If you’re like me, you probably can’t swipe through more than five Instagram stories without coming across one of the same three infographics that your well-intentioned undergrad friends seem so god damn desperate for you to see. I’m not sure if everyone really wants me to know “what’s going on in Sheikh Jarrah,” or if everyone just really wants me to think that they’re woke enough to have known where Sheikh Jarrah is, but I’m sure it’s a little of both.
This does leave me wondering though: what do those infographics have that I don’t? I mean, making people feel woke by explaining complicated bullshit that definitely matters to a lot of people but that realistically doesn’t affect the reader’s day to day lives is like the entire business model of these blogs, so why is everyone sharing pastel Powerpoints instead of Morning Woods? Is it something about me? Whatever, I don’t give a shit.
Anyway, let me try and dig up this lede. Basically, the infographics started on Monday, after Israeli police attacked worshippers with rubber bullets and tear gas inside the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, sparking mob violence along ethnic lines in parts of Jerusalem, as well as in many Israeli cities with large Arab populations, like the city of Lod.
Since Monday, continued police brutality against Palestinians in Jerusalem has been alleged; Hamas, the militant governing body of Gaza, a small territory in the Southwest of the region which Israel has kept blockaded against the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt since 2005 in what experts say amounts to an ongoing war crime, fired rockets into civilian-occupied areas of Israel, killing seven so far; Israel responded by bombarding Gaza with airstrikes that have killed around 80-100 people including children; and yesterday, Israel advanced ground troops to the Gaza border, which are apparently “attacking,” according to the Israel Defence Forces Twitter account.
Israel began occupying the West Bank territory of Palestine, including East Jerusalem in 1967, following the Six Day War, the aftermath of which saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians driven from their homes. Since then, Israeli settlers have further expanded the state’s influence by forming communities and taking over the homes of Palestinians living on the border lands. Most recently, settlers have been eyeing homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, threatening the current occupants with eviction and further inflaming tensions. On Tuesday, Israel’s supreme court postponed its forthcoming decision on the matter; an attorney representing the families facing displacement told Al Jazeera that he’s confident the delay is a result of “popular resistance.”
The escalating violence is threatening to revive the spectre of chaos that has so often plagued the region. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on his promise to expand across “all Jerusalem,” and promised “great force” in retaliation against Hamas’ rocket attacks, a promise he certainly kept — just ask the dead kids. On the other hand, observers have commented that the rocket attacks amount to political positioning from Hamas, which has had clashes with the West Bank’s autonomous government, the Palestinian Authority. And of course, there are still the lynch mobs.
So that’s what’s been happening in Israel/Palestine — more or less. If you’re confused, maybe go swipe through a corporate-minimalist cartoon or two and come back, cause I really don’t have the energy for more context right now. Also, you have no fucking idea how painful reporting on this subject is until you’re re-reading each paragraph six times to make sure you haven’t accidentally offended an entire population by using the wrong verb tense or some shit.
It’s a minefield to talk about, for sure, but imagine having to navigate it while also trying to make sure you’re still backing your country’s interests. Yeah, it would be a fucking nightmare, which might explain why every country’s response to the recent outbreak of violence has been self-serving, shallow bullshit, completely detatched from the reaities on the ground.
The U.S. condemned all violence, but when a reporter asked State Department spokesperson Ned Price to condemn the killing of Palestinian children, he didn’t. The U.S. has urged both sides to de-escalate, but it blocked the UN security council, which met in emergency sessions on Monday and Wednesday, from releasing a statement also calling for de-escalation because it said the draft statement was “unhelpful.” Anonymous diplomats at that meeting told the Times of Israel that the original draft statement, introduced by Norway, called on Israel to call off the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. The statement also called for the maintenance of the status quo, especially around holy sites, echoing sentiments from an earlier statement from Jordan’s ambassador to the U.S. Another diplomat “expressed bewilderment” at the U.S.’s decision, according to the Times.
The E.U. and Canada also called for calm, though they did manage to slip in a condemnation of the killing of civilians in Israeli air strikes alongside the routine condemnation of Hamas’ escalation, and several Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman condemned Israel’s violation of the right to worship, which is guaranteed under international law. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to extend his support, saying he would “do everything in his power to mobilise the world, starting with the Islamic world, to stop Israel's terror and occupation.
Israeli air strikes have targeted buildings housing civilians, which Israel says also house Hamas militants, weapons, and/or offices. Either way, their destruction violates the Geneva convention.
Okay, so first of all, shut the fuck up Erdogan, if you had the power to mobilize the world to do anything, they would’ve let you into the EU by now, and second of all, are you guys starting to notice a pattern? It has to do with the fact that none of these statements contain anything of any use to anybody, other than political posturing along different sides of a conflict that keeps resurfacing the same way every time. All these statements do is reduce severely complex issues to talking points, sound bites, and catch phrases.
Which is the same thing that everyone does anytime anyone wants to talk about conflict in Israel/Palestine. They toss around buzzwords like “apartheid state,” which is what Human Rights Watch called Israel in the most scathing recent human rights report on Israel, which might not honestly be saying much, and expect something like that to what? Shame Israel into not abusing human rights? And do we think that Hamas is going to just disarm itself if enough countries call it a terrorist group? Probably fucking not.
So we need to be honest with each other about what we're talking about when we release statements on Israel and Palestine. That region presents a unique problem, one that cannot be reduced to soundbites, or references to apartheid and Manifest Destiny and other instances of historical oppression; this is a new thing. The grandstanding about retaliation and self-defence and ending terror does nothing to ease the pain of the families of those who have been killed. Nor does pleading for respect for the status quo. This is nothing other than a unique instance of settler colonialism, wrapped up in about a thousand other issues that we have to get through, but until we can extricate the suffering of innocents at the hands of both sides from the politics, the fact is, people will continue to die. We need to deal with the colonialism for sure, but avoiding mass casualties comes first, and the international community is not actively helping with fucking either.
At least, in the mean time, I think every country should have an obligation to disclose why they make the statements they do, and what they left out of it. Because we're dealing with a landscape where everyone has different interests. Some wish to preserve the status quo and stability, as with the majority of other countries, while others wish to destroy Israel. Some are Zionists, while others just want equal rights, some want justice but aren't in a position to speak it, and for others, justice isn't in their best interest. But at the end of the day, let's all remember that Hamas rocketed civilians, and Israel bombed apartments, so if there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that war crimes rule.