Over the last month, one of the most incredible things we’ve seen is just how many people, in the UK, but also around the world, are marching in support of Palestinians. The latest rally, on Armistice Day, estimated 300,000 people marching the streets of London. That is more than the entire UK Jewish population.
The Pro-Palestinian movement has gained more momentum now, than perhaps ever and it all comes off the back of the slaughtering; the rape; the abduction; the massacre of majority-Israeli or Jewish, innocent civilians. That is not to say there isn’t a just cause for Palestinian self-determination; it is not even to say that Israel isn’t or hasn’t in the past been heavy handed in various government policies. Why is it though, that, following the biggest death of Jews; the biggest assault on Jewish life; and the ‘scariest’ attempt at recreating certain rhetoric and scaremongering, since the Holocaust, has led to the most momentum for a movement that, in the eyes of many is opposition to the sole Jewish State?
I think there is a clear litmus test as to whether the justification you may have in being part of this support is reasonable.
If you are going to rallies, Tweeting (or X’ing) in support, or having exclusively Pro-Palestinian supportive conversations with your friends, you will fall into one of three categories. These categories will define the motive you have in your support; and thus justify whether we are on the same ‘side’ or not.
- Do you stand up or are you in support of ANY and ALL peoples human rights?
- Do you care more or are more supportive of Palestinian Human Rights?
- Do you only care about Palestinian Human Rights when it’s Israel or The Jews in the picture?
Each one of us, standing up for Palestinians will fall quite nicely into at least one of these categories. So which do you fall in and what does that say about your activism?
Those who fall into category one. Let me join you. I would admit, I am not always the best activist, but certainly, human rights are not earned, a person is born with them. Yes, over the world we see this is not the case. Palestinians living in both the West Bank and Gaza absolutely have limits on their human rights, and those causing them (not just the current Israeli Government) should be spoken out against. The question to ask, is how much have you read on the current situation? How come suddenly everyone is an expert on one of the most complicated geo-political issues in History? Do you blame – exclusively, Israel, but further all Israeli’s, or people who see Israel (the country, not government) as a ‘safe haven’, for the current hardships faced? Is there nuance to your understanding? education? Can you differentiate between a government policy or a minority of Israeli people? Did you condemn Hamas following the 7th October massacre, without applying context, whataboutery, victim blaming or rationale? Have you ever thought that ‘whataboutery’ and ‘victim blaming’ is – liberally accepted – as an unacceptable thought process? If that’s you, I’ll join you. Let’s scream from the rooftops for both Palestinian and Israeli right to self-determination. Let us in this case, also understand the true complexity and how to achieve this, it is no good just condemning one side. It is possible to be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli.
Those that fall into category two. I get it. You may have a personal affiliation to the Palestinian cause. Collective memory, trauma, personal links, whatever that may be; I support you. The litmus test here would be, do you really care about the plight of the Palestinians? Did you care when Bashar Al Assad butchered over half a million people in Syria – including Palestinians? Have you questioned why Egypt didn’t initially open the border to support the movement of Palestinians? Or the fact that Egypt have held a 16-year blockade on their border to Gaza (The Raffa Crossing)?; or the fact that in Gaza the human rights we are all accustomed to and hold dear are not granted by the Hamas run dictatorship? Do you call out Hamas for using innocent civilians as human shields? If you spoke out against Israel when the world thought they were at fault for the bombing of The Al-Ahly Hospital, did you then retract or condemn The Islamic Jihad when it became evident it was a misfire on their own civilians, aimed at Israeli civilians? Are you outraged by the fact the Hamas leadership are Billionaires and take the aid supplied by the world for themselves? Does it not raise questions to you about where the $40 billion in aid that has gone to Gaza, between 1994-2020, has gone? With a population of 2.2 million people, why hasn’t the aid been used to build a Dubai in the region? Did you even know all this? If you did, and you do, then this is fair activism. Keep going. I’ll support you – and yes, there is a conversation to be had about the West Bank and certain policies. Let’s have that conversation, let’s use this to bring about a peaceful Middle East, but let’s understand that right now – ‘othering’ each other is only moving that possibility further away. Let’s understand the full picture.
Let’s stop being scared and scary to each other. That’s how we fight for Palestinian self-determination. That’s how we better the lives of all in the region.
And the final category. If this is you; or if you feel like you may have fallen into this category: maybe check yourself.
I would argue that though you think you are standing up for a rightful cause; maybe your hatred towards Jewish people, or Israel is more than your love for Palestinians – and that, is only exacerbating a genuine issue. Ask yourself, did you stand up for, or make a statement, or have remorse on 7th October when those innocent civilians were raped-abducted-beheaded-burnt alive-murdered? Then maybe your activism is not quite what you think it is. If you believe that Israel is causing a genocide and then chant ‘from the river to the sea’ (expressing, you want a genocide of Israelis/Jews), I’d suggest you probably need to re-check your morale compass? If you think likening Jews or Israel to a Nazi regime, perhaps you’re uneducated, or are you trying to antagonise the Jewish community? Do you think the obvious antisemitism we see all over the world is outrageous? Have you stood against that? If you see it at rallies, do you call it out? Just like I have called out the far-right thuggery we saw on Armistice Day? Just like the Board of Deputies for British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council have called out explicitly for the likes of Tommy Robinson to not align himself with our pain? Do you say the same to those wearing Hamas headbands, waving Jihad flags or applying racist rhetoric?
Everyone has the right to protest, at any time, but it must not infringe on others’ rights to protest; evoke further hatred; or must not be fuelled by hate. We must at least try and educate on the complexity of what it is we are protesting about.
Checking yourself, before checking others is important; understanding your privilege as to what stake you hold in a conflict is essential; and knowing that you’re only seeing your echo chamber on social media, is crucial.
There is no reality where both The Jewish people and The Palestinians are not living side by side, so enough of this othering rhetoric. It will, ultimately, achieve nothing that is both positive and tangible.