With international attention now focused on the Gaza Strip, we’re tempted to forget that the occupation exists in the West Bank as well. We forget that over 18,000 homes have been demolished within the last decade. We pretend to ignore the fact that Israeli settlements – already deemed illegal by international governing bodies – continue to expand while Palestinian villages slowly crumble. Our elected officials denounce nonviolent protests and instead fully back the soldiers that shoot teargas canisters at elderly men in Bil’in. There is a wall around the West Bank. Literally.
There is no doubt that Gaza deserves focus. The siege has outlasted 1112 days and Israel’s promise to “ease” the blockade hasn’t taken effect yet. If anything, the siege has gotten worse. Border crossings remain closed indefinitely and Israeli warplanes have destroyed yet another Palestinian electricity generator. Gaza lives in total darkness today. But while we keep the Gaza Strip in our prayers, we must not alienate our West Bank brothers and sisters. They, too, are enduring the same systematic oppression that Gazans do. Entire families in Gaza are homeless, and so are many in the West Bank. Unemployment rates have dramatically increased in both territories. Food is scarce and human rights are relatively nonexistent no matter where you live.
The point is this: if you’re from Gaza, you’re from the West Bank; and if you’re from the West Bank, you’re from Gaza. In the end, we’re all Palestinian.
My biggest fear is that the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic might be used effectively against the people of Palestine. History shows that it’s a tactic that works. Why else did Israel lay claim to territory that split Palestine into two separate entities? Why else does Israel prevent travel and connection between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? By dividing us, they conquer us, so let’s promise to never be divided.
“Oh yeah? Well I’m Hamas! Get out of my house.”
“How immature. That’s why the Gaza Strip can’t progress.”
“And collaborationist-Fatah is doing a good job? The West Bank is in shambles.”
This shouldn’t be the model conversation we have with one another. But unfortunately, that’s the way it’s becoming. Rather than discussing possible programs or events to raise public awareness about the Palestinian struggle, we immerse ourselves in self-poisoning politics. I’m guilty of this, too. Just last week, I spent over an hour defending my political stance when I really should’ve been defending my country.
And I’m not trying to sound overly dramatic, but that’s really when I had an epiphany. We’re all the same people. Regardless of where our home village is, whether or not we use ch instead of k, or in which faction we invest our trust, we all share a common political idea: Palestine must be liberated from the hands of an oppressor. And the beauty of this principle idea is that it transcends politics. It extends beyond the realms of morals, values, ethics, and basic humanity.
This is pure unification, and to be perfectly clear, it’s the only way forward. If they can’t divide us, they can’t conquer us. There is no doubt that they try hard to divide us. The nightly news refers to us as Gazans or West Bank residents but never as Palestinians. “We must try our best to ease the blockade in the Gaza Strip,” says your local Senator. But he ignores the siege on the West Bank. Meanwhile, AIPAC propagandists make it seem like Israel is fighting a war against two random “disputed” territories that have no affiliation to the Palestine the world once knew and loved. Let them keep trying, though. As long as we consider ourselves Palestinians before anything else, their attempts to divide and conquer us will prove fruitless. Remind the world that it’s a Palestinian issue and that it forever will be.
Free Gaza? Yes.
Free the West Bank? Yes.
Then save yourself some breath and chant Free Palestine.
But it doesn’t end there. What if you’re not Palestinian at all? You’re still part of the unified effort. Without your support, this movement wouldn’t transcend the geo-political borders of the Middle East. Don’t ever count yourself out.