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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Opinion | Rewriting history serves no one

A+Palestinian+demonstrator%2C+unseen%2C+holds+his+national+flag+next+to+Israeli+soldiers%2C+during+a+demonstration+against+Israels+separation+barrier+in+the+West+Bank+village+of+Bilin%2C+near+Ramallah%2C+Friday+Jan.+18%2C+2008.
AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen
A Palestinian demonstrator, unseen, holds his national flag next to Israeli soldiers, during a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, Friday Jan. 18, 2008.

Imagine that one day you wake up to find that you, and everyone you know, are being forced to leave where you live because other people have heard that your land — that you and every generation of your family have lived on — belongs to them. When some of your people refuse to leave, 15,000 are killed. And 800,000 of you are forced to become refugees. You watch well over 75% of this land you have only ever known as your home transform entirely, overtaken by a military that insists it has a claim to it. You stay, and you get separated from people you have loved your whole life. You will never see them again. 

That is what happened during the Nakba, which took place between 1947 and 1949. No one in their right mind has ever, or would ever deny the horrific brutality of the Holocaust. Similarly, no one in that state of mind has ever understood why the Palestinians, who had no part in the Holocaust, were forced off their land as a consequence of it. “A land without people for a people without a land,” the oft-cited British justification for the initial occupation, reveals the irrationality of it. Palestine was not a “land without people,” and there exists no argument for Zionism that does not either insist on asserting that there never was an indigenous Palestinian population, or ignoring it altogether.

Moving forward a few decades, imagine that as this new state takes over more territory, you are told that as a person who is indigenous to this land, you cannot speak, vote or move as you desire on it, because it belongs to someone else now. You will never see your family again, because they will never be allowed back. This new state will welcome thousands of Americans and Europeans, and grant them immediate citizenship. You will never see your family again

Imagine that the house your family has lived in, which you have managed to preserve through air strikes and military sieges, that you have kept standing through the sheer force of love and memory, is “given” to a white American. You are supposed to go somewhere else, preferably out of sight, and to stay silent, lest you come off as “aggressive.” You will never step foot in that house again. 

Four out of every ten men you know will go to prison. This state will arrest and criminally charge one out of every five people you know. After 1967, this state will arrest at least 1 million of your people, no matter how old you are. They will torture you — they will spend years and millions of dollars developing new ways to torture you. In many cases, they will just kill you and be done with it. After all, they are “the world’s most moral army” — they are the Israeli Defense Force, endowed with the right to redefine “defense.” The state will kill over 100,000 of you and never need to answer to anyone. You will never hear an admission of guilt. 

The state and the settlers it arms will kill 10,667 people in 23 years. Throughout this period of time, after decades of dialogue, of peaceful protests, militant groups will retaliate, killing 1,330, many of them members of those occupying security forces. But many of them are civilians. Outrage and discourse ensue for years, and the resulting narrative is one that paints contextualization as a stand-in for justification. All the while, the state controls your electricity, your water and your internet connection

2.1 million of you are forced to live on a strip of land the size of Detroit. Nearly half of you are children. There are eight refugee camps in this strip of land alone. If you point out the irony of this – that 6.4 million Palestinians are refugees, that so many are refugees within their own homeland, you are called a bigot. Anyone who points out the incongruence of this narrative with the fact that Israel is an ethnostate is called antisemitic, regardless of the fact that some of the loudest critics of this brutality are Jewish. Having the temerity to suggest that this is an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians makes newspapers call you hateful. You will never hear them speak about the settler population as one of the “most racist” on record, that the average state-supporting settler feels that the extermination and the expulsion of everyone who speaks and even looks like you, is justified

The IDF will shoot journalists and then “investigate” themselves. The US and the UK will hold their hands through the difficult process of admitting that they kill journalists in cold blood, and well, there’s really no way to say what happened, after all. After they shot Shireen Abu Akleh in her press vest, the IDF’s first suggestion was that Palestinian militants killed her. Who would you believe? The state that often censors, targets and seeks to limit the work of journalists, or that conglomerate of “savage” militants? Oh, you’re all “militants” now. Yes, even if you’re a child. If you’re a man, you’re a “terrorist.” These militant groups, which the vast majority of you have nothing at all to do with, are “worse than ISIS.” Yes, it doesn’t matter that the few groups you do have hate ISIS and are completely different — who cares? 

If the IDF’s bombs kill what “appear to be” women and children, unarmed, if it incinerates their toys and their tablecloths and coats every object they manage to own in their blood… well, they were terrorist sympathizers. Or – hold on, we’re getting new reports now. The IDF says they were “human shields.” Where were the terrorists who were using them as human shields? You’ll never know.

Once violence does beget violence, once the militants respond in a way that is terrible to see, the liberal onlookers will call it “unprecedented.” They will rally behind the state that outguns you, which bombs you so much that the militants’ rockets are made out of pieces of IDF bombs. The lines are drawn. One side is overrun with terrorists, while Israel is just defending itself. No one cares enough to ask if these definitions matter, seeing as the more brutal of the two “sides” is considered legitimate because it acts with the state’s protection. 

In the last two weeks, Israel has killed at least 4,651 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in response to the Hamas attacks that took place on Oct. 7, which killed approximately 1,330 Israelis, many of them settler civilians. 21 journalists are dead, at least 18 of them at the hands of the IDF. It should be clear that any loss of life is deeply tragic, and that the sincere desire to see a free Palestine is never a cheapening or a celebration of the deaths of Israelis, never a fetishization of brutality, nor an unprecedented surge of hate. 

Condemnations of the apartheid state we speak of are not, in any sense, directed at the Jewish community, which shares no responsibility for the atrocities committed in the name of their beautiful and peaceful religion. Any denial of this is a provocation designed to weaken the argument for liberation or to portray it as hateful. 

The Israeli state, with financial backing from the US and EU, has spent the last week bombing the Gaza Strip. First, they ordered the 2.1 million Gazans to evacuate to the south of the strip, and then they bombed them as they left. They cut off electricity and water, and then they warned a hospital to evacuate — how hundreds of critically injured patients were expected to leave, one can only wonder. Then “the hospital exploded” and after taking credit for it, after admitting they killed at least 400 innocent civilians desperate for refuge, they changed their minds. Actually, it looks like one, single, misfired rocket leveled a hospital and killed 400. It does not matter, it seems, that Israel has targeted hospitals, UN schools and refugee camps for over two decades and even more so this week. Those facts and those victims are already fading from memory. 

To all of those who condemn militant resistance and not state violence — do you have an explanation for why only some civilian deaths matter, and why it has taken these particular civilian deaths for you to have these objections?  Do you have a justification for the fact that in six days, Israel dropped nearly as many bombs on Gaza as NATO did in one year in Afghanistan – which is an almost 1,800 times larger space of land?

For those of you who remember the Gulf Wars and how the vehement racism that the media spread spurred your military to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, your silence was abhorrent then and it is even more so now. How will you forget that you sought to dehumanize Palestinians even in death? How can you justify genocide? How can you expect the Palestinians to accept their own destruction without resistance? This moral stain will never wash out.

Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger writes about politics and international and domestic social movements. Write to her at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger, Senior Staff Columnist
Sofia Uriagereka is a senior majoring in Anthropology. She writes primarily about politics, both domestic and international.