Image from the Great March of Return: Mahmoud Hams
Beginning on Land Day in 2018, Gazan Palestinians stood on their own land and demanded their basic rights as human beings and as a nation. In the course of the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers and snipers killed 223 Palestinians (46 of them younger than 18 years) and wounded around 8000.
Medecins Sans Frontieres has written about the Palestinians who were left with complex wounds from expanding bullets, those shot through the eye by snipers, those who have lost limbs. Hollowed out by Israel’s blockade, Gaza’s health infrastructure cannot possibly cope with their injuries, with Covid, with the injuries from last May’s bombardment – with all of it.
Israel’s investigations have returned a total of one indictment for 223 killings. That one unlucky token solder was sentenced to a month of community service.
2021 has been a shocking year. Israel has withheld Covid treatment and vaccines from Palestinians. In May Israeli forces bombarded Gaza, inflicting a new layer of trauma and intensively damaging the infrastructure of modern life. The Israeli government has designated six legal and human rights NGOs as ‘terrorist’ (we use scare quotes to alert readers that the designation is wholly unsubstantiated). This designation effectively criminalises Palestinians’ resort to law. Settler violence is escalating and intermingling openly with military violence – a more overt state endeavour. In the midst of it all, Israeli authorities also thought it was important to confiscate 23 million tons of chocolate bars destined for Gaza because, well, maybe just because they could.
States including ours have failed utterly to protect Palestinians. 2021 has been a year of outrageous impunity for Israel, and we are outraged. We are not heart-broken, because our hearts were not in the Zionist nationalist project to be broken. We are not saddened by the news, we are pissed.
We have listened in vain for more of our Jewish community to object.
Like them, some of us were raised in Zionism. We have had to confront the result of placing Israel’s settler colonial project at the heart of our identity. As we un-learned Zionism, we opened a loving, expansive space for our religion, culture, music, history, spirituality, study and all the other dimensions of being positive (non-Zionist) Jews.
As we unlearned Zionism, we recognised the occupation of Palestine as Palestinians’ struggle for liberation. It is not about us, but it is ours to support. When we witness the outrageous impunity of Israeli apartheid violence, we do not tut-tut in a loving voice (that being the tone we are told to adopt as the limit of loyal Jewish expression).
Stand up and shout with us, we challenge our Jewish community. If you have any regard for the basic equality and value of human lives, stand up to this. 223 Palestinians were killed on their own land and one Israeli soldier has done a month of community service. Stand up and object as loudly as you would object if this happened anywhere else. It has happened, and that is enough.
Stand up this Chanukah, when you read the prophetic warning against reliance on transient militarism, “Not by might and not by power.” When you light your candles, remember that justice is the flame burning in the darkness.
We stand in solidarity with Palestinians, with our fellow non-Zionist Jews and all others who call for transformation between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. May this year have been the nadir.
Alternative Jewish Voices and Friends
Marilyn Garson Sarah Cole
Jeremy Rose Leigh Friday