Palestine has faced nearly half a century of oppression under Israeli forces. It’s a tension most know about but won’t pay any mind to due to the controversy surrounding the topic. Not everyone has the privilege of avoiding the conversation or scrolling right past a news story, though. There’s no avoiding the situation for Palestinians who are forced to go about their daily lives with the threats of the Israeli government hanging above their heads. With Palestine garnering more attention on platforms across the globe, Palestinians deserve the freedom they’ve been long overdue.
On May 6, 2021, the evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah— a neighborhood in East Jerusalem — amplified the tension between Palestinians and the Israeli government. Palestinians are being pushed out of their own homes so the Israeli government can maintain the majority among the Israeli-Jewish population. In October of 2020, the Israeli government ruled to evict a dozen Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah to maintain a “demographic balance” of 30 to 70, attempting to limit Palestinians to 30% of the population.
Throughout the Israel-Palestine conflict, Palestinian residential areas have been demolished under the false pretense of lacking Israeli building permits. The complete obliteration of homes under these circumstances implies that all of this could’ve been avoided if permits were acquired by the inhabitants of these homes. This is a very dangerous and sad narrative, as it’s nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain these kinds of building permits under the Israeli government due to a restrictive planning regime, suggesting the lives lost for these reasons are justified.
Instead of citizenship, Palestinians born in East Jerusalem are granted permanent residency, following the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967. However, that title is deceiving because it can easily be revoked by the government. While Palestinians can apply for citizenship, they’re often denied when their views or practices don’t align with Israeli beliefs. Since it’s difficult for Palestinians to obtain building permits, their options are to either build illegally or move to occupied territories, which in return increases the likelihood of their permanent residency being revoked for being outside East Jerusalem.
The holy city of Jerusalem is viewed as the capital by both sides and holds importance across both groups’ holy scriptures. In 2018, with the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, the U.S. acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This controversy led to protests by Palestinians along the Gaza border, and in response, the Israeli military killed at least 60 Palestinian protesters. Not to mention, during these protests, Palestinians in Gaza were still facing the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, which began in 2007.
Supporting and advocating for the freedom of Palestinians isn’t synonymous with being antisemitic. Wanting equal rights and freedom for one group of people doesn’t equate to wanting the oppression of the other. Palestinians aren’t fighting to expel Judaism; Palestinians are fighting to break free from oppression. Those advocating for a free Palestine shouldn’t approach the situation by being antisemitic. As human beings, Palestinians and Israelis have the right to religious freedom.
This is a humanitarian and political issue. The phrase “free Palestine'' refers to freeing Palestinians from oppression. Palestinian oppression includes not having a voice in policy-making, not being granted citizenship at birth, losing their homes and not having the freedom of traveling throughout the country. Over the years, it’s become clear that Palestinians have been forced out of their homes through the use of ethnic cleansing and the Israeli government’s abuse of power.
The latest violent encounter between the Israeli forces and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, spanned 11 days. This unfortunately resulted in the death of many civilians, the vast majority being Palestinian, including children. During the fighting, over 200 people have lost their lives, and the Gaza strip has been left in ruins.
Although the battle between Hamas and Israel came to a cease-fire, it’s not certain what this means for the future of Palestinians. While violence has broken out before between the two groups, it’s evident that Palestinians still haven’t gained their freedom. If Palestinians are left in the same position every time, it begs the question —what’s the point of all the violence and tragic deaths? The reputation of Hamas shouldn’t deflect from innocent Palestinian families losing loved ones and losing their homes. Additionally, the reputation of the Israeli government shouldn’t speak for all of the citizens of Israel or those who follow Judaism.
A cease-fire shouldn’t mark the ending of the conversation surrounding this issue. Stating you don’t know enough to talk about it isn’t an excuse either. People need to educate themselves. People need to feel safe in their homes, no matter the side of the border.
Mastan Rashid is a Junior media arts and design major. Contact Mastan at firstname.lastname@example.org.