Shifting Tides in The Middle East

The United States exports many things, but democracy is certainly not one of them. The U.S. government has supported undemocratically elected leaders and regimes that practice undemocratic practices. The apartheid state of Israel is a shining example of the a government propped up by the enormous economic support of the U.S. and evangelical right religious groups.

U.S. aide to Israel is $3.8 billion per year. That’s over $10 million a day! That kind of money buys a whole lot of influence. And what the US gets is an ally in the Middle East. The buffer state of Israel was founded in May 1948 and occupies one of the holiest cities in the Middle East: Jerusalem. Historically, Israel has had contentious relations with its neighbors in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

With such close relations with the American Empire, it is no wonder that Israel is one of the most militarily advanced and well-protected states in the world. Among their arsenal is  the state-of-the-art defensive weapon known as the Iron Dome. It can track thousands of missiles simultaneously and shoot them out of the sky while, allowing only a few of them to make any impact. It was developed by the Israeli firms Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries with financial and technological support from the U.S.A.

Ironically, Israel is the oppressor of the native people that have lived in the area for hundreds of years. The occupation of Palestinian lands began in 1948, known as Nakba. It translates as “disaster” or “catastrophe.” Which is exactly what struck the Palestinian people when Jewish settlers took the land they had no claim to. Israel essentially has rounded up people into Gaza or the West Bank.

Finally, in 1987, the intifada began: an uprising from the Palestinian people to stay on their land and keep the property their ancestors had a claim to. Intifada literally means “tremor” or “shivering,” from the root, nafada, mean “shake off” or  “get rid of.” They stood up to the oppressors and the shameful killing of innocent civilians, children, the sick, and the elderly.

In 2003, Israel restricted Palestinians to Gaza and in 2007, imposed a blockade forcing people to live in horrid conditions with very little. Israeli human rights group Gisha has compiled an extensive list of things that are not allowed to be imported. Items such as cement and iron, so that it ‘doesn’t fall into the hands of Hamas.’ Yet, it also prevents civilians from rebuilding their homes. Which Israeli forces manage to destroy rather often. While the Israel Foreign Minister denies that this contraband list even exists.

The Palestinian Authority has been the main negotiating body for the Palestinian people for decades. However, in recent years, the people have elected Hamas leaders in their elections. The people are sick of burying their loved ones and are hopeful that Hamas will bring about the change necessary to bring peace and return Palestine to the country that it ought to be. However, as long as the U.S. backs Israel, that proves to be difficult.

For the first time in history, the narrative has finally shifted. The world is starting to understand that Israel is an oppressive force in the Middle East. The world is starting to see how many atrocities are occurring daily. With Israel targeting traditional media outlets in Palestine, social media outlets and the internet have made it possible for everyone to see a glimpse into what occurs without a filtered lens Israel puts on for media outlets.

Israel has committed many crimes against humanity, such as bombing hospitals, bombing journalism buildings, and arresting protestors and trying children in military courts. Israel doesn’t acknowledge the International Criminal Court. Without international pressure, they will not be held accountable for the crimes they have committed in the past 73 years. They must to be held accountable.

In Grand Rapids, there are many individuals and organizations marching to Free Palestine.  Palestinian and Arab American activists as well as the Grand Rapids Anti-War Committee, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Democratic Socialists of America, Bimose Ode (Walk Along with Heart) and the Institute for Global Education, and many others came together in May to bring the message to the streets. There have been many rallies. And there will be many more.

Those of us who have all the privileges of living in the safety of Grand Rapids must use our voices to amplify the needs of the oppressed peoples of Palestine. The injustices carried out against them cannot go unnoticed.