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By now you will have seen a few buzzwords in the news or on social media, something along the lines of “condemn”, “innocent”, “right to defend”, “religion”, “ceasefire” and many many more. I’m not here to relay them back to you. I’m here to give you a crash course on what is going on, why you should care, and what you can and should do about it.
First thing you need to know is that it’s been 75 years since Palestinians have had full and safe access to their homes, their lives, and each other. This fight did not start on October 7th, it has been happening for a while now. With that being said, it’s important to also not dismiss it as history – 75 years isn’t that long ago. If you ask your grandfather, he’s likely to have memories of the unjust handing over of Palestinian land. Besides, it’s still ongoing today.
Second thing you need to know is that this isn’t a religious conflict. Many have tried to brush this off as a fight between Islam and Judaism, and frankly that’s what many want the world to think; because not my religion, not my problem. But Palestinians being physically removed from their homes for others to live in is not an issue of religion, it’s settler colonialism. This might seem like a strong claim; I can assure you I’m not the one making it. Academic scholars have named it that way (See Lorenzo Veracini’s ‘The Other Shift: Settler Colonialism, Israel, and the Occupation’ for example). While yes, Palestinian land is holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, this is not an issue of religion. The IDF also attacked the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza just recently, so no, this isn’t an Islam vs Judaism situation.
Third thing, with the events that have unfolded recently, it’s important you know that Gaza is only one part of Palestine and is not the whole of Palestinian land. It has been dubbed an ‘open air prison’ and it has been so for the past 16 years. This means nothing and no one can get in or out without the approval of Israeli military authorities, effectively making the Strip a prison. This means that power and water cuts are also in the hands of the IDF, not Palestinians. More recently, the Palestinian Health Ministry released a 212-page report (which I unfortunately can’t directly link, but you can definitely find) of the names of all those who have died under its watch after Biden doubted the validity of victim numbers circulating.
Why Should This Matter to You?
Now that you have some historical and socio-political background on the issue, and I assume have seen the news at least once in the past month, let me spend the next few paragraphs explaining how this affects you, an individual in the Global North, or more commonly named, the West.
First and foremost, we can all acknowledge that people’s lives and their right to remain safe at home does not need a reason to matter; it matters because they are people. But in a world rushing with pain one might often need a push to support a cause, so here it is: we don’t live in isolation. As different parts of the world mix with one another in magnificent manners, this makes everyone connected in one way or another. All causes of liberation and human rights are connected to one another. One marginalised group cannot be free if the structural inequalities put to keep them and others at the bottom are not dismantled. It all stems from the same social and political hierarchies that make many of us unable to live our lives as we wish to. If what’s happening isn’t directly affecting you now, it will indirectly affect you later. The tiniest example of this are the bombs being dropped; they ruin the land and the environment, worsening the climate crisis. So even if you can’t connect to the people fighting for their right to live on their land, you must understand that it does, in one way or another, connect to something you deeply care about.
First and foremost, we can all acknowledge that people’s lives and their right to remain safe at home does not need a reason to matter; it matters because they are people.
It is vital that you understand the power your voice possesses. We’re all painfully aware of different types of social inequalities, and how they shape our daily lives and our futures. These inequalities are also obvious in who gets to be heard by powerful governments such as the UK, the US, France, Germany, and more. This is why we must speak up. We are in the fortunate position of helping more than most. And while we can all agree that it’s distressing to admit to yourself and others that you are privileged, and that you were possibly wrong about a certain topic, it’s important to learn to put those feelings aside if it means saving an entire nation. There’s a tendency when living in our overbearing society to prioritise oneself above others, to avoid discomfort because you already have too much on your plate. But an ongoing violent colonisation should be uncomfortable, it should make you feel incredibly uneasy, as I feel now, writing this article. This shouldn’t stop you from doing something about it, it should fuel your desire for justice.
So What Can You Do?
Speak: This is by far the main piece of advice going around right now. It is precisely why I’m telling you all of this. Palestine needs to be heard, and it needs voices to speak with it. Talk about it online and offline. As long as it’s on people’s minds, nobody can turn a blind eye to the horrendous violence we’re witnessing. Start conversations with your coursemates, with your friends, with family members. Share posts about it online, share posts made by Palestinians online to amplify their voices. A few accounts you can follow online are Eye on Palestine, which by the way, were taken down a few days ago before being restored again. Another is Jewish Voice for Peace, and you can also follow Mohammed El-Kurd, a well-known Palestinian activist. All pages can be found on all of the usual social media platforms.
You should also write to your MP demanding a call for a ceasefire, because right now the most important thing is to stop the bombardment. The more they receive such letters, the less they can ignore this dire situation. You could also follow the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), an organisation that runs campaigns for Palestine in the UK. The general idea is, keep an eye out for what others are doing about it, and what the people affected are posting, rather than just what is on TV.
While we’re on the topic of TV and the news, I urge you to question the things you see in the mainstream media. This is not to say the mainstream isn’t handy at the moment, some are actually quite useful in explaining specific events or providing summaries of them. But they certainly shouldn’t be your only source of information. Many mainstream media outlets have proven time and time again to not tell the whole truth. So be careful with taking things that are made behind the scenes at face value.
Boycott: Gotta love the power of the consumer, always comes in handy. If we can’t stop the violence ourselves, the least we could do is gnaw at those funding it. The BDS Movement is a movement made specifically to promote Palestinian freedom, and I’d say they are your source when it comes to who to boycott. Boycotting everything under the sun is not practical of course, so to maximise the effects, you could focus on the few. We’ve seen boycotts and strikes work time and time again, this may seem trivial, but it makes a difference.
Donate: Lastly, if you’re able, you could always donate to help out. You can make donations directly to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) which is an official and internationally recognised society in Palestine for providing health and social services. You can also always donate to those preparing and providing aid. A couple of these include the UN Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), and the UN World Food Programme (UN WFP).
Finally I want to tell you to not lose hope. The Palestinian people haven’t given up, so you shouldn’t give up either. I want to reiterate that talking about what we’re seeing is the most effective way to help. This is an ongoing resistance and word of mouth can go a very long way. We can’t stay silent about injustice; silence is compliance. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such events unfold, think of the Irish Troubles, think of the violence we’ve seen against indigenous peoples of North America and how they were (and sometimes still are) spoken about. We are not unimportant, we have to let the world know how we feel about injustice. Let them know you see it, and that you do not approve. The people affected have known about this fight since its beginning, and you are the one with the most power to bring an end to it. Understand that the messages, videos, articles (like this one) written in English are addressed to you, the Western individual, who has the most power to speak up, and break down the systems upholding colonial violence.