How can we ensure that with the end of Israeli occupation as “free Palestine” calls for, extremists or the region’s violent leaders won’t take over?
There’s a lot to unpack here. But first, I want to address the Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in the latter half of that question. The assumption and the equating of terrorism and violence to Palestinians—and also Muslim, Arab, and Brown people, for that matter—is not only wrong but is dangerous and violent. This trope has played a significant role in dehumanizing and discrediting their plight, suffering, and murder. This trope allows defenders of Israel’s apartheid state to claim pro-Palestinian boycott movements and campus protests as somehow hateful violence.
Israel has, by far, the most powerful military in the Middle East and is currently waging total war against more than two* million people, over a million of whom are children. But strangely, when people in the West talk about the “region’s violent leaders,” they’re only ever talking about the leaders of Muslim-majority countries.
Being Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian doesn’t make you violent, nor is the region or the Middle East predisposed to violence. The only things guaranteed about a person or group of people are our innate need for food, water, oxygen, and shelter, which hinge on whether we have rights. All of which have been threatened, leveled, and stripped away by the Israeli apartheid state and its genocide against Palestinians.
It’s also insidious and extremely privileged to sit and contemplate whether it’s a good idea for more than two* million people to have human rights because the “wrong” people might gain power.
The thing about self-determination and genuine democracy…you and I don’t get to dictate how and what that looks like for the people of Palestine. And denouncing injustices shouldn’t be contingent on the prejudices and stereotypes we hold or have been told. So, if you’re in favor of democracy except for people you believe are predisposed to violence, you aren’t in favor of democracy. If you’re against occupation, unless the people being occupied resist in ways you don’t find palatable, you aren’t against occupation at all. If you demand that movements for anti-colonial liberation meet your personal standards for pacifism without demanding that the vastly more powerful and violent colonial power drop its guns first, you aren’t pro-peace; you’re pro-colonization.
Ending the occupation. Ending apartheid. Ending the genocide in Palestine is about ending colonization and dismantling a state that has stripped a people of their homes, dignity, and rights. Our role must be focused on ensuring that Palestinians have the support in achieving this liberation by demanding our politicians stop funding Israel, calling out the mischaracterization and demonization of Palestinian people, vocally sharing our solidarity, and centering Palestinian voices and needs once they are free.
Here are a few resources from Palestinian groups to understand their hopes for their community:
• Most groups are singularly focused on the immediate: ending the bloodshed and directing aid to hurt communities on the ground. The most urgent and important action items are to rally for a ceasefire and an end to the blockade of Gaza. Use these resources to take action.
• Abu Artema, one of the main organizers of the Great March of Return, shares his work of peaceful resistance and his hopes for Palestine.
• Here are perspectives from Palestinian youth, shared in May 2023.
• Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir and Senior Research Assistant Abier Almasri were interviewed in 2022 about the occupation and their desires for Gaza.
• This Gallup poll represents the views of Palestinians on a two-state solution. Data is based on World Poll interviews conducted between July and September 2023.
This * represents the countless lives of Palestinian people who have been taken from us as we sit and debate whether Palestine should be free.