Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo – Adel Hana)
For the past few weeks, Israel has intensified a provocative campaign of oppression and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, focused largely but not exclusively on occupied East Jerusalem.
You can be forgiven if you are unfamiliar with the details, since most of the mainstream U.S. media has studiously ignored them.
Among the major provocations were: looming theft of more homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem long targeted by Jewish settlers for “demographic change;” bulldozing homes in adjoining Silwan; protecting a mob of far right Jews as they walked through East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs”; and repeatedly, violently and for no good reason driving Palestinians out of public areas surrounding the Al Aqsa mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, several times even invading and damaging the mosque itself while beating and gassing those inside.
Things got so bad that the Palestinian citizens of Israel marched in the thousands past roadblocks into Jerusalem and rallied in their towns and villages, even launching running urban revolts that very much resemble anti-police violence protests here at home.
Eventually, the Israelis got the response that they foresaw and many probably wanted: rockets fired from Gaza. Now they can unleash their vastly superior, U.S. funded and supported military upon the citizens of Gaza, inflicting damage and casualties in the hugely disproportionate ratio that they are accustomed to. This practice of assaulting the Gaza inmates in their open-air, blockaded prison every few years is publicly referred to in Israel as “mowing the grass.”
As soon as the first rocket left Gaza, the mainstream press suddenly discovered that “tensions are increasing” and that the “conflict,” which by the way was just labeled by Human Rights Watch as an apartheid system, calls for “restraint on both sides.”
And then came the predictable pronouncements from the pundits and politicians of all stripes that Israel has “the right to defend itself.”
Do the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves? Do they have the right to declare, like Black Lives Matter protesters and all human beings the world over, that they have a right to freedom and dignity? That with no justice, there is no peace?
Underwriting this injustice is massive U.S. aid to Israel, currently $3.8 billion annually, which doesn’t include, for example, private tax exempt donations to Israeli “charities” that are funding and driving the expropriations from Palestinians like the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.
Every tax-paying citizen in this country is paying for the military equipment that is used to massacre innocent civilians, illegally detain prisoners without charge, including children; destroy homes, seize land and property, and generally make daily life a living hell for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
In appreciation of this largesse, the Netanyahu government recently told the State Department to butt out of Jerusalem. After the “sugar high” of the Trump years, even the slightest hint of disapproval was too much; Americans are expected to just support Israel no matter what it does.
What can you do?
First, demand that Biden’s State Department immediately denounce Israel’s illegal expulsions of Palestinians and the demolition of their homes and property. And insist that Sen. Tammy Baldwin, largely MIA on Palestine, follow the lead of Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum and other progressives in Congress and do the same.
Second, listen to and share the voices of Palestinians on the ground and around the world. Post those photos, videos, and articles on social media. Use #SaveSheikhJarrah, #SaveSilwan in all your social media posts.
Third, escalate pressure where we know it counts: support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it lives up to its obligations under international law in its treatment of Palestinians.
Fourth, urge your representatives to support HR 2590, Betty McCollum’s watershed Palestinian Children and Families Act. HR 2590 is the first legislation of its kind to have the U.S. taxpayer stop paying for Israel’s arrest, torture, and imprisonment of Palestinian children, its demolition and destruction of Palestinian homes and communities, and the further annexation of Palestinian land.
It is long past time to cut U.S. aid to Israel. How else can we shift U.S. policy from protecting Israeli impunity and funding Israeli war crimes to holding Israel accountable?
Tsela Barr is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison. Barb Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.