On Palestine: Many Voices, Same Message

Published June 25, 2021

By Samya Ali

The discourse about Israel and Palestine has widened, become more honest and aligned with facts rather than ideological positioning and propaganda. Many people around the world are speaking up, no longer willing to stay silent even though the reprisals against them might include branding them as anti-Semitic. Below is a small sampling of recent (except for the first item) statements, reports, and critiques about Israeli abuses that demonstrate the tide is turning. The first one is a video of an Irish MP Richard Boyd Barrett who “speaks truth to power,” in this case to the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland. This video clip is of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Irish parliament, discussing in 2014 the situation in Gaza. But is well worth watching and realizing that until 2021, almost no politician in the U.S. would have dared to speak with such courage and candidness about Israel.

Irish politician condemns Israel and rebukes Israeli ambassador

“Why do you allow it [the expansion of settlements] to happen, if you’re serious about giving this land to the Palestinians. It’s absolutely extraordinary. Are you not just taking us, Ambassador, for idiots that you can say with a straight face ‘we’re serious about peace but while we’re serious about peace we’re going to seize Palestinian land’ and you expect the Palestinians to sit back and do nothing about that…”


Former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa: “…actions in the occupied territories now meet the legal definition of the crime of apartheid under international law”

Two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa, Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel, wrote an opinion piece published by a South African news site, The two former Israeli diplomats state that, based on what they saw in South Africa during their time as ambassadors, Israel operates an apartheid system in the occupied territories. What is newsworthy is that these two are Israelis, former ambassadors to apartheid South Africa. It is worth reading the entire piece but here is a short excerpt:

“The bantustans of South Africa under the apartheid regime and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today are predicated on the same idea of concentrating the ‘undesirable’ population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves. By gradually driving these populations from their land and concentrating them into dense and fractured pockets, both South Africa then and Israel today worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy.”

Baruch and Liel go on to state, “This week, we mark the fifty-fifth year since the occupation of the West Bank began. It is clearer than ever that the occupation is not temporary, and there is not the political will in the Israeli government to bring about its end. Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Israel has crossed a threshold and its actions in the occupied territories now meet the legal definition of the crime of apartheid under international law. Israel is the sole sovereign power that operates in this land, and it systematically discriminates on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. Such a reality is, as we saw ourselves, apartheid. It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too. And just as the world joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action in our case as well and work towards building a future of equality, dignity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

Human Rights Watch: ‘The Crimes Against Humanity of Apartheid and Persecution’

In a report in April of this year, A Threshold Crossed – Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, Human Rights Watch described Israeli crimes against humanity. HRW is an NGO that refuses all government funding so as to remain independent and non-partisan in its research and advocacy. HRW won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its campaign to ban landmines. The report says in part: “Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

B’Tselem: Israel Promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians

In January of this year, B’Tselem published a report titled A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid. B’Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. On their website they state that the organization “strives to end Israel’s occupation, recognizing that this is the only way to achieve a future that ensures human rights, democracy, liberty and equality to all people, Palestinian and Israeli alike, living on the bit of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” In the report, they state the following:

“A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime. Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, was not born in one day or of a single speech. It is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalized and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy. These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met.”

American politicians condemn the recent military assault on Gaza

• Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, spoke at length to the House of Representatives on May 13 about the situation in Palestine. Part of what he told members of Congress is the following: “When serious human rights abuses compound, such as the recent attacks on places of worship, like the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the forced removal of people from their homes, most recently in East Jerusalem, but ongoing in the West Bank for way too long, the jailing and military court trials for Palestinian children, the dehumanization of the lives of the Palestinians by having roads and entrances that are separate for some people–which all too often looks like a former South Africa, the blockade and open-air prison conditions for the people in Gaza, where food and clean water is often scarce…Today, we want to talk about the very long-term problems that have been, for too long, ignored by U.S. policies in the region. Fortunately, now more and more Members of Congress are wanting to address peace in this region in a more forthright way. As human rights giant South African Desmond Tutu said, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’”

• Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) came right out and described Israel as an “apartheid” state.

• Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) told President Biden when he arrived in Detroit in mid-May, “The U.S. cannot continue to give the right-wing [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government billions each year to commit crimes against Palestinians. Atrocities like bombing schools cannot be tolerated, much less conducted with U.S.-supplied weapons.”

• Ilhan Omar, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL-MN), has stated, “The United States should not stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being committed with our backing.”

• Cori Bush (D-MO) stated explicitly in a speech to Congress, “The fight for Black lives and the fight for Palestinian liberation are interconnected. We oppose our money going to fund militarized policing, occupation, and systems of violent oppression and trauma. We are anti-war. We are anti-occupation. And we are anti-apartheid. Period.”

Mainstream media condemn Israeli assault on Gaza

• MSNBC host Ali Velshi, in mid-May, talked about the situation in Israel and Palestine. He said, “The idea that it is even remotely controversial to call what Israel has imposed on Palestinians a form of apartheid is laughable. One look at a current map of Israel, Gaza, and the Occupied Territories conjures up only one other example: apartheid-era South Africa… After more than seven decades of being deprived of land from which they were evicted, Palestinian frustration runs deep. It may be worth going deeper than what you may hear inside your bubble and understanding the depth to which the Palestinian people are subject to apartheid in their own land, deprived of basic necessities and subject to relentless civil right violations.”


• HBO’s show Last Week Tonight is hosted by political commentator and comedian John Oliver. During his show on May 17, he talked about the assault on Gaza. He said, “While most of the rockets aimed toward Israeli citizens this week were intercepted, Israel’s airstrikes were not. They hit their targets, including a … 13-story office and apartment building. And while Israel insisted there were military targets in that building, and they destroyed it as humanely as possible — even warning people to evacuate beforehand — for the record, destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime, regardless of whether you send a courtesy ‘Heads up’ text.” He also stated, “Multiple children have been killed this week — eight in a single strike just yesterday — and the U.S. is heavily implicated here, not just by serving as Israel’s diplomatic shield at the U.N. but by constantly refusing to criticize the indefensible…”


• In an opinion piece in the New York Times on May 19, The ‘Unshakable’ Bonds of Friendship With Israel Are Shaking, senior NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof, wrote, “If you oppose war crimes only by your enemies, it’s not clear that you actually oppose war crimes.” He notes that “…today, especially within the Democratic Party, those bonds [of friendship] are shaking as Netanyahu resisted a cease-fire in Gaza. He leaves us wondering: Why should our tax dollars subsidize a rain of destruction that has killed scores of children, damaged 17 hospitals and clinics and forced 72,000 people to flee their homes?” He writes, “Netanyahu has used American cover to expand settlements and pretty much destroy any hope of a two-state solution. He has winked at domestic extremism, so that at least 100 new WhatsApp groups in Israel (with names like ‘Death to Arabs’) encourage violence against Palestinians. And now he is bombing Gaza and igniting street fighting that President Reuven Rivlin of Israel has called a ‘civil war.’”

Academic labor union passes resolution in support of Palestinian people

On June 10, the Delegate Assembly of the Professional Staff Congress, the academic labor union at CUNY (City University of New York), passed a resolution in support of the Palestinian people and condemning Israel of sponsoring policies of settler colonialism. The resolution also “calls on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to stop all aid funding human rights violations and an occupation that is illegal under international law.”

California activists stop Israeli ship from offloading its cargo

The first week in June, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) led a group of activists in a demonstration that prevented an Israeli container ship from offloading its cargo in Oakland, California. Dock workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 made the decision to not cross the protest line to unload the ship’s cargo. AROC organizers state that the “Block the Boat” protests will continue in various cities including Detroit, Philadelphia, Vancouver, and London.

Samya AliAuthor Samya Ali converted to Islam in 1980 and she is a free-lance writer.

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