The Neutral Stance And Its Implications - Why Not Both Sides? - Laraib Laiq
The recent events that took place in Palestine, the land occupied by Israel, definitely made waves on social media. This issue is not a new one, but it had been pushed to the back of everyone’s minds until Israeli forces escalated their aggression. The wave of resistance has spread throughout the world like wildfire. The Palestinian struggle is a topic of discussion everywhere, and it has sparked a lot of debates. People are talking about the history of Palestine, the forceful evictions taking place in Sheikh Jarrah, the Israeli blockade of Gaza making it an open-air prison, and then, of course, there’s debate about ‘listening to both sides.’
We have people asking why they have to be against one side. Why should they not advocate for both sides to get what they want? The answer is simpler than people think. There can’t be any solution that caters to both sides. The land belongs to the Palestinians. The natives. The Jews came into Palestine as refugees after the end of World War I and the British colonization of the land in 1918. They had been facing antisemitic persecution in Europe and came to Palestine seeking refuge, and that was fine. But taking the land from the Palestinians was wrong, and that’s what happened.
A 2001 The Guardian article explains that during its brief imperium in the promised land, Britain kept the promise made in 1917 by its foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, in the Declaration that bears his name, "to favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." During the time Britain was nurturing this ‘national home’, a very vague term, Britain ended up neglecting the Declaration's final clause: "that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country". In 1948, against the wishes of the natives, division of the land was mapped out. The Palestinians opposed it and war broke out. According to a recent The Business Standard article, by the end of the war, Israel had 77% of the land although the Palestinian population was twice that of the Israelis. Over the years, Israel has expanded and has stolen more and more land. During the war of 1967, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza occurred, and since then Israeli expansion has continued to spread.
All this did not happen a long time ago. We can’t just forget what used to be and think about what could be. The people who were driven out of their homes back in 1948 are still alive. Israeli aggression is an issue of the present. It simply does not make sense to advocate for the thieves to continue to have control of what they stole. No one but the Palestinians should have autonomy over their matters.
There are people around us that talk about how both sides are being affected by the war. They say that there are casualties on both sides. But what they perhaps do not realize is that by giving this argument, they are saying that the Palestinians should not retaliate against Israeli aggression and that they should face the ethnic cleansing of their kind without trying to fight back. This is something people say out loud, but would never accept it themselves if they were ever in a situation similar to that of the Palestinians. How can anyone expect the natives of the land to just sit back and watch their homes being demolished, their land being taken right from under them, and their kind being killed, without fighting back and standing up for themselves? The Palestinians want to go out fighting, and that is the least of the rights they should have.
There is no comparison between the damage Israel has done to Palestine and the damage done to Israel. In the past three weeks alone, more than 200 people have been killed in Gaza because of Israeli airstrikes. In Israel, there have been 12 casualties due to rockets fired by Hamas. The only thing Palestine has that resembles a military force is ‘Hamas,’ a small defense force. They fired the rockets in retaliation to the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian worshippers in Al-Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan, and the evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. Israeli forces have killed more than 60 children and injured so many more, under the guise of targeting Hamas. The fight is the farthest thing from being a fair and equal one. Israel Defence Forces have a $20.5 billion budget and are huge in terms of weaponry, money and resources. They are one of the most powerful armies in the world. They have very advanced and modern weapons and wear the best protective gear while they fight Palestinian civilians who have nothing to defend themselves, but mere rocks and stones. Therefore, to argue that the aggression is from both sides is simply wrong. One side is the perpetrator and the other is trying to defend its right to live and breathe. People call the oppression of Palestinians by the state of Israel, a ‘conflict.’ The word ‘conflict’ implies that both parties are in a position to fight each other for what they want, but that is, clearly not the case.
Now, people have the idea that the Israeli government and the Israeli civilians should be considered two different bodies, but that is also not right. Most Israeli civilians, not all, are complicit with their government. They support the Israeli government’s policies and the aggression by the Israeli military. They want the land to be ethnically cleansed of native presence and they are not against the apartheid in Israel. They are doing the physical stealing of the Palestinian land, and most importantly, they are not using the immense privilege they have in the state of Israel, to stand up to their government and stop the brutality. Therefore, we can not acquit them of all responsibility for the atrocities being committed. Israeli people live in peace with their families, but that right has been snatched from the Palestinians. They have to bury their families and mourn their immeasurable losses every day. Here we have Israelis dancing on Jerusalem Day, only a couple of weeks ago, as a fire rages in the premises of Islam’s third most holy site, Al-Aqsa.
The narrative of supporting ‘both sides’ is wrong not only because it leaves the oppressed to fend for themselves, but it also supports the oppressor. The oppressor will continue to commit acts of war against the victim while we are busy trying to accommodate both sides, instead of calling out the oppression. Bishop Desmond Tutu, a South African, anti-apartheid activist once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
In the 21st century, we are living in a world where information flows within seconds. The narrative of both sides has been voiced in no uncertain terms, and it does not require a man of great intellect to determine that one side is struggling to take back what’s theirs and the other side continues to try and control the narrative by policing the media, and falsely playing the card of antisemitism whenever they are called out. They have been promoting the propaganda that Palestinians are the cause of ‘conflict’ and enemies of the Jews. The only truth is that the natives have been wronged and driven out of their homes by forceful evacuations. The Palestinian retaliation is not aggression. In a 2012 article, Noam Chomsky once quoted a man from Gaza whose placard said, “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
The reason some people are afraid to call out Israel, even when they sympathize with the Palestinians is that they might say something antisemitic. But this fear is irrational because there is a very prominent line between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Criticizing someone because they follow Judaism is antisemitic and very wrong. On the contrary, calling someone out because they are Zionists, is anti-Zionism, and the right thing to do because Zionists are the ones who are committing war crimes against Palestinian civilians, and either killing or banishing thousands of innocent people. The claim that criticism of Zionists and Israel implies antisemitism is an outright insult to the Jews who have, actually suffered due to it and equates them to Zionists, which is untrue. Many Jews have spoken against anti-Zionism and in favour of the Palestinians because they do not support the establishment of the state of Israel on stolen land. Playing the antisemitism card is nothing but a ploy by Israel to divert the conversion from the Palestinian plight, and portray the oppressors as the victims, which they are not.
Palestine belongs to no one but the Palestinians. There should be no confusion about this and people need to accept that there is no such thing as ‘middle ground.’ You are either for or against the Palestinians’ right to live freely and happily in their own land. There can be no in-between. Neutrality means taking the side of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the apartheid state of Israel, and that makes you stand on the wrong side of history.