Title media by
Taylie Kawakami

Like many Northeastern students, I love strolling through the city of Boston. It calms me to glance at the skyline, to see the horizon and the landscape, the buildings towering above me. For me, to look up is a pleasure. 

I have never known the screams of warplanes above me. 

I have never witnessed buildings reduced to rubble.

I have never seen everything I’ve come to love about my city crumble around me.

I have never huddled in my home believing that death will come at any moment. 

The sky does not bring me fear, does not portend imminent doom.

In other words, I do not know the terror that Palestinians in Gaza have faced for the last few days; and broadly, for the last 73 years. 

I suspect that the lack of empathy for the Palestinian plight speaks to something deeper about us as Americans. For even if we cut away the hasbara (propaganda), the fear mongering, the both-sides narratives, the American interests that back Israel unconditionally, even if we established the facts as they truly exist, there would still exist a gap between us and Palestine. For the principle that animates America, more than anything else, is the notion of American entitlement and exceptionalism, the “city upon a hill.” And undergirding this is the idea that outside the city lies the hordes at the gates, the irrational, primitive people who have come to take, it follows, what belongs to us. When we look at the crimes the Israelis commit on a daily basis, our knee-jerk reaction to defend them stems from something deep in the American ethos. It is a bitter calculus in which the inherent violence of dispossession is denied, the human resistance of the dispossessed is condemned regardless of context, and the perpetual aggression of the dispossessors is excused. 

To recognize Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians would be to reckon our own dispossession of the Native Americans. The Zionist myth of “a land without a people for a people without a land” cannot be separated from America’s founding narrative: that the continent was nothing before we “civilized:” it. The enlightened barbarism that built Israel is the same that built America, and in both cases, it continues to animate the structures of these countries.

But the Nakba, the attempted genocide of the Palestinian people that started in 1948 and continues to this day, is not an abstract academic theory, nor a tidbit from a distant past. It is real, it is happening as you read this, and we have the moral obligation to act to stop it. We cannot look away, first and foremost as human beings, but particularly as Americans, who have done so much already to contribute to it. 

In the past few days, Israel’s siege on Gaza has killed 230 Palestinians and wounded thousands more. 65 of the dead are children. 52,000 people have been displaced, and the destroyed infrastructure of Gaza will not be rebuilt for years. More Palestinian children have been killed in the last few week of airstrikes than Israelis killed by Hamas rockets in the past 20 years. Israeli forces have also wounded hundreds of Palestinians across the occupied territories of the West Bank, sinking as low as to desecrate and storm the Al-Aqsa mosque while Palestinians prayed during the holiest days of Ramadan. On Jerusalem Day, a massive crowd of Israelis cheered as a fire broke out from a tree near the mosque compound, chanting, “may their names be erased.” Meanwhile, Zionist settler organizations, backed by Israeli courts where justice is anything but blind, are seeking to expel innocent families from Shiekh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, with Israeli occupation forces executing the violent removal of families from their homes. For the past few weeks, Israelis have regularly marched through the streets shouting, “death to Arabs,” and last week terrorized Palestinians through pogroms. In Jaffa, an Israeli mob lynched a Palestinian man on live TV.

The violence we see right now on behalf of the Israelis cannot be separated from Zionism, a political project dedicated to the maintenance of a Jewish ethnostate. And because Jews are not naturally the majority population, this requires the ethnic cleansing and disenfranchisement of the Palestinians who, by their very existence, wreck the dream of Zionism. The genocide of Palestinians in the Nakba was not accidental; it was acknowledged and championed by Zionists, who knew that theft and the violent expulsion were the only way to create the demographic goals of a Jewish state. Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion infamously said, “After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.” 

Even the Zionist pundit Bari Weiss has dropped all pretense of moderation and fully embraced this reality. Writing on Substack about the pain she sees at witnessing the “lies” about Israel spreading on social media, Weiss claimed that “Israelis have gotten used to living life in a kind of perpetual war.” This is certainly true, although it reveals much more about Israel than Weiss seems to grasp. In another unguarded moment, Weiss had this to say about the massive death toll of Palestinian civilians: “Some of these people are entirely innocent non-combatants, including children. This is an unspeakable tragedy. It is also one of the unavoidable burdens of political power, of Zionism’s dream turned into the reality of self-determination.”  


The dehumanization of Palestinians and their expendability in the eyes of the Zionist project is not unique to the slaughter in Gaza. It is also at play in the expulsions of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah. Zionists have argued that since the land belonged to Jews before Jordan took over parts of Jerusalem in 1948, that they are perfectly justified in kicking out families from their homes. Yet not a single home would be populated by displaced Jewish families; it would instead be granted to settler organizations, who will dole it out to anyone as long as they are Jewish. And the sudden Israeli interest in returning homes to refugees is deeply ironic, given their refusal to even acknowledge the Palestinian right to return, which is grounded in international law. Zionism frames itself as a political project about Jews returning to their homeland after thousands of years. Yet its proponents scoff at the idea that Palestinians would retain that same hope after mere decades. As Peter Beinart puts it, "when you tell a people to forget it's past you are not proposing peace. You are proposing elimination."

The ongoing expulsion of families in Sheikh Jarrah has been part of a decades long effort by Israelis to gradually replace the remaining Palestinians in East Jerusalem, widely recognized among the international community as occupied Palestinian territory, with Jewish settlers. The Palestinians are often maligned for their so-called spurning of nonviolence, but in the face of forcible displacement, simply staying put constitutes an act of resistance. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are faced with the daily threat of violence, from settlers, from police, and from a government that maintains no farce of objectivity save for the American audience. At any moment, a Palestinian may return home and find a settler squatting in their home, refusing to leave, who will be backed up by the Israeli police. A viral video from East Jerusalem of a settler attempting to steal a Palestinian home perfectly, if not tragically, encapsulated this dynamic. When confronted by the former resident, the settler replies in a heavy American accent, “If I don’t steal it, someone else will steal it.” 

The Palestinan existence in the West Bank and in Israel is only a marginal improvement over that in Gaza. Palestinians, who are often dubbed “Israeli Arabs” in an attempt to erase their Palestinian identity, exist as second-class citizens in Israel. Those in the occupied West Bank are not citizens at all. The military occupation they live under deprives them of their basic human rights, they are often brutalized and deprived of their civil rights: they have a limited right to protest and are tried in Israeli military courts that have a near 100 percent conviction rate. They are subject to the humiliation of military checkpoints, of driving on separate roads. The myth of the cosmopolitan, liberal state of Israel, the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ crumbles under further inspection. Israel is a deeply unequal country, maintaining an abominably high Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality. The disparity between the Palestinian and Jewish exeprience is is the founding principle of the state. Israel’s Law of Return states that any Jewish personfrom around the world, no matter how far removed and unambiguously distinct from indigenous, can emigrate, but a Palestinian refugee, living so tantalizingly close to their homeland, cannot return. The Israeli “nation-state law,” passed in 2018, officially enshrines non-Jews as second-class citizens, and affirms that Israel is a country for only its Jewish citizens. It is an indisputable fact that Israel is an apartheid state. 

Israel, like America, was founded on extreme racism, and this permeates every aspect of its society. There is a reason why American white supremacists, who are openly antisemitic, have a special affinity for Israel, why Richard Spencer calls himself a “white Zionist.” The aims of white nationalists in America, who obsess over the supposed white genocide being driven by the browning of America through mass immigration, align with those of Israelis, who are equally fixated on culling Arab population growth. When Tucker Carlson was rightfully rebuked by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for his racist diatribe about “replacement theory,” he cited the ADL itself employing the same rhetoric to fret about the scourge of high Palestinian birth rates, and how their return to their homeland would destroy Israel. The similarities between Zionism, the founding ideology of Israel, and the alt-right are not incidental. Rather, they speak to Zionism's true nature. 

There is a tendency on the liberal left, particularly among American Jews and “progressive Zionists,” to pin the blame solely on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Netanyahu could only exist in an Israel that has swung firmly to the right and openly embraced its most racist and bigoted elements. Only fifteen percent of Israelis identify as leftist or even center left, and it was Labour Zionist Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the supposed symbol of the Israeli desire for peace, who said “I would like Gaza to sink into the sea.” Referring to slaughters in Gaza as “mowing the grass” is common. It's laughable to suggest that a now dead coalition between Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, which collapsed amidst the crisis in Gaza, would have done a single thing differently. The extremism of the politicians is derived from that of the Zionists settlers and the Israeli population at large. They are popular because they are the ones most willing to drop the veneer of morality behind Zionism. The quiet part is said out loud, and proudly at that. 


The American media indundates us with politicians and spokespeople robotically droning on about Israel’s “right to defend itself.” The line is second nature to our discourse; you’d be hard-pressed to find a congressperson’s statement about the current crisis that doesn’t use the exact phrase. But can it really be said that Israel’s actions constitute self-defense?  When this line is deployed, politicians are not referring to Israel’s use of the Iron Dome defense system; rather, they are asserting that absent possibly a nuclear strike, Israel can retaliate in whatever way it sees fit, violating whichever Geneva Conventions it sees as inconvenient. Any civilians that are killed can be retroactively labeled “human shields” ( a bizarre claim considering all investigations have found that it is the IDF that frequently uses human shields).  Collective punishment, a war crime, is deemed acceptable because the civil infrastructure is "linked to Hamas," ties that are unavoidable in one of the world’s most densely packed regions. And because “Hamas started it,” all these horrors are justified. But Hamas, founded nearly 40 years after the start of the Nakba, did not appear out of nowhere. It was not Hamas that forcibly expelled Palestinians and trapped them in Gaza. It was not Hamas that turned a once vibrant area into an unlivable open-air prison, where 2 million people are packed into 140 square miles — an area about the size of Philadelphia — where unemployment is well over 50 percent and 95 percent of the water is unsafe to drink. It was not Hamas that imposed a crippling blockade, unambiguously considered by international law to be an act of war, on one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. 

Claims that Hamas rules the Gaza strip are bunk; Israel has complete dominion over the strip and has done everything in its power to stamp out the Palestinians there. They control the airspace, the “border” (not internationally recognized), and the seas where Palestinians fish. They control everything that enters and leaves the strip. Any tally of lives taken by Israel leaves out the thousands of deaths it has caused through the blockade. It keeps vital medical equipment out, as well as restricting electricity and food. An Israeli government official once admitted the goal was to put Gaza “on a diet” and allow only the minimum calories necessary to prevent outright starvation. In a clear display of medical apartheid, a majority of Israelis have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while almost no Gazans have: an abdication of an occupying power’s legal responsibility to the people it occupies. 

The situation is so dire that those seeking to flee the violence can not even become refugees again. Gaza has no airport, and Israel fiercely guards the no-go zone it imposes on the Gaza “border.” In 2018, Palestinians participating in The Great March of Return protests were gunned down indiscriminately, simply for “approaching the fence,” leading to thousands of life-altering injuries. The Palestinian turn to Hamas was not made out of genocidal hatred. It was an entirely predictable turn born out of a desperation that was entirely avoidable on Israel’s part. 

Israel once believed Hamas to be a benefit to them, and helped fund its spread in order to undermine and divide the secular Fatah. Those claiming that the crisis stems from the Palestinians’ unwillingness to choose peace and moderation face an inconvenient truth in acknowledging that Israel got exactly what it wanted: a largely insignificant resistance that justifies a nuclear power presenting itself as the victim. Israel’s opposition was never to secular Arab nationalism or Islamism: it was to Palestinian liberation. 

And if Israel has a right to defend itself, does it not follow that Palestinians have the right to do so as well? In the West Bank, do Palestinians have the right to defend their homes from violent dispossession from settlers? Inside of Israel, do Palestinians have the right to protect their mosques from being desecrated, to protect their businesses from being destroyed and their people from being mauled in the streets by Israelis? And in the Gaza strip, that open-air prison, do Palestinians have the right to reject their imprisonment, to reject living a life where they are born marked for death, and to resist their occupation? This is a right rooted in international law. UN Resolution 37/43 “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” The principle that held true in the Warsaw uprising, that a people faced with death have the right to fight back against unceasing aggression, applies equally in this circumstance.

Much has been made of the “trauma” Israelis face having to hear sirens and go to bomb shelters. But ignored is the trauma Palestinians in Gaza face growing up in a war zone hearing bombs explode around them. The Iron Dome defense system prevents most rockets from even landing in Israel. No such system exists for Gazans, nor do they have state of the art bomb shelters to hunker down in.

While the deaths, typically Israeli ones, garner most of the attention, it is rarely acknowledged the trauma inflicted on those who are “lucky” enough to survive in Gaza. The median age in Gaza is 18, meaning that almost half the population has felt the devastating effects of the blockade almost all their lives. They have lived through the multiple deadly sieges on the region, and have had their childhoods marred with constant suffering and trauma. Nearly 40 percent of Gazan youth have considered suicide. The lives Israel has taken cannot simply be measured in death tolls; it must be measured in stolen years, in laughter never uttered, in milestones that never occurred, in families driven apart.  

Israel and Palestine are not two equal, opposing sides locked in a conflict that has raged for centuries. The struggle between the two is not hopelessly complex, as the Hasbaric line goes. Insofar as it is complex, it is only so because by how much time it would take to explain every element of Palestinian disposession. But it could not be more simple in terms of morality; attempts at framing it as a “both-sides issue” is the functional equivalent of “all lives matter.”  It is a story of oppressor and oppressed, of an apartheid state, with nuclear capabilies and $3.8 billion yearly from the world’s largest military, imposing its will upon a displaced people it despises and wishes would simply keel over and die. But Palestinians will not submit to this. They will not abide by the illusion of choice Israel and the United States have afforded them. They will not commit themselves to the pipe dream of a two-state solution. Palestinians want their freedom, from the river to the sea. And as Americans, especially, it is our duty to stand in solidarity with them. 

Solidarity, unlike support, goes beyond mere words. It involves dismantling the myriad of ways America is complicit in the oppression of Palestinians. It involves wholeheartedly embracing and practicing BDS, the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement. This calls for a boycott of Israeli companies, as well as those that are connected to Israel, through factories, headquarters, or investments. The international boycott of apartheid South Africa, a regime that Israel supported and tried to arm with nuclear weapons, was crucial to the struggle. Though the United States, per usual, was late to come around to the effort, the tireless effort of Americans committed to equality eventually turned the tide. The struggle against South African apartheid is not merely an analogy; the leaders of the struggle linked their cause with that of the Palestinians. Nelson Mandela, a U.S. designated “terrorist” until 2008, famously said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” BDS is a crucial way of achieving this. This is not to say that ethical consumption is entirely possible in all circumstances. But in select instances, it can be, and the sheer amount of resources the Israeli government and lobby has dedicated to criminalizing BDS suggests this is one of them. In 1986, Joe Biden claimed that Israel is “the best 3 billion dollar investment we make.” For Ben and Jerry’s, Sabra, Hewlett Packard, and other companies, we must make doing business with Israel and supporting occupation the worst investment they make. 

Solidarity with Palestine will also inevitably curry bad favor from the pro-Israel and Zionist community, and a successful movement involves recognizing and summarily dismissing their smears. We must not entertain, even for one second, the efforts of pro-Israel groups to link anti-Zionism with antisemitism, which has occured on this very campus with the adoption of IHRA, a partisan attempt to censor pro-Palestinian activism. We must reject fabricated nuance, the “arcanization” of Palestine that is only spoken of by those who sympathize with its oppressor.

True justice for Palestine can only come in one form, the one-state solution, where Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal rights, and Palestinians are afforded the right of return. Critics of this see this as a recipe for disaster, the destruction of the Jewish state. But the dismantling of an ethnostate that favors Jewish citizens above all others is something to be desired. It is said that such a thing denies Israel’s “right to exist.” But this is foolish. States do not exist by right. People do. It is in the interests of people, Israeli and Palestinian, that a binational state be the path forward. For Israel, in its current form, already constitutes a de facto single state. The only question left on the table is a choice between a single state with an indefinitely occupied, disenfranchised, subjugated population, or one that values equality. 

There is only one just solution:

Free Palestine.