Palestinian Lives Matter

Photo Credit: Olivier Matthys

by Jeff Klein

When the slogan “Black Lives Matter” was popularized after a wave of police murdering unarmed African Americans, there were those – even well-meaning people – who were puzzled. Don’t all lives matter?

Activists had to explain: Of course, all lives matter, but that will never be the case so long as Black lives are specifically devalued.

That is where we are in Palestine today. On seemingly every side, we are hearing from our political and media establishment effectively that Palestinian lives do not matter. Of course, it is only human to mourn the loss of innocent life on all sides. But the fact is that there is a long record ignoring the much greater number of Palestinian victims and the atrocities committed against them.

When in 1948 three quarters of a million Palestinians – and at least hundreds of thousands more in 1967 – were ethnically cleansed from their homes, much of the world looked the other way. When the UN demanded a right of Palestinian refugees to return, the US made sure that no action would be taken. When millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza after 1967 were forced to live with no rights under Israeli occupation, the US upped its financial and military aid to Israel.

When 2 million Palestinians in Gaza were placed under brutal blockade by Israel after 2007, US support for Israel remained steadfast. When Israel periodically bombed Gaza – with US-supplied planes and bombs – killing thousands, including children, and called their attacks, brutally, “Mowing the grass,” the US establishment shrugged.

That’s why we must be the ones to break this cycle. The time to act is now.

When the Israeli Defense Minister threatens a total siege on Gaza – adding “They will have no electricity, food or fuel. We are fighting human beasts” – this language, which echoes historic crimes of genocide, is met with tacit “understanding” from our leaders.

But when Palestinians strike back from Gaza, as they did this week, they are only labeled as “terrorists.” When Palestinians and their allies propose pressuring Israel with a peaceful Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement modelled on the opposition to South African Apartheid, they are called “antisemites.”

Meanwhile, we hear everywhere strident calls for solidarity with Israel and an outpouring of sympathy for Israeli casualties while remaining silent on – or worse, justifying –  the fate of millions of people trapped in Gaza under Israeli bombs. Like the racist response we heard to BLM, that “White Lives Matter,” our establishment is saying, in effect, that only “Israeli Lives Matter.”

We cannot accept this. All lives, Israeli as well as Palestinian, will not be safe unless we change US policy that effectively fuels the violence and provides one-sided financial, diplomatic and military support to the radical rightwing and Apartheid government of Israel. If we truly value all lives in Palestine-Israel, then it is time for a new US policy that promotes peace, justice and human rights for everyone.