By UUSC Staff on May 24, 2021
On May 15, movements around the world demonstrated on Nakba Day —“Nakba” is the Arabic word for “catastrophe”—in solidarity with Palestinians continuing to resist in the face of persistent bombings, displacement, and ethnic cleansing of families across the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The most recent conflict centers around East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where over 1,500 Palestinians are currently facing displacement and demolition of their homes to make space for a biblical theme park. 248 Palestinian civilians— including 66 children — have been killed, as well as 12 Israeli civilians, including two children. While the events of the last two weeks have been horrifying, this is also a reality that Palestinians have been subjected to for 73 years, and recent events not only highlight the conditions of the occupation but also the reality that Palestinians and other Arab peoples living in Israel, around one fifth of the population, lack the full rights of citizenship.
We encourage our members to learn more and take action with allied groups (more info below). We urge the U.S. government to withhold the tens of billions of dollars provided in military aid to the Israeli government until it complies with international law and stops violating the human rights of Palestinians. In line with this position and in response to requests from our partners, we have endorsed the joint resolution of disapproval introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others in the House of Representatives to oppose a recent $735 million arms sale to the Israeli government. We also urge the Israeli government to cease committing the crime of apartheid and engaging in policies that constitute collective punishment against the Palestinian people for the actions of Hamas. We urge the United Nations to mandate an international commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.
All parties have an obligation to cease this horrific destruction. While we acknowledge and condemn abuses by both Hamas and IDF, we also recognize that the two sides of this fight do not have equal power or military capacity to inflict suffering. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been targeting civilian infrastructure, including apartment buildings, medical personnel, clinics, and media offices, and also committing airstrikes that disproportionately and needlessly endanger civilian life. Hamas is engaged in indiscriminate rocket attacks that also threaten civilians.
Israel has maintained a military occupation for more than half a century over Gaza and the West Bank. For the past 14 years, it has imposed travel and trade restrictions over the people of Gaza, who have to endure checkpoints to go to work and school, travel restrictions even for medical emergencies, limited water, 4 hours of electricity a day, and one of the highest unemployment levels in the world. These conditions have been gravely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as we know all too well, natural and human-made crises not only expose the oppression already faced by certain communities, they compound them in ways that increase injustice, inequity, and trauma exponentially.
Military occupation subjects millions of Palestinians to the control—and oppression—of the Israeli state. At the same time, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are denied any vote or representation in the government whose decisions daily impact fundamental aspects of their lives. When a state exercises effective sovereignty over people while denying them the right to vote and recognition as equal citizens—and evidences a clear intention to perpetuate this system of unequal treatment—these acts meet the international legal definition of the crime of apartheid. Israel’s ongoing military occupation and disenfranchisement of Palestinians thus constitutes a crime against humanity and must come to a halt.
Global Struggles for Justice
UUSC’s work as a global human rights organization is to understand how global struggles are interwoven and support our members to take action towards deconstructing Western imperialism and colonialism both at home and abroad. In the spirit of the Al-faza’a (the Arabic term for a surge of solidarity), we use our privilege, power, and reach to support those fighting for freedom around the world, and we do so by following the lead of those most impacted who know the way forward. UUSC is not actively engaged in this issue on the ground; and yet, we are based in the United States where our government is complicit and invested in the occupation of Palestine and we are being called by movement allies to speak out against our government’s involvement in these abuses.
Locally, the Palestinian-led movement to boycott, divest, and sanction (the “BDS Movement”) has been organizing and supporting efforts to end city contracts with Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Cambridge, where UUSC is based. According to the BDS Movement, HP provides and operates “technology that Israel uses to maintain its system of apartheid, occupation, and settler colonialism over the Palestinian people.” (In the US, HP technology is used by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track, surveil, and criminalize immigrants.) Last week, Cambridge city council members introduced a policy order urging the city of Cambridge to examine and potentially sever business ties with HP. UUSC fully supports this policy order and submitted official testimony to this effect on May 24.
Resources to Learn More
UUSC was founded in 1940 to support Jewish refugees and others displaced by Nazi genocide and persecution in World War II Europe. We firmly stand against rising antisemitic violence and hate globally—much of it linked to resurgent far-right nationalist and populist movements. At the same time, we assert that a critique of the actions of the Israeli Government is in no way equivalent to antisemitism and this commitment is fully aligned with our support for the right of Palestinian people to live free of occupation and apartheid. We support the rights and dignity of all refugees, and in the words of our partners at Muslim Justice League, “no refugee crisis justifies creating another refugee crisis by displacing indigenous peoples.”
Here are some learning opportunities and action steps you can take:
- UUSC partner, the Muslim Justice League, shared this resource for ongoing information and action opportunities
- New to this issue? Start with “Palestine/Israel 101” from Jewish Voice for Peace that also includes the history of the US’s involvement.
- The Association for Women’s Rights in Development produced a one-hour webinar featuring Palestinian feminists: What’s Happening in Palestine? Possibilities for Feminist Solidarity
- Support grassroots organizations and other NGOs supporting human rights on the ground in Palestine, including the Rawa Creative Palestinian Communities Fund and Grassroots International’s Palestine Solidarity Emergency Fund
- Follow the work of UUs for Justice in the Middle East, who are advocating from a Unitarian Universalist perspective for “a peaceful and just resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict, affirming the equality, dignity, freedom and security of all peoples involved.”
UUSC is committed to strengthening the global movement for justice across borders by building connections between movements in the U.S. and movements at the global level. In the midst of increasing repression around the world, the global movement for human rights is bold and clear and our freedom is won by the ways we come together, learn, reflect and take action.
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!
Image Credit: iStock – gkuna