At its root, the reason I write When/If is so that people can be safe. We talk about climate change and filtering water and gardening and fascism so that we can have food, water, and a secure place to exist when things go wrong. And since so much of the world is caught up in hating other parts of the world, a lot of that safety is dependent on how forces much greater than us choose to behave.
As we speak, and for over two weeks at this point, one such force has been carrying out a campaign of violence against a much weaker force. To call it a war is a misunderstanding of what war entails. To call it justice is a deliberate misunderstanding of the historical and present context of the region. I'm not going to debate or both-sides this issue, as you are surely getting enough of that from every other outlet. I'm not going to try to justify anything. I'm going to present facts, some of which are rare and surprising given the state of western media.
The Israeli military is conducting what is effectively an ethnic cleansing of Gaza, a region that was already essentially a concentration camp, with broad support from western governments, with broad support from western media, with the–perhaps unwitting–ignorance of the public. This is something that must be answered for.
For decades–nearly a century–Palestinians have been dispossessed. They have been forced out of their homes, generation after generation, beaten, arrested, shot, and always corralled into a smaller and more crowded space. Israeli forces have destroyed Palestinian homes for parks, burned olive trees, poured cement into water wells, have launched police and military assaults on mosques during holy days, and perhaps more than anything they have bombed Palestinians. In answer to almost every gesture, every slight, every attack, no matter how incommensurate, Israel has bombed Palestinians. They have bombed Syria. Bombed Lebanon. They have done this and are doing this.
Gaza is a 140 square mile (smaller than Philadelphia) strip of coastal land, home to 2.3 million people. It has been blockaded since control of the strip was relinquished to Palestinians in the 1990s. There are two points of entry and exit for people and goods, and due to that blockade poverty and unemployment in Gaza are extremely high. It is one of the most crowded places on Earth, and also one of the youngest, with fully half of its population under the age of 18. Despite or in spite of this, it is historically and presently one of the most highly-educated populations in the world, with a very high rate of literacy and post-secondary education.
I won't litigate each Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Suffice to say that fighting has been frequent between the two sides but never equivalent. This graph shows the fatalities on both sides from 2008 to just before the latest conflict:
On October 7th, Hamas launched a large surprise offensive. Much of what you have heard initiated this conflict was fabricated, and most likely fabricated with the intent to drum up murderous support internationally. The language being used to describe Palestinians–civilians, that is, innocent people–is chilling. The media and the West quickly took up the banner of Israel, and that position has not changed even as on the ground reporting has shown not just that most of the outrageous war crimes perpetrated by Hamas were a fiction, but that the force of Israel's response is killing more children, more women, than they ever claimed Hamas did.
About a week ago, the Israeli government sent a message to Palestinians in the northern bloc of Gaza: evacuate or die. When many obeyed those orders, knowing that the journey and exit itself would be difficult, they were bombed and attacked on the very evacuation routes that Israel had specified. But before a single bomb was dropped, Israel shut off electricity, water, and fuel infrastructure to Gaza, and a complete blockade has been in place since the 7th. More recently, Israel shut off Internet access. And now, as from the start, airstrikes on Gaza continue. As of this writing, over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed, 6,000 are still missing, and at least 1,000 of the killed are women and children.
Meaning "the catastrophe" or "cataclysm." It refers originally to the initial destruction and displacement of the Palestinian way of life following the Israeli occupation in 1948. It has been referred to as an ethnic cleansing. Ariel Kallner, an Israeli Parliament member, has said of the present conflict: "Right now, one goal: Nakba! A nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 48."
This is why I'm bringing this newsletter to you today. We are at our computers, on our phones, in probable comfort, while one of the most powerful militaries in the world–with the backing of the most powerful military in the world–bombs an imprisoned population into rubble. The Israeli military has tanks, advanced fighter jets, and nuclear weapons. Palestinians frequently meet the Israeli Occupation Forces armed with rocks. When, in 2018, a Palestinian youth movement sought to peacefully protest the blockade and Nakba, and marched on the barrier between Gaza and Israel, they were shot by snipers, with over 200 killed. This isn't a war. This isn't a fight. It is attempted genocide of a captive population subjugated under apartheid.
Journalists have been killed. Medics. Doctors. Hospitals, residential buildings, and churches have been attacked intentionally. And all the while, the media is framing this as a conflict of equals, as a battle against aggression. Protest against the conflict has been banned or curtailed in France and Germany. Anti-Zionist Israelis have been arrested and beaten. Wadea Al Fayoume, a 6-year old Palestinian boy, was stabbed to death in Illinois because of the rhetoric against Palestinians. His mother was stabbed over a dozen times. This attack was perpetrated by their landlord.
What To Do
I think that we are witnessing the turning of the rhetorical tide, but we have to keep that tide moving. We have to speak out to whomever may listen. This includes your representatives, yes, as many of them are vocally supporting the bombing of Gaza, and as our tax dollars fund that bombing directly. Talk to people. Inform them. Shut down racist talk. Don't give it room to grow. This is what the Palestinian people are asking us to do.
You can call your representatives with a script provided at this link. It is an automated service, and will find your representatives for you.