Stand for Palestinian human rights

Israel has committed numerous human rights violations on Palestinians over the years, what happened just last week proves Israel is a colonizer.

Palestine has been occupied by Israel for decades. Israel has bombed, shot, murdered and oppressed Palestinians for years. Over these years, Palestine has gotten smaller as Israel has been illegally settling in Palestinian homes and taking over their land. Human rights violations by the hands of the Israeli government is not something new, as a series of harmful human rights abuses occurred in Palestine just over a short course of time. 

What happened over a week ago is a clear example of how Israel is colonizing Palestine. The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem has been home to Palestinians since 1956, currently they are facing the threat of forced eviction by Nahalat Shimon International — a U.S.-based organization. As Israel sees this as a property dispute, the Palestinian families who are being targeted in this neighborhood have already been living there for decades. Israel is forcefully expanding their neighbourhoods at the expense of Palestinians. 

The planned eviction of 40 Palestinians here is unjust. This is their home and Israel was already a colonizer before, having built 237 settlements in the West Bank, which has 580,000 settlers. They have changed the names of streets, occupied land and homes while the Israeli Defense Forces mock, humiliate and harass Palestinians. 

In 2020, the Human Rights Watch noted “A December 2019 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) notes that 498,776 Gaza residents, or nearly 25 percent of Gaza’s population, experience psychosocial distress and have a mental health condition.”

As we look into Sheikh Jarrah, this is not the only place where Israel is actively colonizing Palestine and displacing Palestinians. Jaffa, Umm al-Fahm and Khan al-Ahmar are some of the areas in which Israel is evicting Palestinians from and establishing their own settlements.

“For decades, the Israeli national government and Jerusalem’s municipal authorities have pursued policies aimed at increasing the Jewish presence in the city and restricting the expansion of the Palestinian community. Initially, this meant expanding Jerusalem’s borders and building Jewish settlements to the east, outside of the city. Over the past decade, right-wing groups supported by the Israeli government have also spearheaded attempts to increase the Jewish presence in the Palestinian areas at the heart of East Jerusalem,” said Raja Shehadeh — a Palestinian lawyer who specializes in human rights and international law — in a 2021 article for the New Yorker. 

“This is the case not only in Sheikh Jarrah, where the settler group Lahav Shomron has been pursuing the eviction of Palestinians, but also in the Silwan neighborhood, where, last November, another settler group, Ateret Cohanim, succeeded in getting an Israeli court to ratify the eviction of eighty-seven Palestinians,” Shehadeh went on to explain.

On May 10, Israeli forces raided the Al Aqsa Mosque, a holy place for worship, and fired rubber bullets and tear gas which resulted in hundreds of injured Palestinians. Through videos posted online, smoke can be seen amidst the sounds of explosions and ammunition heard from within the mosque where Palestinians and Muslims gather to pray in the holy month of Ramadan. 

“Israel’s atrocious attacks on al-Aqsa reveal how racism and Islamophobia is compounded in their policy of ethnically cleansing Palestine. It exposes the sheer and violent disregard for al-Aqsa’s sanctity — not just to Palestinians, but all Muslims — during the blessed month of Ramadan,” said Malak Shalabi, the media coordinator for American Muslims for Palestine. 

A thousand rockets were fired by Palestinian militants mostly towards Tel Aviv. Hundreds of airstrikes were fired by Israel that destroyed two tower blocks in Gaza. Since Monday, 87 Palestinians, including 18 children, have died with 530 wounded in mostly Israeli airstrikes. Seven people, including two children, have died from rockets launched in Israel. 

With the deaths and destruction occurring in Gaza, families being unrightfully evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Israel attacking Palestinians in Al Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan, these human rights violations against Palestinians need to be addressed. 

This needs to stop being labeled as a two-sided conflict. Media portrayals have shown it to be both sided, and showing Israel clashing with Hamas — a Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant organization that do not represent all of Palestine —  can cause misinterpretations leading people to believe that Israel is fighting back against a terrorist group to protect and defend themselves. 

Israel is a colonizer. Israel is unrightfully seizing and occupying Palestinian land, killing innocent Palestinians and forcing them out of their homes. This is ethnic cleansing, a genocide is occurring on the Palestinians. Israel has far more resources in terms of weapons and money. There is no “defending” themselves. There is just terrorizing Palestinians. 

“The current state of affairs in Palestine does not consist of ‘clashes’ between two equal parties: it consists of the Israeli State, funded by 38 billion American tax dollars every decade, actively dispossessing and massacring the Palestinian people,” said Shalabi. “Our tax dollars shouldn’t go towards Israeli war crimes. There are domestic policy priorities in investing in our vulnerable communities. America cannot continue to abandon its own people while pursuing imperial interests abroad.”

Starting in 2019, the Obama Administration signed a military aid pact that would send Israel over $3 billion for 10 years. The ties that the U.S. has with Israel and how damaging it is needs to be acknowledged with our new administration. 

“Biden has reversed some of Trump’s more radical steps, restoring US funding for Palestinians and resuming diplomatic contacts with Palestinian officials, but other Trump policies remain, such as the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The administration has also been coy about a return to pre-Trump official references to the occupied territories,” said Julian Borger in the article “Israel-Palestine flare-up has caught Biden administration unprepared” on the Guardian. 

Governments and leaders need to be on the side of humanity, which means to be on the side of Palestinians. Palestinians are going through an ethnic cleansing, their culture, people and history are actively being erased by Israel. 

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, tweeted this on May 11th: “I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute. I echo the call from the international community for clam, restraint and a stop to the violence.” 

Palestine is a member state of the International Criminal Court, meaning that any individual who commits a war crime or crime against humanity on Palestinian terriroty can be prosecuted by the ICC. We must acknowledge the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed to the Palestinians, not just now, but for decades before. 

Showing support and solidarity for Palestinians means to acknowledge Palestine, acknowledge the damage Israel has committed and listen to Palestinian stories. 

To support and to follow accurate news on what is happening right now in Palestine, follow @eye.on.palestine and @imeu on Instagram to learn more and receive updates. Also follow @muna.kurd15 who is from Sheikh Jarrah and active on Instagram.