Responding to Violence in Israel-Palestine: An Invitation to Join the Peaceful Liberation Struggle

As the streets of Jerusalem echo with masses of angry Israelis chanting "death to Arabs," mobs of Israelis have been attacking Palestinians in the street, at work, on the bus, and in the market. Video footage shows Palestinians being chased off public transportation and even pushed into lakes. Palestinian families in Jerusalem are nervous to let their children out to play or to go to the supermarket alone for fear they will be attacked by Israeli civilians, police, or military. The land itself seems to be groaning as society sits at the brink of a third intifada, or uprising.

Tensions in Palestine and Israel have been high since the disappearance of three Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Two weeks after the disappearance the dead bodies of the three youth were discovered near Hebron. At that point, Israeli calls for vengeance against Palestinians were heard from not only the Israeli public but also government officials. The day of the funeral, in an interview with CNN, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "May God avenge their blood."

The call for vengeance became a gruesome reality when Mohammad Abu Khudeir, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem, was kidnapped by three Israeli civilians. Mohammad was beaten, tortured, set on fire, and burned to death. Mohammad had nothing to do with the settlers who had gone missing in the West Bank; he was targeted and killed because of his race.

During the two weeks the Israeli military spent searching for the three missing settlers, Palestinians experienced collective punishment as Israelis invaded universities, homes, and charitable groups.

When we look at recent events in Palestine and Israel, it is tempting for us to say that this is just a flare up of an age-old "conflict." However, for Palestinians, daily life is about navigating a system of oppression, racism, and violence. Through ID classification, land confiscation, detention, imprisonment, siege, home demolition, (lack of) access to natural resources, and systemic racism, Israeli occupation pervades every part of everyday living. For Palestinians, there is never a moment of "calm" in the conflict. While our Western media focus on this recent "escalation" of violence in Palestine, we must remember: Since 1948 Palestinians have struggled every day against a racist system that seeks their suppression.

Our understanding of the situation is blinded by the "balance" of mainstream media. We are bombarded by statistics about the number of Palestinians arrested, Palestinian rockets fired out of Gaza, and Israeli police wounded, but then only told "Israel has responded to many of the attacks with airstrikes" and shown pictures of Palestinian youth throwing rocks. What about reporting on the weekly nonviolent demonstrations led by Palestinians and supported by Israelis and international solidarity activists in response to the Israeli occupation? What about reporting on how the Israeli military has arrested more than 500 Palestinians?

As an international community, when we begin to see the "conflict" in the Middle East as a liberation struggle similar to the civil rights movement instead of an isolated foreign conflict, our response to the violence also changes. Instead of playing a game of negotiation and "sides," we are invited to join in a liberation struggle for a just peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that the goal of justice requires suffering, struggle, and sacrifice. The liberation movement in Palestine has experienced all of these three s's in their struggle to live in a just and peaceable society: farmers who continue to farm their land despite the invasion of the separation barrier and forthcoming land confiscation; Palestinians who continue to build homes without permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain, and whose homes are demolished; Palestinian activists who plan demonstrations and are beaten and arrested; Israeli solidarity activists who are ostracized and even imprisoned for taking a stand against the system of racism and systemic oppression.

The Palestinian liberation movement is calling on the international community to boycott, divest, and put sanctions on the systems of racism that seek to oppress in order to ensure that our money is not going to support or perpetuate racism and injustice. It is a humble request that we need to take on. This form of nonviolent resistance may result in consequences and divisions within our community; however, this is part of what it means to suffer, struggle, and sacrifice on the way toward a just peace. As Frederick Douglass said: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. ... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

We have heard the cries for justice and peace asking us to participate in the Palestinian liberation movement through boycott, divestment, and sanctions so that race riots and lynching all over our world come to an end and a just peace may prevail over the land.

Co-authored with Rachelle Friesen

Rachelle Friesen just returned from Jerusalem after working there for an international aid organization for four years and is now living in Swift Current, Sask. Sheldon C. Good, who visited Palestine and Israel in 2013, writes and works in the areas of faith, politics, poverty, & homelessness in Washington, D.C.