An older generation of Americans, including Jewish Americans, admire the colonists who resisted the British king and parliament in the late 1700s. Jewish Americans go further and admire the Judeans who revolted against the Greeks and Romans (twice) in antiquity.
So isn’t it peculiar that they do not applaud the similar Palestinian resistance to Israel’s domination? The most we get from U.S. politicians is Bernie Sanders’s weak statement about putting conditions on the massive aid to Israel, which is in political disarray because its ruling competition wants to subordinate the independent judiciary.
To appreciate the Palestinian resistance and daily Israeli attempts at suppression, watch the Mondoweiss video “On the Brink: Jenin’s Rising Resistance” (video and transcript). It begins like this:
Male Voice: “Palestinian health officials say at least nine Palestinians have been killed.” Female voice (Yumna Patel): “It was the bloodiest few [almost five] hours the West Bank had seen in years.” Male voice again: “More than a hundred military vehicles entered the camp [on Jan. 26 this year].” Female voice again: “Ten Palestinians [including two teen-aged boys and a 61-year-old woman sitting in her home] were killed in a single Israeli army raid. Dozens more were injured. Palestinians described it as a massacre, and it all took place in an area of less than half a square kilometer.”
According to host Patel, “The Jenin refugee camp is home to over 15,000 Palestinian refugees, the descendants of those who were forced out of their homes by Zionist militias in 1948, during the creation of the state of Israel.” Jenin is also home to “armed resistance groups who routinely confront Israel soldiers during army incursions into their camp,” On this latest raid Palestinian medics with the Red Crescent were kept by Israeli forces from administering aid.
Contrary to what you may have heard, this is not “antisemitism,” a word used to describe disparate things in different places throughout history, including criticism of Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians that goes back well over 100 years.
“In 2002,” Patel says, “in the midst of the Second Intifada, the Israeli army launched a massive invasion of the Jenin refugee camp following a number of suicide bombings inside Israeli territory. During the invasion, the army killed more than 50 Palestinians and destroyed more than 400 homes in the camp, displacing more than a quarter of the camp’s entire population. More than 20 years later, the effects of the 2002 invasion are still felt in the camp today.”
This is about individual rights and personal autonomy. “During January’s [this year] raid, Mohammad al-Sabbagh witnessed his family home being destroyed for the third time.” Also, “During the army raid on January 26, 21 years after his father was killed, Ziad al-Sabbagh barricaded himself alongside his comrades inside his family home during the army’s assault. Though he made it out alive, he was arrested by Israeli forces. And the al-Sabbagh family home was once again destroyed.”
“It’s death or freedom,” says one fighter. That sounds like Patrick Henry, who purportedly said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” (March 23, 1775, St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, speech at the Virginia convention.)
The unconscionably inhumane treatment of the Palestinians is either consistent with what are called Jewish values or it is not. If it is, well then… But if it is not, then why has it gone on 56 years after the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights were taken militarily (to be annexed in law or in fact) and 75 years after a group of Europeans declared the existence of Israel (no borders specified) and the Palestinians who managed to stay in Israel, despite the catastrophe (Nakba) of their brethren being driven from their homes, were made no better than second-class citizens (if that), subject to all sorts of government and quasigovernment mistreatment and discrimination? So much for Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which promised that “it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.” (This took place following a UN General Assembly recommendation that Palestine be divided, with more than half given to Jewish Europeans even though Jews were a minority of the Palestinian population and the UN had no right to partition the land.)
“Back in 2002,” Patel says, “the army framed the deadly invasion of the camp as a defensive measure to prevent future attacks against Israeli citizens. The raid on January 26 was justified for the same reasons. But the residents say that Israel’s frequent raids over the years have only created more resentment and motivated more people to take up arms.”
Jamal Hweil told Patel: “Any person who wants to know the truth has to ask, is the resistance a result or a cause? The cause is the presence of the occupation. The cause is the existence of the [refugee] camp and the displacement of the Palestinian people and the persistence of the refugee issue. The cause is the presence of an occupation of our lands. Resistance isn’t the cause. Resistance is the result.”
As a young Jenin Brigade fighter told Patel: “The world must know that we are not terrorists, as the [Israeli] occupation claims. We are fighters in the name of God. We came out of our mothers’ wombs into this world to fight this occupier, who has stolen our religion, our customs, our traditions, and who has killed our fathers and our brothers. The world needs to know we aren’t terrorists. The occupation is the only terrorist in this world.” He continued:
What pushed me towards resistance are my own personal convictions, from what I’ve seen in my life. We were brought up as kids in the middle of this, every day an army raid, every day an operation, every day someone is arrested, everyday youth are executed, women are executed. The occupation enters the camp and the city without differentiating between the old and the young. It will kill whoever is in its way.
Says Patel: “The Jenin Brigade was started in 2021 by fighters affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement but has since evolved to include fighters from a number of factions in the camp. The new cross-factional model has since inspired the birth of other groups outside Jenin, who spread messages of Palestinian unity against Israeli occupation.” [Emphasis added.]
“It’s a message,” Patel says, “that hadn’t been heard in years, and it has appealed primarily to young men, who have grown increasingly disillusioned with their own leaders after decades of political infighting and a stalled peace process.” [Emphasis added.]
As one fighter says, “When this generation witnesses this frustration, when it sees a dead end on the political horizon, when it sees the worsening economic conditions, what do you expect from these youths?”
Ammar Izz al-Din told Patel: “Enough of the ‘negotiations.’ These negotiations have brought us nothing. Since I was born I’ve been hearing about negotiations, and it’s all been for nothing. You can’t negotiate with Israel.”
I’m not endorsing violence, but this despair is Israel’s — its rulers’ and most of its people’s — fault; they have all refused to address the Palestinians’ legitimate grievances. The former head of the World Zionist Organization, Nahum Goldmann, wrote in his 1969 autobiography that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, told him that were he an Arab, he wouldn’t talk to Israel’s founders because “We had taken their country.” (And let’s remember how the Israelites came to possess all of Canaan in the first place, according to the book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible.)
A day after the latest Israeli raid, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem whose grandfather was killed by an Israeli settler in 1998, “killed seven people inside an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.” He was killed at the scene. Yet the government of Benjamin Netanyahu cracked down, Patel reports, “announcing sweeping measures that rights groups warned amounted to collective punishment…. At the same time, Israeli settlers in the West Bank carried out a series of ‘revenge’ attacks against Palestinians, burning people’s homes and cars, hurling rocks at Palestinian vehicles, and even shooting at Palestinians with live ammunition. It was reported that in a single night, settlers carried out close to 150 attacks against Palestinians and their property.”
Why care about this? Because the U.S. government, influenced by the Israel lobby (Rep. Ilhan Omar was essentially right when she said it was “all about the Benjamins;” for some politicians it is), gives billions in military aid to Israel every year. And Netanyahu, with his eyes on Iran as a world, threatens to start a war or to goad America. into starting it.
It may be worth a reminder that the prophet Hosea (4:1-2, 6-7, 9) said, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood…. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…. As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame…. and I will punish them for their ways….”
And Jeremiah (32:42), “For thus saith the Lord; …I have brought all this great evil upon this [‘my’] people.”
And Ezekiel (7:8) says, “Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee [‘Israel’], and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.”
I’m not saying this, and I don’t buy it. But it’s in The Book!
Admittedly this is a god who reportedly ordered genocide against other Canaanites and was angrier at the children of Israel for worshiping other gods than for anything else. But the remnant of anti-Zionist Jews (bless their hearts) such as the American Council for Judaism interpret unfaithfulness to include a failure to act justly. and idolatry as the placement of the Jewish state above all else. It is ironic that Israel does not heed its own foundational, if allegorical, texts.
Thomas Jefferson’s statement concerning American slavery, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, comes to mind: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just….”
Of course the reason for Israel and Jewish Americans to behave justly toward the Palestinians is not Yahweh’s wrath. It’s justice itself!
As I wrote in Coming to Palestine:
Realization of the [Zionist] dream of a Jewish state logically entailed the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians, who by the common standard of justice were legitimate owners of their land. Those who remained were made third-class citizens or even worse in an apartheid state. The countless micro offenses against those individuals were compounded by a macro offense: the destruction of their flourishing culture, communities, and country….. [H]ere’s one thing advocates of universal freedom and justice can say: The rights of the Palestinians must not be plastered over by irrelevant claims about the Jewish State’s right to exist.