For people in South Africa and around the world, here are some practical ways to help the people of Palestine, and to understand what is happening.
On Friday night, the world watched in horror as Israeli forces stormed Al Haram Al Sharif, Masjid-ul-Aqsa, the third holiest site for Muslims, attacking worshippers. This state-inflicted violence came as the apartheid Israel state plans to evict several families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Zionist settlers. It happened as Israel celebrated “Jerusalem Day,” which celebrates their capture and illegal occupation of the east of the city in 1967.
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These actions from the Israeli state as they continue to oppress the Palestinian people are not new. They have their roots in the more than 70 years of oppression and occupation that Palestinians have endured.
One of the best and most important ways to help the people of Palestine is through education. Education and understanding history will allow people to understand that the recent attacks on worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan or the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah did not come out of nowhere.
The evictions are rooted in the origin and mission of the apartheid Israel state. The evictions in Sheikh Jarrah of four families are connected to the Nakba of 1948. During the Nakba, the Zionist state invaded over 500 Palestinian towns and villages. They displaced over 750 000 Palestinian people to create the state of Israel. The same families from 1948 are once more being evicted from their homes to make way for settlers.
As for the attacks on Al-Aqsa, the Jewish settlers refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times. There have been many reports that Israelis are digging tunnels under the mosque to access these temples. Every day, Palestinians face state violence whether it’s through checkpoints, apartheid walls, economic stagnation, or being made illegal in their own land. They also face attacks from the settlers who are occupying the land illegally. The recent escalation in attacks just builds off the daily oppression.
Listen to Palestinians
It is important to elevate and promote the voices of Palestinians.
The people of Palestine are not voiceless and do not need other people to represent their struggles for them. They are able to vocalise their struggles and their hopes for the future. They do not need to be spoken for or at. This includes representing them as a monolith or co-opting the struggles. While the recent images of the attacks on Al-Aqsa and worshippers have shown many Palestinian Muslims, not all Palestinians are Muslims. There are many Palestinian Christians who are subjected to the same abuses and oppressions as the Muslims. It is important to recognise that.
Secondly, some people have used the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter to raise awareness of what is happening. This is an co-opting of the #BlackLivesMatter movement which raises awareness about police violence against African-Americans. Palestinian people have stood in solidarity with other oppressed peoples without co-optating theose movements.
While making sure not to co-opt Palestinian struggles and conflate them with other global movements, social media is a powerful tool nevertheless. It can be used to amplify the voices and posts of Palestinian activists and journalists on the ground. They risk their lives to shoot photos and videos to share with the rest of the world. This places them as targets for Israeli soldiers and settlers. By sharing their posts, it allows a greater reach and for more people to understand what is happening on the ground. Many news organisations around the world have framed what is happening in Palestine as clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli police. Through reports on the ground, a clearer picture emerges of what is actually happening.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a global movement started by Palestinians. It encourages people to boycott the products produced by the Israeli state. The movement “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
People can get involved by making more conscious efforts when buying products to find where they are sourced from. With sanctions, pressure should be placed on governments and representatives to end all relationships with Israel whether it’s political and economic. While the South African government has continually condemned the Israeli government for its actions against the Palestinians, South Africa still has an ambassador from Israel and has not put any sanctions on Israel.
Along with being subjected to state and settler violence on a daily basis, many Palestinian people are suffering from dire economic situation. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands means that many people do not have any employment and are living in poverty. For people who are able to donate money to the various organisations working in Palestine to assist them with basic resources, this will help to assist the people of Palestine.