On October 7th, Hamas initiated actions against Israel, triggering intense retaliation towards the Gaza Strip. The recent SA protests in solidarity with Palestine have been encouraging, but they do not cancel the adjacent silence. While some so-called activists in our communities advocate for justice in one context, they often overlook the plight of Palestinians. With high rates of violence and apartheid-like conditions, the Palestinian experience is a powerful example of disenfranchisement, a condition we know all too well.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict began in the late 19th century, with tensions between Jewish immigrants and the Arab population. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 supported a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, leading to the establishment of Israel in 1948, which resulted in the displacement of many Palestinians.
While the conflict is nothing new, it is also never-ending. Gaza has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, resulting in dire living conditions due to severe restrictions on resources. The conflict has seen repeated outbreaks of violence, including wars in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014, leading to significant Palestinian civilian casualties. In May 2021, there was an 11-day conflict between Gaza’s ruling Hamas and the Israeli military, and now the destruction and loss of life continue.
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, an activist and spokesman for Neturei Karta, an anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish organisation, spoke to Al Jazeera about the multifaceted nature of the conflict. In his talk, the Rabbi emphasised the distinction between Judaism and Zionism, highlighting that Judaism is a religion with a history spanning 3000 years, centred on the spiritual relationship between God and the Jewish people. In contrast, Zionism is a relatively new development, emerging around 150 years ago. It is a political and nationalist movement with materialistic and territorial goals.
Since the inception of the Zionist movement and the establishment of Israel, the region has witnessed enduring conflicts, bloodshed, and animosity. Rabbi Weiss contends that the introduction of Zionism has severed the harmonious coexistence that historically existed between the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities in the region. Prior to the rise of Zionism, Jews and Muslims lived side by side in numerous countries, sharing their lives, and traditions, and even caring for one another’s children without animosity. The Rabbi suggests that Zionism is used to justify what he calls the “totally illegitimate occupation” of Israel.
James Baldwin once said “… the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests.” As previously disenfranchised peoples of the world, our voices should echo those of our leaders. The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict has caused suffering to millions of people over an unthinkable amount of time. We can no longer stand on the sidelines and do nothing! International solidarity is paramount. Those who claim to fight for human rights must help endorse a two-state solution and the end of the Gaza blockade which blocks humanitarian aid.
Ensuring a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians means ensuring a better future for the world at large. The struggle for justice is universal, transcending borders and boundaries, and it is only by acknowledging this interconnectedness that we can extend our compassion to all communities facing disenfranchisement and suffering, including Palestinians. In Nelson Mandela’s words: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”