B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, has urged Israeli soldiers to refuse to fire at unarmed Palestinian protesters. Meanwhile, a new Jewish-Arab movement called Standing Together started working towards transforming Israeli politics and invigorating a fractured left.
Every movement for justice and equality has its turning point, in which the violence perpetrated against it provides clarity to the greater society, if not the world community, regarding the moral bankruptcy of the oppressor’s cause.
During the US civil rights movement, such flashpoints included Bloody Sunday - the brutal attack by police on civil rights protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 - and the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which claimed the lives of four black girls in 1963.
In apartheid South Africa, the turning point was the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, in which Afrikaner police opened fire on thousands of black protesters, killing 69 and wounding 180. Another turning point came 16 years later, when South African police killed as many as 700 black students in Soweto who were protesting compulsory Afrikaans instruction.
The Palestinian movement for justice and equality reached a similar turning point when Israeli soldiers chose to fire upon thousands of unarmed, non-violent protesters. Israel can no longer justify a system protecting rights for Jews only, any more than apartheid South Africa or Jim Crow America were able to maintain a country for whites only, as pressure, protests and boycotts ultimately forced change.
Palestinian Arabs are now the majority population in the land that encompasses Israel and Palestine, and yet they are second and third-class citizens at best, and at worst, landless refugees made captive in their own home.
Israel is an apartheid state whose government apparently has no intention of providing full and equal rights to Palestinians in a democratic one-state solution, or allowing Palestinian independence through a two-state solution. Israel is continuously expanding its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Gaza is an open-air detainment camp in which the prisoners cannot escape, and US President Donald Trump has placated his white Christian nationalist base and made way for the ‘rapture’ by taking Jerusalem off the table.
Decades of a dehumanising occupation have also conditioned the hard-right leadership in the nation of refugees, that is Israel, to brand African refugees as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘monkeys’ who are a threat to the country’s Jewish character and existence.
Justifying his Trumpesque border fence with Egypt, Netanyahu has called African migrants a greater threat than ‘Sinai terrorists’. All this despite the fact that Ethiopian Jews, just like Palestinians, are facing discrimination and violence in Israel on a daily basis.
Article II of the United Nations’ Genocide Convention defines genocide as any of the following, with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part: “(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Israel, a nation created in the wake of the Holocaust, should take this definition to heart as it assesses how it treats Palestinians.
No longer can the Israeli government pretend Palestinians are not human, or invisible, or will simply go away. Israel cannot justify the misery it visits upon Palestinians through the military occupation, the killing and imprisonment, the restrictions on movement, the demolition of homes and the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land any longer. Reactions to Israeli military’s latest killing and maimings of nonviolent Palestinian protesters are proof that the Palestinian movement for justice has passed a turning point and change is coming.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Gaza in 2018 is what Selma was in 1965’.