Global Support for the Palestinians: Beyond Geopolitics

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Since Israel launched its massive aerial offensive on October 7th in retaliation for Hamas’s attack on southern Israel, over 7,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including nearly 2,400 children, and more than 19,740 were injured, according to UN figures on 1 November. Due to the ongoing atrocities and genocide led by the Israeli military in both Gaza and the West Bank, the death toll has been increasing day by day. With basic infrastructure and services destroyed, hospitals overwhelmed, and severe shortages of food, water, and medicine, Gaza verges on grim humanitarian catastrophe. Israel’s cessation of electricity supply, the obstruction of humanitarian aid, and the abrupt displacement of millions of people have raised concerns regarding the potential collective punishment of the people of Gaza. These measures, regarded to be in contravention of established international legal norms, have sparked a debate among people around the world.

Amid Israel’s ongoing military campaign and restrictive measures in Gaza, the international community has witnessed a notable surge in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. This surge has defied conventional geopolitical boundaries, reflecting a growing global outcry over the escalating death toll in the region. The burgeoning support for the Palestinian cause can be attributed not only to the immediate turmoil that has unfolded but also to a more profound acknowledgment of the enduring grievances Palestinians have faced throughout the years of occupation. In this respect, marking the discontent of Palestinians, the UN chief, Antonio Guterres said that ‘Hamas attack didn’t happen in a vacuum.’

Beyond the ongoing crisis, Israel’s 15-year blockade of the Gaza strip, widely regarded as an ‘open-air prison’, has left its 2 million inhabitants imprisoned in appalling conditions. Not only in Gaza but in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, Israel also continues the reckless settling of its citizens not considering any measure of international law. Over 650,000 Israeli settlers have taken over large swaths of the West Bank, restricting Palestinians to disconnected enclaves covering just 40% of the territory. Israeli government routinely demolishes Palestinian homes, restricts movement, confiscates lands, and detains people indefinitely, including hundreds of children each year. These bleak realities constitute daily human rights violations on a massive scale which, along with recent unprecedented developments, have raised worldwide support for the oppressed Palestinians in different corners of the world.

International Law and Accountability

Israel’s continuous attacks and ground invasion in the Palestinian territories violate fundamental principles of international law: the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by war; the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the occupied territories; the illegality of collective punishment; the illegality of forcible population transfer and demographic manipulation through settlements; and the inalienable right of self-determination.

By shielding Israel from accountability, the inaction of the Western leaders has effectively and largely opened the room for Israel to occupy the lands of the Palestinian people. However, although the International Criminal Court is trying hard to make a good vestige that defends that Palestine has jurisdiction over the occupied territories and the civilians should be protected by all means, there is a need for broad support from the member countries to defend the endeavor. On the other hand, it has been noticed that by paving the way for war crimes investigations against Israel as well as Hamas for killing at least 34 journalists, Reporters Without Borders is trying to make meaningful steps towards justice based on international law.

The current Israeli atrocities lay bare the unsustainable contradictions of the status quo on both Palestinian sides: Gaza’s unlivable conditions given rise by the Israeli attacks and ground invasion inevitably breed instability and confrontation, while the occupation and settlements in the West Bank extinguish hope for a negotiated peace. This endless cycle of violence will only end when the world summons the moral courage to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights under international law.

Global Solidarity with Palestinians

The harrowing images of innocent Palestinians particularly children emerging from this latest spasm of violence have unleashed a groundswell of empathy and activism around the world. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets from London and Paris to New York and Santiago. Large numbers of people marched through the heart of London on Saturday, demanding that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declare a truce. Protesters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, gathered in huge numbers and protested near the US embassy. The southern Indian province of Kerala saw about 100,000 people attend a rally in support of Palestine.

Moreover, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, spoke to thousands of his backers at a demonstration in Istanbul, calling Israel an invader and reasserting his unequivocal support for Palestinians. The Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron, situated in the occupied West Bank, advocated for a worldwide boycott of Israeli goods. In other European cities, individuals engaged in public demonstrations in Rome, Copenhagen, and Stockholm as well as in Paris and Marseille. In the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington, a large number of people brandishing Palestinian flags and displaying banners with the message “Free Palestine” participated in a procession towards the Parliament Building.

On social media, hashtags like #GazaUnderAttack and #SavePalestineLife have generated millions of interactions. These spontaneous shows of solidarity signify a growing international consciousness of Palestinians’ plight. Significantly, support spans societies, including growing numbers of orthodox and young Jewish Americans and Israelis openly opposing the Netanyahu government’s policies. In this regard, Jewish and Israeli voices significantly feature prominently in this rising chorus, shattering the false binary of the conflict as an ancient struggle between two equally just causes.

Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow mobilize the values of dignity and emancipation at the heart of Jewish tradition in demanding freedom for all who dwell between the river and sea including the innocent Palestinians who, the group believes, also have the right to self-determination with a fair and peaceful settlement to the conflict. It has been discerned that on the 18th of October, a significant gathering of Jewish individuals and their supporters took place on Capitol Hill. The attendees prominently displayed Palestinian flags, symbolizing their solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and engaged in a spirited rally advocating for the rights of Palestinians. Concurrently, a smaller but impactful sit-in led by Wise, a prominent figure, unfolded within one of the Capitol buildings, attracting the participation of hundreds of dedicated activists.

Also, the largely youth-led movement proclaims that the ‘Freedom Generation’ will no longer stay silent as the Palestinian people being occupied face such wretchedness. Notably, these demonstrations of solidarity come despite considerable efforts to intimidate and suppress pro-Palestinian activism in different countries including the US, Germany, France, and so on. admit to censoring content deemed overly sympathetic to Palestinians. Therefore, from Brooklyn to Bethlehem, a grassroots movement ascends even among the Jewish communities that transcend tribalism and religious bigotry insisting rights are universal regardless of identity and ethnicity. Even, democrats and protestors in the US interrupted the US president, Joe Biden, and US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken calling for a ceasefire and questioning unconditional military aid to Israel that bankrolls occupation, including $14.5 billion aid in the name of self-defense.

Realigning with Global Public Opinion

Government positions in the US, Europe, and Canada remain staunchly supportive of Israel’s bombing of Gaza and obstruction of an immediate ceasefire. This allegiance contradicts the sympathies of their citizens and defies overwhelming global public opinion. Across the Global South, the prevailing solidarity with Palestinians is impossible to ignore. Autocratic Arab regimes preaching support for Palestinians lack credibility, as their de facto alliances with Israel betray their public statements, while sentiments on Arab streets remain overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian.

Crucially, the ill-judged and unscrupulous invasion of Gaza by Israel also threatens to undermine the moral authority Western powers have claimed in rallying the world against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Their failure to uphold Palestinian rights exposed by the evident double standard applied to conflicts in the Middle East risks alienating key partners in the Global South whose support they have sought against Russian aggression.

Israel’s supporters have long sought to paint the conflict as a clash of irreconcilable religious extremists in the name of terrorism rather than as a struggle for Palestinian freedom against Israeli military occupation, dispossession, and inhumane attacks on Palestine even in the Al-Ahli hospital killing more than 500 innocent civilians who were taking medical supports. However, the swelling tide of global solidarity with Palestinian suffering and rights suggests this framing resonates less and less and a profound generational shift away from uncritical support for Israel appears underway.

The Arc of History Bends Towards Justice Defying Geopolitics

History cautions skepticism towards those who dismiss nonviolent movements by asking: “What is the alternative?” From Algeria to South Africa to India, struggle and sacrifice birthed new realities that once seemed unfathomable. Recent years have demonstrated the potential of nonviolent protest coordinated through decentralized networks to alter calcified systems of oppression by Israel and beyond.

From Ramallah to Brooklyn, a new generation carries the dream of equal rights and dignity passed down by their forebears. Their banner reads “Future” which symbolizes the indiscriminate world. In this respect, it can be doubted that the geopolitical interests of different actors prevail over humanity and the crying needs of mankind. No people can be permanently repressed. Justice sits on the horizon, impatient. The global wave behind them grows stronger each day. Its direction now seems irreversible: towards greater awareness that Israel’s domination of Palestinians violates the moral and legal sensibilities of an emerging global majority.

Perhaps this catastrophe marks the beginning of the end of inaction on Palestine. The unprecedented outrage across global civil society signifies that Israel’s policies have stretched the limits of international toleration. As images of utter devastation in Gaza stir the collective conscience, demands for fundamental change crescendo. Though the hour is late, the world’s moral obligation remains. We all must summon the will to recognize and repudiate the oppressions that have brought Palestinians to the precipice, where they stand gazing at the abyss, steadfastness of their shield. The global solidarity rising in their defense proclaims that justice, deferred but not abandoned, will come, however slow its pace. Though darkness shrouds the present, the arc of history ultimately bends toward justice.

– Kawsar Uddin Mahmud is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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