Palestine Can’t Afford Silence

On the evening of October 27, Israel cut off internet and cell phone services in Gaza and launched one of its intensive overnight bombardments of what was left of Gaza after constant air strikes and rising death tolls since October 7. Showing blatant disregard for international law (and backed by the United States), Israel has continued to brutally slaughter Palestinians, not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank, which is not governed by Hamas. This indiscriminate killing of Palestinian people goes to show that this is an ethnic cleansing campaign, rather than self-defense, a fight against terrorism or a quest to recover kidnapped Israelis–all excuses Israel has used for its actions.

This article is a commentary reflecting the lived experience, research and/or perspectives of the author. The views and opinions expressed don’t necessarily represent those of Unicorn Riot.

Massive demonstrations continue across the world to protest Israel’s ongoing brutal military attack on Palestine. An increasing number of people are getting activated and calling for a ceasefire and an end to U.S. aid to Israel. One such group who’s been very active, Jewish Voice for Peace, staged a massive sit-in at Grand Central Station in New York, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

Students in campuses across the U.S. have engaged in walkouts, risking disciplinary action and being doxxed and harassed. University of Minnesota students participated in such a walkout organized by the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). On the same evening, activists from the Antiwar Committee, Minnesota Immigrants Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and MN Abortion Action Committee, staged a sit-in at Rep. Betty McCollum’s (DFL) office, which resulted in 12 activists being arrested while she was signing House Resolution 771 that supported Israel’s right to defend itself, without calling for a ceasefire or condemning Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians. 

On November 1, 2023, the day President Biden visited Minnesota, thousands of Minnesotans protested his visit. Part of this protest was a student contingent organized by SDS. Biden declined to meet with any Muslim community leaders during his visit. While addressing a campaign fundraiser in Northfield, he was interrupted by Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg who said, “Mr. President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire right now.”

A few days later, tens of thousands of people flooded Washington, D.C. to protest and demand a ceasefire. As of this writing, Biden still refuses to call for a ceasefire.

As of November 5, over 9,900 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since October 7, 2023, over 4,000 being children, who make up nearly half of the population of Gaza. The situation in Palestine, however, did not start on Oct. 7, 2023 with Hamas’ attack on Israel but has been going on for the last 75 years and has resulted in the ongoing forced displacement, disenfranchisement, internment and killing of the Palestinian people. 

While the United States continues to fund Israel’s war crimes, it is heartening to see so many people come together and collectively challenge the misleading narrative from our government that blames the Palestinians for their plight. But there are still far too many of us who continue to look the other way or justify the killing of innocent Palestinians. 

Many are silent because they don’t know what to say. However, that can no longer remain an excuse because our tax dollars are funding this genocide, making us complicit. Others are not speaking up for fear of being mislabeled antisemites. 

There is undeniably a centuries-long history of antisemitism around the world, one that is sadly still alive and well today. But it is wrong to conflate the struggle for the right of Palestinians to live with dignity and basic human freedoms with antisemitism. The swift labeling of any expression of sympathy towards Palestinians as antisemitism is reminiscent of the McCarthy-era hysteria

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just released an open letter to over 650 educational institutions advising them against investigating and penalizing students without evidence simply for supporting Palestine. Palestine Legal is one organization that protects civil rights of people in the U.S for expressing support for Palestine. 

We cannot allow bad faith attempts at maligning us to police our expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people. We also do not need to fall into the U.S. imperialist trap of “first condemn Hamas” because we should not have to qualify a call for an end to genocide with any other condemnation.

A great example of how not to let the media obfuscate your message is the 2021 CNN interview of writer and activist Mohammed El-Kurd during the forcible removal of Palestinian residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. When the interviewer asked El-Kurd if he supported the violent protests, he responded by asking, “Do you support the violent dispossession of me and my family?” 

One of the most dystopian aspects of these times is how life for so many of us is business as usual while genocide happens.

Such is the hamster wheel of capitalism.

We are expected to go to work or school as if nothing happened. Capitalism deters activism by keeping us busy, poor and afraid. State repression, social and professional ostracization, are additional tools of distraction and oppression used by the state to prevent us from confronting its continuing exploitation of our labor and our votes for its imperialist agenda of maintaining a proxy state in the Middle East.

The American public is resourceful. There are solidarity actions happening in the Twin Cities every few days. There are countless books, documentaries, and podcasts that can give you some context about the history of Palestine. The Palestine issue demands the energy and bravery of each one of us now more than ever. 

Bio: Adnan Ahmed is a resident of Twin Cities, you can follow them across X: @adnanmsp Instagram: @adnanmsp Threads: @adnanmsp.

See more of our Palestine related coverage here.

Cover image taken by Dan Feidt in Washington, DC on November 4, 2023, for Unicorn Riot.

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