In conversations about Gaza, I have heard many thoughtful people in the Jewish community lament the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza but then say, “But Hamas…,” as if that were the heart of the problem. I’d like to suggest that, when we have these conversations about Hamas and Israel’s current bombing campaign, we begin with the necessary context and historical perspective.
Re: The Nakba
1. To create the Jewish state, the Zionist movement destroyed more than 400 Palestinians villages and expelled 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and land. Palestinians who remained in what became Israel were relegated to second-class citizenship, had much of their property confiscated, and, to this day, have fewer rights than Jewish Israeli citizens.
Re: The 1967 Occupation
2. In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem and still occupies them until this day.
Re: Settlement expansion; the apartheid wall; and the siege of Gaza
3. Over the past 47 years of occupation, Israel has illegally confiscated more and more Palestinian land; built an apartheid wall; systematically denied Palestinians basic human and civil rights and engaged in state-sponsored violence; and forced the Palestinians in Gaza to live in appalling conditions that make it increasingly impossible to survive. Israel’s latest bombing campaign, Operation Protective Edge, has killed over 1,900 Palestinians, at least 450 of whom are children, and has displaced hundreds of thousands more.
If those of us in the Jewish community who are committed to justice begin from these facts, I think it would become clearer – regardless of who the Palestinian leadership is – that the underlying problem really is the denial of freedom and basic human rights to millions of people, for decades. And, as a community, it should also become clearer where priorities need to be in order to have any integrity on this issue: addressing the Nakba of 1948 and the responsibility for the Nakba head-on – including the right of return for refugees; ending the occupation; ending the siege on Gaza; and recognizing the right to full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. More recently, she is a founding member of Jews Say No!, on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project-US.