An evolving document compiled by young Palestinian media activists, published on OnGaza.org, as of October 18, 2023 (Recommended by Mazin Qumseyah)
1. What is the background on Israel/Palestine?
Israel was built on top of Palestine through the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians, a long-standing Zionist policy that resulted in 8 million Palestinians becoming refugees or displaced people and the rest enclosed in ghettos/bantustans (1) based on a set of myths and distortions of reality to justify colonization (2).
(2) Zionism at 100: The Myth of Palestine as “A Land Without People” ; The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel; see books by Shlomo Sand on the myths that allowed ethnic cleansing; Ben-Hur, the LA Times & a place called Palestine ; Greenberg, Gary. 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History. Sourcebooks, 2002; Whitelam, Keith W. The invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History. New York, Routledge. 1997; Nur Masalha “Palestine: A four thousand year history“; Raed, Basem. Hidden Histories: Palestine and The Eastern Mediterranean. Pluto Press. 2010.
2. What is the Gaza strip and what is its background?
Gaza is a sliver of land along the Mediterranean Coast. Per the 1947 UNGA partition resolution, Gaza’s area was many times more than what it is now, and it was to be under the UNGA 181 but during 1948, Israel removed 247 villages and towns, including Asqalan (now Israeli Ashkelon) and Najd (now Sderot). Most of them were pushed (including on boats from Jaffa) to be squeezed in the open-air prison called the Gaza ‘Strip’. Thus 2/3rd of the current population (2.3 million, 60% of which are below 18) of the squeezed Gaza ghetto are refugees, a concentration area of “surplus people”. After Israel’s occupation of the Strip in 1967, Israel conducted numerous attacks on the area including in 1974, 1981, 1987-1991, 1997, 2000, 2008, 2014, 2018/2019, and 2021. The nonviolent 2018-2019 march of return by unarmed civilians was met by Israeli forces’ systemic targeting, massacring these civilians. The violence against people living in crowded Gaza had been ongoing for decades- see other questions and answers below. The events of 7 October 2023 that took Israel by surprise and caused pain and suffering is precisely what Palestinian were faced with many fold over in the past 75 years (33 massacres in 1948 alone and hundreds more since then including the latest series of massacres commnitted in Gaza in October 2023) (3)
(3) https://wehaddreams.com/; https://israelpalestinenews.org/israel-cant-imprison-two-million-gazans-pay-cruel-price/; https://www.commondreams.org/opinion/ethnic-cleansing-genocide-in-gaza [https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/24/impoverished-gaza-economy-struggles-under-israeli-blockade]
3. What is happening now in the West Bank and 1948 areas of Palestine and how is this related to Gaza?
The West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza have been under a brutal Israeli military occupation since 1967. This occupation is illegal per international law (illegality of acquisition of territory by war, see below). Israeli settlers built, and continue to build, colonialism in these occupied areas. Since the PLO signed an agreement which recognized Israel in 1993, it was hoped that after an interim period of 5 years of negotiations, a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be formed with currently Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as its capital (the Oslo accords). Instead, the last 30 years saw a tripling of the number of illegal Israeli colonial settlers living on the land of the West Bank (now 970,000 settlers). Palestinians were removed from their lands and homes and squeezed into Bantustans/ghettos in the West Bank and this process is ongoing (in just the past two years, 22 communities in the WB were removed). The Palestinian economy has been devastated, natural resources are stolen and given to colonial settlers, and there are almost daily incursions into Palestinian cities and holy sites like Al-Aqsa mosque (4). But even remaining Palestinian within the state of Israel did not escape ethnic cleansing, for example in the Naqab/Negev (5).
(4) https://www.unocha.org/occupied-palestinian-territory ; https://www.btselem.org/publications/202309_the_pogroms_are_working_the_transfer_is_already_happening ; https://www.arij.org/latest/ben-gavir-and-netanyahu/
4. Does Israel have the right to defend itself?
First the premise that a colonizer is doing self-defense is itself a linguistic error. Colonizers use violence to achieve their cause of ethnic cleansing. This happened in all other colonial situations in over 170 countries. As an occupier/colonizer that was created by ethnic cleansing of the local people beginning in 1948 and continuing today, the Israeli regime defends its illegitimate colonization project (itself based on violence). The claim that Hamas presence as a guerrilla force among the Palestinians in Gaza is also not an excuse for violating basics of warfare and targeting civilians. Afterall, Israeli military facilities are also inside Israeli cities but this does not justify targeting civilians. Further Israeli authorities themselves openly declared that they are punishing the population of Gaza (not fighters from Gaza) by bombing them without warning and starving them. (6)
(6) https://gisha.org/en/total-blackout-in-gaza/; https://www.msf.org/indiscriminate-violence-and-collective-punishment-gaza-must-cease; https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2020/07/israels-collective-punishment-palestinians-illegal-and-affront-justice-un ; https://www.arij.org/latest/israel-violates-human-rights-through-the-collective-punishment-of-the-qunbar-family/ ; https://gisha.org/en/collective-punishment-continues/ ; https://jacobin.com/2021/05/israel-palestine-right-to-self-defense-justification-for-war-article-51-un-charter
5. Do Palestinians have a right to resist?
Yes, international law does stipulate that local people have a right and obligation to resist oppression of course consistent with International law (7). Israel’s 75 years of oppression on millions of people cannot be ignored to demand quiescent victims (8). The struggle for freedom in South Africa and Algeria or other colonial situations was not delegetimized when (a minority) of natives as individuals or groups targeted colonial settlers. Ending colonization is always the only way to end both the resistance and the much larger violence of the colonizers. But we also recognize that most resistance in the past 100 years by Palestinians has been popular (non-violent) resistance. Certainly less violent than most other colnial-anti-colonial struggles.(9)
(9) See Mary Elizabeth King “A quiet Revolution” 2007; Mazin Qumsiyeh “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment” Pluto Press 2014; Marwan Darwish and Andrew Rigby “Popular Protest in Palestine: The uncertain future of unarmed resistance”, Pluto Press, 2015.
6. Does Israel commit breaches of international law and human rights conventions?
From its inception, Israel ethnically cleansed Palestinians (a breach of international law, including the Geneva Conventions). Israel was admitted to the UN only when it agreed to implement UN resolutions, including UNGA 181 and 194, but Israel refused to implement them. Subsequently Israel has violated over 70 UN Security Council Resolutions and hundreds of UNGA resolutions. In the most recent October 2023 conflict in Gaza and as a matter of policy even when there is no conflict, Israel engaged in collective punishment, many cases of which are verifiable war crimes and crimes against humanity. All human rights organizations (AI, HRW, PHR, B’Tselem) and global organizations (UN, WHO, etc) denounced collective punishment, including carpet bombing of residential buildings, denial of basics of life (water, food, medicines, fuel), and use of white phosphorous on civilian areas. (10) If we take just the UN Declaration on Human Rights, which ironically Israel and the US signed, we find Israel breaching just about every article. Israel intentionally targets Palestinian civilians and commits human righst abuses on large scale amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes including including via collective punishment (11).
(10) https://ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/boyle.html https://ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/ilaw-articles.html Even Raz Segal Israeli historian, professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University says it is “A Textbook Case of Genocide: Israel has been explicit about what it’s carrying out in Gaza. Why isn’t the world listening?” [https://www.democracynow.org/2023/10/16/raz_segal_textbook_case_of_genocide] Dropping leaflets telling 1.1 million people to leave Northern Gaza and head south (and then ironically bombing them) [https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2023/10/15/breaking-israeli-security-source-confirms-iaf-massacred-civilians-in-refugee-convoy-despite-army-denials-70-dead/]
(11) https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/ https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/10/israeloccupied-palestinian-territory-un-experts-deplore-attacks-civilians https://www.emro.who.int/opt/news/hospitals-in-the-gaza-strip-at-a-breaking-point-warns-who.html; Youtube: Kids Used as Human Shields
Use of Palestinians as human shields Amnesty International: Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians Israel hits center of Red Cross Statistics on number of people killed Israeli who revealed “medieval-style” torture of Palestinians faces virulent backlash US State Dept 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
7. Is Israel ruled by rational people?
The criminality of Israeli leaders including their racist statements about indigenous people is highly documented, and continues openly (12). Israeli leaders have always chosen to use their military might to achieve their objectives of colonization. Yitzhaq Rabin, who came the closest to recognizing some need to compromise and allow some margin of freedom for some Palestinians, was assassinated by a right wing Zionist. Since then, Israeli leadership has shifted to become more racist and fascist (e.g. having settlers like Smotrich and Ben Gvir in the cabinet).
(12) https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160213-the-wild-beast-of-israeli-racism/ ; Michael Ben-Ari, ex-member of the Knesset: “There are no innocents in Gaza. Mow them down … Kill the Gazans without thought or mercy.” Israel Katz, Minister of Transportation: “Gaza should be bombed so hard the population has to flee into Egypt.” Avi Dichter, Current Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Former Shin Bet director and Minister of Internal Security: “Gaza should be wiped clean with bombs.”; “The Gaza Strip must be smaller at the end of the war. Anyone who starts a war against Israel must lose territory“ Gideon Sa’ar Israeli Interior Minister; Israeli President says there are no innocent civilains in Gaza and that they are responsible [https://thewire.in/world/northern-gaza-israel-palestine-conflict]
8. What about children?
No other country violates the rights of children or kills them in such large numbers as Israel. Defense of Children International documented countless cases of child abductions, detentions, severe interrogation amounting to torture, and outright killing. Just in the period of 7 October – 15 October 2023 Israel killed 720 children and injured about 2500. (13)
(13) [Names and faces of some of those murdered in Gaza in a previous incursion] [https://www.dci-palestine.org/724_palestinian_children_killed_in_gaza_as_israel_targets_civilians] [https://www.insider.com/children-rights-gaza-palestine-israel-human-rights-united-nations-2023-10]
9. Does the Zionist movement and the government of Israel lie to advance their cause of colonization?
Yes, daily. This is more blatant in Gaza but has been going for 75 years. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz (7/15/01) reported that: “… giving his audience (Likud leaders) a bit of advice on how to deal with foreign interviewers (Benjamin Netanyahu said): ‘Always, irrespective of whether you’re right or not, you must always present your side as right‘”. Indeed from its inception, the Israeli government and its agents abroad have lied. There were false flag operations like the Lavon Affair, or the bombing of Jewish community centers in Iraq to blame it on locals and scare Iraqi Jews to leave their country (14). Hasbara (propaganda) is a very common Zionist tactic to advance their project of colonization. During the October 2023 incidents Israeli leaders lied about Hamas killing and beheading babies, about Israeli soldiers killing Israeli citizens, or even about wanting peace (15)
(14) The Lavon Affair: Israel and Terror in Egypt ; https://books.google.ps/books?id=XTWUEAAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y ; https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/avi-shlaim-proof-israel-zionist-involvement-iraq-jews-attacks
(15) Israel lies to manufacture a case for genocide; Israel killed an American citizen and lied about it [https://edition.cnn.com/2022/05/24/middleeast/shireen-abu-akleh-jenin-killing-investigation-cmd-intl/index.html] Just three lies on Gaza; Netanyahu in a video worth watching very carefully [https://electronicintifada.net/content/israeli-forces-shot-their-own-civilians-kibbutz-survivor-says/38861] [https://mondoweiss.net/2023/10/hostages-how-the-u-s-media-is-distorting-the-news-from-palestine/] [https://www.palestinechronicle.com/no-proof-of-beheaded-israeli-babies-white-house-backtracks-on-bidens-comments-breaking] On the Ahli Hospital bombing: [https://sputnikglobe.com/20231018/what-could-have-triggered-gazas-deadly-hospital-blast-1114287684.html ]; taking responsibility and then lying [https://twitter.com/dancohen3000/status/1714357542879457390]
10. Did the Palestinians have a fair chance to tell their stories in the Western world?
As the late professor Edward Said articulated clearly, Palestinian voices are methodically suppressed. This only intensified as the Zionist movement increased its grip on Western media, which then silenced Palestinian voices. In the US for example, distorted, misleading and outright false coverage as a result of the strong Zionist lobbies (16). Free speech must be protected in all countries: in Palestine Israeli forces shoot you for demonstrating, meanwhile Germany, France and Belgium are trying to outlaw free speech or demonstrations addressing human rights/international law/Palestine and even balanced reporters harassed or fired (17).
(16) See Mearsherimer and Walt on the Israel lobby and Question # 16 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/06/evangelical-christians-republicans-2024-israel-palestinians https://decolonizepalestine.com/myths/ https://ifamericansknew.org/
(17) See Paul Findley, “They Dare to Speak Out”; https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-listening-post/2021/5/22/incite-and-inflame-israels-manipulation-of-the-media; Demonstrations in the West ignored by Western media https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJDL_JfmFKE https://www.trtworld.com/us-and-canada/us-news-network-msnbc-suspends-muslim-anchors-amid-israeli-war-in-gaza-15405819; Misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war is flooding social media. Here are the facts: [apnews.com/ap-fact-check]
11. Does Israel destroy infrastructure and livelihoods of innocent people for revenge?
Yes, and the deliberate destruction of infrastructure is illegal per International law. (18)
(18) https://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20231015_suffering_does_not_justify_suffering_and_one_injustice_does_not_justify_another_and_one_crime_does_not_warrant_another https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/13/what-infrastructure-in-gaza-has-been-damaged-since-israels-assault; Human Rights organizations on the carnage in Gaza
12. Is Israel a democracy?
At least 65 Israeli laws exist that discriminate against non-Jewish citizens, alongside hundreds more laws which apply to people living under occupation. Human rights organizations (AI, HRW, PHR, etc.), including local ones like B’Tselem, have called the dual legal system apartheid. (19)
(19) See Adalah database of racist laws; The seven most racist Israeli laws; http://apartheidweek.org/resources/; https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution; 300 groups call on the UN to investigate apartheid
13. Is this a religious war?
Absolutely not. While the Zionists have used Judaism as an excuse and weaponized it in their attacks on the native people, the colonial and apartheid system does not discriminate in its victimization of native Christians, Muslims, Druze, Bahai, or Atheists. All non-Jews were targeted for ethnic cleansing, with the exception of the self-proclaimed Christian Zionists (21). Palestinian and non-Palestinian Christians have been outspoken for human rights. Jews have also been the most outspoken (21). But Israel’s use of religion to try to justify its colonization does lead to targeting and harming the religious sites and sensibilities of other religions. This is part of the reason why the state facilitates settler attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque (3rd holiest site in Islam), which has influenced uprisings like the last one (22).
14. Who is profiting from colonialism and war?
Gaza is a testing laboratory for Israeli arms manufacturers and is critical for flowing funds to the military and industrial complex in Israel. Israel profits from the humanitarian aid to Gaza and the WB that comes through Israel, from occupied area natural resources including theft of water and the Gas fields off of Gaza (23)
(23) https://www.whoprofits.org/; https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/gaza-testing-ground-israeli-military-technology https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183p4xd?typeAccessWorkflow=login; https://electronicintifada.net/content/cruel-experiments-israels-arms-industry/19011 Azerbaijan: Israeli Arms Sales, Greased Palms, Ethnic-Conflict & Armenian Nakba ; https://www.arij.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/The_Economic_Cost_of_the_Israeli_occupation_Report_upd.pdf
15. Why do some Western countries and some Arab governments (most dictators) support and normalize Israel?
Israel gets nearly $4 billion in military aid annually from the US and gets protection from prosecution under international law by use of the US veto power at the UN. This collusion with apartheid is carried out even against US law (24). Part of it has to do with the history of those countries themselves being colonial and imperial powers who have killed millions of natives and “understand” what it takes for colonization (25). Furthermore, the US military industrial complex benefits from this funding to Israel, as a large portion of the funding can only be spent purchasing weapons directly from US arm dealers (26). Another part of it is the strong Zionist lobbies in Western countries (27). For some Arab dictatorships, it is because they are dependent on the US and some other Western countries to stay in power against the wishes of the people, or because they believe the US hegemony will last forever. This complicity and normalization are what has encouraged Israel to violate human rights and increased chances of the kind of resistance we have seen in October 2023 (28). But among people of the world, there is great sympathy and support for Palestine (29).
(27) https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v28/n06/john-mearsheimer/the-israel-lobby; Here is a journalist doing his job showing US Hypocrisy in supporting crimes against humanity; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/15/revealed-disinformation-team-jorge-claim-meddling-elections-tal-hanan
(28) https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/21873.html https://imeu.org/article/imeu-policy-analysis-5-abraham-accords-isolate-palestinians-solidify-israel http://opiniojuris.org/2021/06/24/the-pathology-of-arab-state-silence-on-palestine-how-rapprochement-with-israel-reveals-complicity-in-the-conflict-and-could-cause-further-unrest-in-the-region/
(29) Millions were out in the streets in October 2023 depite governments threats and intimidation. Examples: [https://www.rts.ch/info/regions/geneve/14391001-la-cause-palestinienne-fait-descendre-6000-personnes-dans-la-rue-a-geneve.html] [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCvcAxoAS48
16. What should be done about the situation?
Amnesty International has said, “The root causes of these repeated cycles of violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency. This requires upholding international law and ending Israel’s 16-year-long illegal blockade on Gaza, and all other aspects of Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians.” (30) Implementing International law, human rights, and justice are essential to stopping these cycles of violence. Justice means the return of Palestinian refugees, the abolition of apartheid laws, and full equality regardless of religion. If some in the western world still believes in a “two state solution” as a step towards peace, then they must insist on full withdrawal (i.e. all illegal settlements evacuated) from the 1967 occupied territories (West Bank, including East Jerusalem; Gaza; and the Golan Heights) and allow Palestine to be a state with full sovereignty (including natural resources, borders, etc). In either case, apartheid laws should be ended and refugees should be allowed to return or compensated per UNGA resolution 194.(31).
(31) Beinart on this issue [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/14/opinion/palestinian-ethical-resistance-answers-grief-and-rage.html] Another Jew speaking openly about what must be done [https://youtu.be/Tpi3qoSm7VA?feature=shared]
17. Where can I get more information?
Here are some relevant links:
18. How can I help financially?
19. What more can I do? (Campaigns)
Educate yourself (resources above plus books, videos like Occupation 101, Born in Gaza)
Use the right language (colonialism, apartheid, collective punishment) not “conflict” etc if you have to use war it is war on the people of Gaza not Hamas-Israel war
Write to media (letters to editor or op-eds)
Join groups like the International Solidarity Movement
Create or join local groups of joint struggle (like PSM)
Join political parties and lobby all politicians
Use social media with hashtags for Palestine (facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, TikTock, Youtube)
Join or organize protests (5 people or 50,000 people)
Join the Boycott, Divestiment, Sanctions campaigns http://bdsmovement.net
Organize street theatres, flash mobs, tabling, or flyering
Engage in civil dsiobedience
Contact local faith centers (Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples)
Volunteer in Palestine
Here is a statement signed by over 800 international legal scholars is published now – please help to circulate widely to your governments and representatives. [https://opiniojuris.org/2023/10/18/public-statement-scholars-warn-of-potential-genocide-in-gaza/]
West Bank situation: We must spotlight that oppression in the West Bank continues. We hsould set-up or expand civilian defense groups to face the Zionist settlers who have been armed and given a green light to commit pogroms, like happened recently in Turmusayya, Beita and Huwwara. As we are in the Oliver harvest season, settlers and soldiers have shot at farmers trying to get totheir fields.
Arab governments should be challenged on their complicity and hypocrisy. The show concern for Gaza civilains but aid and abet the governments that perpetuate crime against humanity in places like Gaza. تعرب عن قلقها أو استيائها ألخ
Western governments should be challenged and we must demand they stop funding, arming, and protecting Israel from international law.
Israeli political and military leaders should be brought to trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including violating the conventions on crimes of genocide and apartheid/racial discrimination.
Western media must be challenged for their lies and distortions, and for bias in use of language which results in their complicity in crimes. Their support of genocide is also eroding the public’s trust in them. As one person wrote “The UK media’s coverage is shameful and our leaders are self-serving liars.”
Social media issues: Activists and all people of conscience must use Facebook, Instagram, Tik-tok, X (Twitter), Telegram and other websites for sharing photos and videos.
*Featured Image: Gaza has been rocked by a series of wars within the past decade. Photo: EPA