the rest of the world.
Such a notion of peace seeks to preserve a degree of prosperity for the West that was created through the exploitation of the colonial and oppressed. Peace is not enough if that means Palestinian lives continue to be subjected to the mercy of Israel's ‘security forces’. Peace is not enough until Israel and the rest of the world recognize Palestine as a people and until the apartheid is destroyed. Peace is not enough until people are held accountable for deliberately starving an entire population of Palestinians, among other violations of international humanitarian law.
What the people of Palestine need is for us to stop being silent, because our silence, neutrality, and abstention are killing them every day. What the people of Palestine need is freedom and liberation, because a country that is not free will never have peace.
And I haven’t prayed to God in a while, but I pray for the freedom of Palestine. In this lifetime, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.