When Will We Call It Apartheid?

Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world. With more than 50 years of forced detention, and 10 ongoing years of continuous blockade by the Israeli government, the area of occupied Palestine known as the Gaza Strip will be unlivable by 2020. With nearly two million people forced to stay confined within Gaza’s walls, with lack of accessible clean water, regular electricity and even food, the Palestinians being held in Gaza are being murdered one by one by their occupiers.

For decades, the blame for Palestinian’s own detention has been the people themselves. Historically forced out of their homes during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 never to return, wars of aggression, violence and pain have plagued the area. But since 1988, the de facto Palestinian government has not only recognized a sovereign state of Israel, but continued to offer olive branches in order to stop the mass murder of people trapped within the nation’s ever shrinking walls.

With Monday’s murder of 58 peacefully protesting Palestinians marching in ongoing protests, the Israeli government is being questioned on its use of excessive force against a desperate population using rocks and their voices against one of the strongest military forces in the world. But it’s not enough. It’s time the world collectively started calling this conflict what it really is: mass murder and continued apartheid aimed at controlling Palestinians and denying them equal representation under the law.

Apartheid is the act of institutionalizing racism by segregating and discriminating against a population for the ruling members of society to benefit. In the case of Israel, the refusal to allow Palestinians to live freely in Israel (their former home) while withholding basic necessities such as electricity, clean water and food allows the Israeli government to rule the region based on the desires of the occupying colonizers as opposed to allowing all people in the region the ability to live freely and participate within society.
What Palestinians are protesting for is their right to live freely in their own home nation without fear of death.
While the U.S. and Israeli governments continue to blame the political party Hamas for its crimes against the state, Monday’s protests were actually created by and for Palestinian people marching toward the most recent borders imposed upon them by their occupiers. Because Israel has never declared a border, they continuously shift the goal posts, forcing Palestinians into smaller and smaller areas while Israeli Defense Forces claim they are protecting their nation. And while the protests at Gaza were the biggest, Palestinians mobilized across occupied territories to protest.

If the Israeli government allowed freedom of movement or let Palestinians exercise their human rights within the region, the government—built on colonization—would fall. While Palestine repeatedly has acquiesced to demands by the Israeli government, Israel has tightened its grip on the people it condemns. No protest is perfect, but humans forced into suffering will always retaliate. But when protesters march toward a fence chanting for their human rights and are met with bullets and bombs, it should become clear that the side using the deadly force is wrong.

While the Israeli government and colonizing citizens celebrate the creation of their modern home, and while the U.S. shifts its embassy to Jerusalem in a sign of violent strength, Palestinians continue to mourn their losses. Thousands of years of peaceful and fruitful life along the Jordan River were overtaken by 70 years of occupation, colonization and apartheid. Palestinians protesting for their own freedom to exist should not be clouded by the (wrong) belief that the citizens or by extension, Muslims are anti-Semitic. What Palestinians are protesting for is their right to live freely in their own home nation without fear of death.

So instead of further condemning the people of Palestine to their mass murder, we should shine a light on the Israeli government and its allies for continuing their violent, racist apartheid in the region. It’s time we #FreePalestine, and the only way to do it is by calling colonizers to task for their attempts at control.

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