Punishment of Gaza can’t be the solution

Before anything else, let me say this. When I say Israel, I mean the Israeli government. When I question or criticize Israel, I am questioning or criticizing the choices made by the Israeli government. 

I do not and will not fault all Jewish people, or all Israeli citizens, for the horrifying actions of the Israeli government. 

But I also don’t want to let the fear of being misunderstood keep me from speaking up. Especially when Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress and a much braver woman than I, was just censured. Why? For posting a video of pro-Palestinian protestors chanting “from the river to the sea.” It’s meant to be a chant for Palestinian liberation, but the House deemed it antisemitic. 

To simplify this, let’s briefly ignore the decades of Israeli occupation over Palestine and any past tragedies, regardless of what side they were on. Let’s say that the conflict between Palestine and Israel really did begin Oct. 7.

On Oct. 7, Hamas attacks Israel. 

It’s awful, and 1,400 Israelis are killed. It’s deeply sad, and on top of that, traumatizing for Jewish people across the world who are facing a rise in antisemitism. 

Then, Israel takes action.

And by action, I mean that since Oct. 7, Israel has dropped over 10,000 bombs on the Gaza Strip alone.

The Gaza Strip that is only 25 miles long and between four and eight miles wide. The Gaza Strip that has a population of 2.2 million people, almost half of which are children.

The Gaza Strip that only has three crossings through which people can leave (or enter), two of which are controlled by Israel. The third, controlled by Egypt, was bombed by Israel, blocking humanitarian aid from entering Gaza. 

On Oct. 21, Israel did allow 20 aid trucks (just a small portion of the trucks waiting outside the Rafah Crossing) into Gaza. But according to U.N. officials as stated in an article from Reuters, at least 100 trucks a day are required to cover urgent needs in Gaza. 

The ActionAid Communications and Advocacy Coordinator Riham Jafari said in an article from The Guardian that prior to this, “around 500 aid trucks would normally cross the border every day.” 

This humanitarian aid is so desperately needed not only because of the continuous airstrikes, but also because Israel has cut off access to electricity, water and fuel in Gaza. 

This cut-off, according to Israeli energy minister Israel Katz, will continue until Hamas releases all Israeli hostages. Which is to say that every civilian stuck in Gaza — regardless of whether or not they have any affiliation with Hamas — is being punished.

In saying this, Katz effectively admitted that Israel is committing a war crime, as outlined in the Geneva Conventions. 

The crime of collective punishment, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “refers not only to criminal punishment, but also to other types of sanctions, harassment or administrative action taken against a group in retaliation for an act committed by an individual/s who are considered to form part of the group. Such punishment therefore targets persons who bear no responsibility for having committed the conduct in question.”

The first response to any of this is often that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas. But does the right to defend itself give Israel the right to commit war crimes? Does the right to defend itself mean that Israel also has the right to continuously drop bombs that have killed over 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza? About 40% of which were children?

We don’t even know how many of those people were involved with Hamas. Even if we made the completely outrageous claim that all of the adults killed were members of Hamas, that still means that over 4,000 innocent children were killed. 

And what happens to the Palestinian children who live through this? What kind of environment does this violence and brutality leave for them? How do you expect them to feel about the Israeli government after watching their parents, their siblings, their friends and neighbors, suffer and die? Is it inconceivable to think that being so deeply hurt, traumatized and dehumanized by the Israeli government might just continue the cycle of violence? 

As reported in Time magazine, the Palestinian Ministry of Health issued a report on Oct. 15, stating that 47 families were wiped from the civil registry. Meaning that every member, every generation, of 47 different Palestinian families is now dead. 

Is that justified? Has Israel defended itself enough? And if not, how many more Palestinians need to die before Netanyahu and the rest of the government are satisfied? 

And what of the 150+ Palestinians killed by Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank, an area that Hamas has no access to? How exactly are those deaths defending Israel from Hamas? 

Even without the context of the 1948 Nakba and the displacement and oppression of Palestinians that followed, Israel’s military actions since Oct. 7 are horrifying.

There have been deaths and tragedies on both sides, from the beginning. But the ratio of Palestinian deaths compared to Israeli deaths is staggering. This is not to invalidate the mourning of Jewish and Israeli people, nor is it to reduce their lives simply to numbers. But it is to point out that there is a clear power difference between Israel and Palestine and we’re watching the devastating effects of that unfold. 

But why should we care all the way over here in the United States? How is this affecting us?

According to the U.S. State Department website, since 1948, the United States has provided Israel with over $130 billion that “has helped transform the Israel Defense Forces into one of the world’s most capable, effective militaries and turned the Israeli military industry and technology sector into one of the largest exporters of military capabilities worldwide.”

Was there nothing else that $130 billion could have been used for over the years? 

I urge you, even if you disagree with everything I’ve written, to look into this more. Especially if you disagree with everything I’ve written. 

Look at how mainstream Western media is covering this, look at how independent publications are covering this, look at how Arab publications like Al Jazeera and Israeli publications like Haaretz are covering this. 

Find journalists from Gaza on Instagram and look through the photos and videos they’ve been posting since this began. Donate to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund or the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Join the boycott against Starbucks, McDonald’s and Disney for their support of Israel. 

Call or email your representatives and share your stance. The majority do not support a ceasefire, despite protests across the country and in the capital, which lead to over 100 congressional staffers staging a walkout Nov. 8. 

Even our own Bernie Sanders, loved in part for his progressive (and, historically, anti-war) stances has rejected the idea of a permanent ceasefire.

So, what’s the solution then? We sit idly by while thousands and thousands of innocent people are killed? We let our tax dollars, which are meant to be used to provide us with needed services that we are still begging for, go instead toward funding what looks like a complete genocide of the Palestinian people? 

I can’t stand by that. 

Truthfully, I don’t know what the long-term solution is. But I do know that I am more inclined to listen to the journalists on the ground in Gaza, to the medical professionals from Doctors Without Borders and to the former IDF soldiers asking for a ceasefire, than I am to listen to politicians sitting in D.C. 

– Lily Doton, former editor of the Castleton Spartan

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