To Break Their Human Spirit

To stand with Gaza, you don’t need to be Arab or Muslim, just human. Twitter photo With “barely a whimper, the U.N. this weekend observed another International Day…

To stand with Gaza, you don’t need to be Arab or Muslim, just human. Twitter photo

With “barely a whimper, the U.N. this weekend observed another International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,  urging renewed commitment to the Palestinians’ “quest to achieve their rights and build a future of peace, dignity, justice and security.” On social media, rights advocates declared “Return is the future” and “From the river to the sea” on hashtags like #Stand With Palestine, #Free Palestine, and #Solidarity with Palestine; across Britain, thousands were expected to take part in a pandemic-limited week of actions; scattered locations like Scotland and Turkey flew Palestinian flags in symbolic support. Still, over 40 years after the 1977 UN General Assembly issued its hopeful edict – and as Israel’s control of Palestine has swelled from about 3% of its land to almost 50% – the event has become for many “just another date in the ever-growing timeline of misery inflicted on the people of Palestine…with no promises of justice ever being fulfilled.” Since the 1948 Nakba, the suffering of millions of Palestinians at the hands of apartheid Israel has been unceasing: collective punishment, home demolitions, military checkpoints, arbitrary detention including children, vengeful mindless destruction of hospitals, schools, mosques, murderous violence by an increasingly untethered Israeli military and right-wing settler populace. Palestinian life under occupation, says one Gazan photographer, is like “walking barefoot through a field of thorns.”

Israeli abuses range from periodic military incursions into a besieged Gaza to war-crime-level responses to Gaza’s Great Return protests – over 250 killed, including dozens of children, and over 36,000 injured – to daily, personal acts of intimidation. A new report by Israeli human rights groups Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights Israel details the severe psychological trauma of random, middle-of-the-night invasions of Palestinian homes – over 250 a month – often simply as “part of the DNA of the occupation – (so) that you cannot feel safe in your own home or bed.” “They do this to scare everyone, to show who is in charge,” says a 59-year-old imam in the West Bank whose home the IDF has invaded over 20 times. “The aim is to control and humiliate.” “The process involves the dehumanization of a whole society,” says an Israeli psychologist. “(Its) point is to break their human spirit.” In the face of such brutal, multi-faceted, longstanding Israeli violence, many argue, an annual day of solidarity exposes the U.N.’s own impotence. It also exposes today’s Palestine as “a mark of shame on the international community,” which has largely stood by as an ever-more rapacious Israel “has set about dismantling Palestine before a watching world, while paying cynical lip-service to peace.” What’s needed are international actions to halt Israel’s “incremental genocide” – boycott, divestment, sanctions, the end of U.S. complicity in Israeli crimes – because Palestine is “a daily trial of the world’s conscience.” 

Twitter photo

Iconic scene of Muhammad-al-dura trying to save his son 20 years ago. Photo by Mohammed Al-Hajjar

Twitter photo

Today on #InternationalDayofSolidaritywiththePalestinianPeople
a Palestinian medic is arrested, while providing medical assistance, by the Israeli military#EndTheOccupation pic.twitter.com/QWFq4sCn1b

— Declan Kearney (@DeclanKearneySF) November 29, 2020

This post was originally published on Radio Free.


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