The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians is Not a Conflict, it’s Colonialism


Zara Irshad

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, May 27, this article was temporarily taken down from our website after one of our readers voiced concerns over historical errors and harmful language. It has since been revised for accuracy and clarity to ensure that it meets The UCSD Guardian’s standards of journalistic integrity. We sincerely apologize to our readers for the misinformation that was originally posted, as well as the harsh and confusing language that was used. Read the full statement with amendments from the Opinion Editor here.  

News stations and social media platforms have been flooded with horrific footage of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza this past week, which have murdered upward of 200 innocent Palestinians, and have inflicted even more injuries. The conflict began on May 10 when Hamas fired rockets into Israel in protest of Israeli security forces occupying the Jerusalem compound, where fighting between Israeli police and Palestinians had occurred for days prior. In response, Israeli militants launched airstrikes toward Gaza in a string of attacks that escalated for days until a ceasefire was implemented on May 21.   

Although this destruction only made the news recently, the oppression and abuse of the Palestinian people has been underway for far longer. Israel and Palestine have a long and complicated history that dates back decades, but at its most basic, these acts of terror are rooted in blatant colonialism. 

Between 2008 and 2020 there have been roughly 5,600 Palestinian casualties as a result of this violence compared to 250 Israeli deaths. Prior to this, between 1987 and 2005, there were two large Palestinian uprisings against Israel called the Intifadas that ultimatley aimed to reclaim Israeli controlled land and develop an independent Palestine. 

During the first of these clashes, there were 1,376 Palestinian casualties compared to 94 Israeli casualties, and during the second there were roughly 3,000 Palestinian casulaties compared to 1,000 Israeli casualties. Today, the disparity between these statistics is likely even larger. 

This is not an equal battle, nor is it a mere conflict. This is an ethnic cleansing, one that the United States has been complicit in for years, and we must advocate for the U.S. government to stop funding this barbarity. 

Of course, there have been efforts to come to a compromise amidst years of aggression through legislation such as the United Nations Partition plan of 1947, which aimed to divide the land and was ultimately rejected by the Arab community. However, these settlements often end up resulting in more violence, as followed the UN plan, and ultimately cannot make up for the initial losses that Palestinians endured. 

This ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is often referred to as the Nakba — the time period between 1947-1949 in which the initial establishment of a Jewish nation state in Palestine resulted in a complete disregard for the indigenous people of Palestine. This ultimately resulted in the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians who had inhabited the land for decades prior. 

Sound familiar? Think back to how European colonists treated the Indigenous people of America. 73 years later and the Palestinians are still met with the same hostility and violence. The Nakba never truly ended; it was merely renamed as a “conflict.”

The harsh reality is that since this strife is not taking place directly in the Western world, it has had very minimal U.S. news coverage until the recent airstrikes. As a result, many people didn’t take the time to educate themselves on the devastation that has been occurring for decades until this past week. But despite the fact that the larger media systems of the United States have, for the most part, remained silent all these years, the U.S. government has been complicit in funding the Israeli government’s terrorism of the Palestinian people. 

The United States government has provided $3.8 billion in aid to Israel every year, and just this month President Joe Biden approved a $735 million weapons sale to Israel. The country’s support of Zionism dates back to World War I, when former President Woodrow Wilson helped to push through the British Balfour Declaration, which ultimately supported the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, where thousands were already living and settled. Following the precedent set by Wilson, former President Harry Truman used his executive powers to override many anti-Zionist policies. 

This neglect for the historic people of Palestine has left a stain on the United States that continues to taint its policies to this day, and this isn’t the first time the country has partook in the ethnic cleansing of native peoples. 

We’ve seen what American funded Israeli weapons are being used for this past week. We’ve seen the demolition of the 12-story al-Jalaa media building. We’ve seen the destruction of Gaza’s sole COVID-19 testing laboratory. And we’ve seen the bombing of hospitals in Gaza packed to the brim with patients. But what we haven’t seen is the U.S. government taking concrete action to aid the thousands of Palestinians that have been displaced by this destruction.

This is more than a single fight — the damage that Israeli airstrikes have inflicted upon Gaza will likely lead to infrastructural damage that’ll take years to fully repair. Not to mention the countless innocent lives that were stolen, like Dr. Aymna Abu al-Ouf who was the head of internal medicine at Al-Shifa hospital, and Dr. Mooein Ahmad al-Aloul who was a psychiatric neurologist. Both men were killed along with their families in bombings of their homes, and these tragedies represent only a tiny fraction of the losses Palestinians have suffered.

Is this not enough of a red flag? Or must we delve deeper into the past years of Israeli destruction and massacre of the Palestinians? Every single nation that is on the U.N. Security Council supported the call for a ceasefire in Israel except for the United States. What does that say about our nation? We were founded on the principles of life, liberty, and property; how have we strayed so far?  

The Israeli military and police forces have a long history of imposing unnessesary violence on innocent Palestinians, such as a 10-year-old Palestinian boy that was detained by Israeli police after being accused of throwing rocks. His little sister was caught on camera crying for them to release him. Or 16-year-old Jana Kiswani, who was shot in the back by Israeli police after simply emerging from her house. Her father Mohammad was shot in the leg in the same incident.  

Israeli forces also have a history of attacking Palestinians at holy sites, such as Israeli politician Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Many believe that the visit was intended to spark an eruption of violence at the site, which it ultimately did, as Israeli police ended up shooting rubber bullets at Palestinian protestors. 

Not only are these attacks inhumane, but they can also be perceived as a form of religious terrorism toward the Muslim people, as they took place during the holy month of Ramadan. Many airstrikes targeted and destroyed mosques, and prevented families from praying. Palestinian and Muslim communities deserve the right to live peacefully.

Jewish communities deserve this right as well. One of the most common misconceptions about those standing in solidarity with Palestine is that they are doing so out of hatred for the Jewish people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

This is not a religious critique, but a governmental one. The Jewish community is not responsible for the actions of the Israeli government, and support for the Palestinian people does not equate to or foster anti-semitism. There are actually many Jewish people that have spoken out against the violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people. The fact that there has been a global surge in anti-Semitic incidents following the attacks on Gaza is heartbreaking and deeply disappointing. We as a society need to recognize that the issue lies within governmental actions, not an entire religion. Hateful acts of violence are not going to help any cause in the slightest.

I’ll repeat myself: the Jewish community is not responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.   

Despite the ceasefire that was mediated by Egypt nearly 11 days after the fighting first erupted, Palestine still needs all the humanitarian and reconstruction aid possible. Not to mention that a ceasefire doesn’t always equate to peace, and after last Friday’s ceasefire, Israeli police still injured 20 Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque

Palestine will need to rebuild and recover from the devastation it has faced over the past 11 days, and more so, the past 73 years. This will no doubt take time, but having the power and resources of the United States supporting them instead of working against them will help speed up the process. 

We must push for the Biden administration to stop providing the Israeli government with the money and resources that continuously devastate Palestine, and we must try to boycott organizations that support this violence. It’s time for the United States to stand up for the Palestinian people, as it has failed to do for decades.

Art by Angela Liang for The UCSD Guardian.