From newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise that he will not allow a free Palestine to the United Nations report stating more Palestinian civilians were killed in 2014 than any other year since the devastating war of 1967, the need for international awareness and support for the Palestinian cause has been greater than ever. As the global support for Palestine continues to rise in popularity, the political sphere has slowly shifted to reflect those sentiments.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report said, “Overall, some 4,000,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remain under an Israeli military occupation that prevents them from exercising many of their basic human rights.” Critics of a free Palestine have made ample efforts to create the image that the Palestine-Israel conflict is a complex issue, but in recent times, especially following the July 2014 bombing of Gaza that claimed 2,220 Palestinian lives, the facade of a free Palestine being a controversial and taboo subject has slowly faded.
Following the successful re-election of Netanyahu, senior officials for U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the Israeli occupation to liberal pro-Israel lobbyists in terms few high-profile administration members would do. “An occupation that has lasted for almost fifty years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff said.
In reality, neither outcome of the close race for Prime Minister would have changed Israeli policy toward Palestine. However, Netanyahu’s open promise to kill the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state stripped Israel’s ability to hide behind a farce of peace talks and desire for coexistence. As long as that mask is off, the world has a chance to stand behind Palestine unapologetically.
Palestinians and activists of their cause know that the occupation and unceasing killings by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) would continue regardless of a “left-wing” or “right-wing” politician standing as Israel’s Prime Minister. However, the chance to carry tide of the world’s view of the issue is now in the hands of activists, both local and abroad. Peaceful protests, an increase in engagement on social media, support of the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and pressure on national politicians have become more of a social norm than ever before. As more media outlets cover the true disparaging living situation of Palestinians and politicians on the opposing side openly denounce “peace”, the status quo will continue to change in favor of the Palestinian cause.
The BDS movement against Israel was launched in 2005 and has focused on bringing international attention to the companies involved in Israeli policies violating Palestinian human rights and international law. The movement allows people from all over the country to take an active stand in support of the Palestinian people. Student groups across universities in the U.S. including University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Northwestern University in Chicago have pushed to divest from corporations benefiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. These divestment movements have showed students around the nation that it is possible to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians through their influence on campus. What once was a disconnected issue has been brought closer to home for people all over the world.
In a time where Western nations trivialize conflict in the Middle East as simply being sectarian violence, the support from a wide array of groups against the Palestinian occupation proves this analogy false. Individuals from a variety of backgrounds – religious, ethnic, socioeconomic classes – have joined forces to stand in solidarity with Palestinians because their cause is a human rights issue more than anything else. The tide of activism for the cause coupled with the current political atmosphere signals change is coming. This is our opportunity for solidarity and real progression towards the goal of a free Palestine. What side will you be on?