- If you are unsure of where to stand on this issue or to even take any stand at all, know that Israel’s position enjoys avowed support from the likes of Donald Trump, Steven Miller, Richard Spencer, and Narendra Modi.
Last year for American Kahani, I shared a harrowing account of my experience visiting the West Bank in January 2020, only a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic devastatingly struck the U.S. Under incredibly heartbreaking circumstances today, I come back once again, this time with a pleading message to my fellow Indian Americans: Please take a clear and unapologetic stand for the freedom of Palestinians from Israeli occupation and apartheid.
Over the past few weeks, you might have seen disturbing footage of Israel bombing buildings in the Gaza Strip — a place inhabited by Palestinians that has been described by the UN as ‘unlivable.’ These recent bombings have already killed over 200 Gazans, including over 60 children. You might have also seen reporting from news outlets referring to the horrifying and violent events unfolding between Gaza and Israel as one that is exceedingly “complex.” I think comedian John Oliver put it best this week in his segment resoundingly condemning Israel when he stated quite clearly: “While some things are incredibly complex and require a great deal of context, others are just wrong.”
The depiction of this issue by Western media has traditionally been a “both sides” narrative in which Israel and Palestine are two entities that are on seemingly equal footing. Two conflicted parties with equal resources, equal finances, equal levels of international support, equal militaries — equal power. In reality, the following statement is an undeniable fact: only one side is an occupying state with one of the world’s most advanced militaries backed by the world’s most powerful country, and only one side is an occupied, stateless population with no army, financial means, or unwavering allied superpower to resist its occupier. What Palestinians have been enduring for over seven decades could not be more painfully clear — a dehumanizing, hellish condition imposed on them by Israel that ultimately has amounted to ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and slow-motion genocide.
While such terms are not to be used frivolously, the sobering reality in the case of Israel is — they aren’t. Alongside Palestinians and other human rights groups, even Israel’s own human rights organization B’Tselem is now plainly calling Israel an apartheid state under international law that systematically favors Jewish Israelis over Palestinians (for more, read this piece by Human Rights Watch: “Say Israel is Committing Apartheid? It’s Not a Decision We Reached Lightly.”) This systematic discrimination is upheld by Israel’s military, government, and law and cosigned by every U.S. administration, Democratic and Republican alike, save for a few hundred million dollars per year provided in humanitarian assistance to Palestinians that largely wouldn’t be necessary if the root of the issue was addressed in the first place.
For decades, Palestinians and their vocal allies have been falsely smeared as proponents of terrorism and perhaps most troublingly, anti-Semitism. Any sincere ally in this fight, which the overwhelming majority of people are, believes that the struggle for Palestinian liberation is an anti-racist, anti-settler-colonial struggle that does not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form. While no single definition is complete, the heart of this cause is to free an occupied, dispossessed people from an unending occupation and ensure their right to self-determination in their own homeland.
If you are still unsure of where to stand on this issue or to even take any stand at all, know that Israel’s position enjoys avowed support from the likes of Donald Trump, Steven Miller — the architect of the family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, Richard Spencer — a prominent white supremacist who wants to emulate Israel’s conception of a Jewish ethnostate for white people, and Narendra Modi. The most right-wing supporters of Modi and the BJP often praise Israel in a similar fashion to Spencer, imagining the possibility of a Hindu ethnostate in India at the expense of all religious minorities, but particularly Muslims. If we can so easily denounce Donald Trump and everything he stands for here, it should not be hard to make the ideological leap from Trumpism to the BJP’s Hindu nationalism to Israel’s ethnonationalism: creating and sustaining the plight of Palestinians since 1948.
Albeit cautiously, I’m heartened to believe that with the recent outpouring of rallies in solidarity across major U.S. cities, the increased amplification of Palestinian voices on mainstream news outlets, and the growing denunciation of Israel’s crimes against humanity by prominent figures in media and culture, the tide might be starting to turn on Israel and Palestine. To any person reading who believes that every human should live free from bombs, checkpoints, prolonged detainments, torture, house raids, home demolitions, forced expulsions (most recently in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah) and should have equal access to land, water, and resources — now is your time to join this cause.
In the spirit of this changing tide, oscillating ever so slowly but surely towards the right side of history, I ask you as my fellow Indian-Americans also concerned about human rights, freedom, and equality for all to join me in solidarity with Gaza and Palestine. It is the absolute bare minimum we can do.
(To support Palestinians today, you can contact your member of Congress to take action, get involved in your local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, and donate to the following organizations: Medical Aid for Palestine, Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, Palestine Red Crescent Society, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.)
Aparna Priyadarshi is a development practitioner working in the field of rural development and a recent graduate from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs. Outside work, Aparna is a writer on issues related to injustice. Her writings include topics such as white supremacy in the United States, Hindu nationalism in India, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.