The ongoing displacement of Palestinian people is one of the greatest crises of the 20th and 21st centuries, creating a population of 5.2 million Palestinians who live under the duress of military occupation, forced evictions, violent bombings and airstrikes, and legal and social discrimination. The most appalling figure, though, is the population of over 5.6 million Palestinian refugees, as of 2019, according to the United Nations. Palestinians are the only population in the world in which refugees outnumber the citizens — a stark reminder of the institutionalized violence and military attacks Palestinians have faced under Israel’s occupation.
The evictions and expulsions of Palestinians from their communities, specifically Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in Jerusalem in recent months, have sparked international debate on the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinian people. Videos of families crying and resisting as they were forced out of their own homes spread like wildfire on social media. Elders spoke about the history they would lose and the generations who called these communities their home.
On top of both the legal and extrajudicial violence experienced by Palestinians from settlers, military officers, and the whole legal system entirely, Palestinian communities in Gaza have been ruthlessly bombed again and again by the Israeli military. Videos of these attacks and their devastating aftermath have also been circulated widely across social media platforms, gaining traction across the world. The rationale for the bombings, according to the government, is to target “specific terrorist installations.” By that same line of reasoning, they consider the countless homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces, stores, and lives that are destroyed in the process to just be “collateral damage.” The Palestinian death toll on May 22, 2021, after an 11-day onslaught of Israeli air and artillery attacks, stood at 248 people, including 66 children. Nearly 2,000 people were wounded. And yet, the Israeli government still argues that such violence is justified.
In the past several weeks, Palestinian solidarity marches and rallies have risen up across the world, from the United States, Spain, Italy, Iran, Somalia, Australia, France, and Germany. Calls for an end to the violence, the forced expulsions, ethnic cleansing, were all common demands at many of the rallies, which expressed support for the Palestinian people. This was especially important in the face of silence and complicity from the United States, which has continuously supported the Israeli government despite its multiple human rights violations. In fact, on May 19, 2021, the Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, on top of the $3.8 billion it gave in aid to Israel in 2020, as part of a “long-term, yearly commitment made under the Obama administration.” The majority of this aid, too, was for “military assistance.”
Even as both sides recently reached a cautious ceasefire, activists and organizers have warned allies to stay focused and alert. Even with a hold on the most egregious, physical violence, Palestinians continue to face human rights violations, treated as second-class citizens under Israeli occupation. Many others feared that the ceasefire also would not last, and that ongoing attacks would continue again – and they were unfortunately right.
For those around the world, bearing witness to the Palestinian human rights crisis, this is not the time to let up. After countless testimonies from victims and families that have been torn apart, ignorance is no longer an excuse to turn a blind eye. We must push forward and demand dignity and humanity for Palestinians, who have resisted oppression and violence for decades. By attending protests, reading Palestinian writers and authors, boycotting brands that partake in human rights violations, and demanding action from government officials through letters, calls, and petitions, we have the opportunity to support our Palestinian brothers and sisters in righting their fate and upholding their human rights.
Whether you call it ethnic cleansing, forced expulsion, or even chalk it up to unfortunate violence, it is clear that such human rights violations cannot be allowed to continue. Despite Western superpowers’ best efforts to ignore the crisis, or even take part by complicitly funding an oppressive regime, people around the world are standing up — against their governments, against injustice, against needless violence, all chanting the same thing: “Free Palestine!”