There are two types of dwellings and two different systems for the people in Israel and in the occupied Palestine. One for  Jews and the other for Palestinians.

In occupied Palestine, a Palestinian home may not have running water and for sure no grass, if there’s a front yard. An illegal settler’s home however will have both, running water inside and a sprinkler watered lush green lawn outside.

An indigenous Palestinian in the West Bank is caged behind an apartheid wall while a Zionist settler roams freely in the occupied land of Palestine.

A Palestinian is not allowed the freedom of movement, instead being forced to move through the permanent and pop-up roadblocks and checkpoints manned by Uzi-armed Israeli soldiers, while settlers are free to drive through a four lane Israeli-only road system.

There are similar structural disparities designed and imposed by the Israeli government  upon Palestinians, to keep them  separate and unequal. And that is the reason why Israel has been deemed  an apartheid state by the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (Palestine Peace, Not Apartheid) followed by  Israeli  human rights organization, B’tSelem, in their report “This is Apartheid.” Quite  recently, international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch also reaffirmed earlier positions in their vigorously researched report, “A Threshold Crossed,” that Israel is an apartheid regime. Apartheid is not just a term or an opinion, it is a crime against humanity under international law.

The recently passed Israel’s 2018 Nation State Law is yet another example of legislation that continues the separate and unequal Israeli apartheid against Palestinian people and their heritage.

All this to say to Karen Jaffe that the #FreeGazaFromHamas will happen when #FreePalestineFromIsraeliOccupation happens.

The world just witnessed the Israeli military carry out an 11 day assault on Palestinians in Gaza, with devastating consequences. Israel killed over 220 Palestinians, including at least 67 children. Israeli airstrikes destroyed schools, refugee camps, international media outlets, hospitals, and damaged Gaza’s only COVID-19 testing lab. Entire families were killed. Over 52,000 Palestinians were displaced —a new crisis for individuals, families, and for public health, as COVID-19 continues to spread.

This wasn’t two sides at ‘war.’ This was one of the most advanced militaries in the world attacking a largely defenseless, civilian population—and preventing those civilians from fleeing to safety through its ongoing military blockade. Nothing justifies Israel’s actions. It’s time to stop taking the Israeli army’s word when it absolves itself of war crimes, and it’s time for the U.S. government to step up and hold itself accountable for where our money goes.

But important context to this assault, is that even when Israel’s bombs aren’t dropping, life in Gaza is described by most Palestinians who have been living under Israel’s brutal blockade, sealed off from the rest of the world, for nearly 15 years; and under Israeli military occupation before that, as being unbearable. Life under Israel’s blockade means severe shortages of life-saving medicine, food, electricity, and clean water.

Amid all this, it is unacceptable that the Biden administration has approved a $735 million sale of advanced weapons systems and munitions to Israel. The bulk of the proposed sale is Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS), which are believed to be among the same weapons used by the Israel in the recent Gaza assault.

Further, we should demand our Representatives  co-sponsor H.R. 2590, The Palestinian Children & Families Act,  the first legislation of its kind to ensure U.S. taxpayer funds are not used by the Israeli government to imprison and torture Palestinian children, demolish Palestinian homes and property, or further annex Palestinian land in violation of international law. H.R. 2590 promotes human rights, provides needed government accountability, and helps create the conditions for an end to U.S. military support for Israeli apartheid rule, and for a just and lasting peace for all Palestinians and Israelis. That’s why H.R. 2590 is endorsed by over 140 civil society organizations.

Israel also routinely destroys Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,
leaving thousands of Palestinians homeless. Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes and eviction of Palestinian families has become even more severe and dire during the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2020 alone—as the pandemic raged—Israel demolished or seized 851 Palestinian homes or properties, displacing over 1,000 Palestinians including 524 children.

And every day, Israel annexes more and more land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, devastating the Palestinian economy, cutting off access to their farmlands and water, and separating Palestinians from their loved ones. Israel has shown over and over again that it will continue building settlements despite our government’s verbal objections. Some members of Congress have spoken out against de facto annexation, but it is very clear that that is not enough. Opposing something in word without taking action enables it.

Like so many other purveyors of Israeli hasbara, Ms. Jaffe, without the facts, moral clarity and history on their side; attempts to divert the reader from the cancer of occupation to the flu of Hamas.

The settler-colonial Israeli occupation of Palestine is a malignant cancer. Hashtags will not cure it. Ending the occupation will.

#CongressMustAct to #FreePalestineFromIsraeliOccupation

Estee Chandler is the Board Chair of Jewish Voice for Peace Action.
Shakeel Syed is Regional Director of American Muslims for Palestine.

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