My heart remains so heavy for the Palestinian civilians being slaughtered in Gaza. A population already made up of 50% children, which speaks to the violence they have endured for so long now.
And heavy for Jews, particularly those in the diaspora, who have no say in what the government of Israel does and are also at risk of violence from Hamas and antisemites around the world.
Y’all know I don’t often comment on current events, but oppression of any kind is a body liberation issue.
Body liberation is about fighting and dismantling oppressive systems, and colonialism is no exception. Body liberation also means freedom from violence, from being pushed from your home or land, from racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.
The state of Israel must stop killing civilians in Gaza. Now.
Slaughtering civilians is wrong, no matter whether it’s Hamas or Israel doing it. Saying that Israel needs to stop murdering thousands of people is in no way condoning violence elsewhere. That said, despite all the research and thought and soul-searching I’ve done over the last month before speaking out, I’m having such a hard time coming up with words, rather than just intense grief. So I’m turning to other voices.
One voice is that of Phedre Devereaux, who’s been doing a tremendous amount of research and thinking on Palestine and body liberation. I asked her to write a piece specifically for this week’s Body Liberation Guide, and it’s below.
There’s this idea that what is happening in Gaza and The West Bank right now is somehow political. It’s really not. It’s a humanitarian crisis. Civilians are being killed. Survivors are being denied medical care, food, water, and anywhere safe to go. According to U.N. officials and nearly 900 international scholars, Israel is carrying out an ongoing genocide against the 2.3 million Palestinians confined to living in the occupied Gaza Strip.
A poll by Data for Progress shows 66% of voters believe the U.S. should call for a ceasefire and leverage its close relationship with Israel to prevent further loss of civilian life. That includes the majority of Democrats, Republicans, and third party voters. Two thirds of the U.S. agrees. But we’re not feeling that unity. We are instead witnessing friends accuse each other of supporting terrorism. Multiple people have shared with me that they’d like to speak out about Palestine, but they’re understandably terrified of being called antisemitic or hurting their relationships with Jewish friends.
If you’ve been held silent by your fear, I understand how you feel. Leading up to October 7, I felt overwhelmed just thinking about the Middle East. I thought that the situation was too difficult for me to really grasp or understand. Everyone always said how complex it was. But once I did my own reading and stopped accepting the news at face value, I found that it’s really not that complicated and Palestinians desperately need our support. All of my sources and resources are listed in the Resources section and I strongly encourage you to explore them for yourselves.
What does this have to do with body liberation? The answer is painfully simple. White supremacy. Anti-fatness and Zionism are both rooted in white colonialism and oppression. Not to mention this is a mass disabling event. Those who survive the displacement and constant bombings will be left physically, mentally, and emotionally devastated. Doctors Without Borders report a new acronym that has come into use, not used anywhere else: WCNSF. It stands for wounded child, no surviving family.
Hostilities in the Middle East are not new, but our ability to watch them in real time on our phones is. What we’re seeing is horrific and heartbreaking. Watching a genocide occur in real time should be upsetting. But the messages that we’re getting from our media and our government tell us that these people somehow deserve what is happening to them. They have brought this on themselves and it is too complicated an issue for the average person to understand. These messages are causing us to remain silent.
It was agreed by Western Imperial powers that Israel should be given land to build and expand. But that land wasn’t empty and it wasn’t theirs to give. And the process of colonizing and settling Palestine feels upsettingly familiar as a white American living on colonized land. Palestine did not attack first. Palestine has just been trying to exist.
Oppressors are afraid that the same tactics they use against others will in turn be used against them. When we call for the right of Palestinian people to self govern, to be allowed movement and access to their own land and natural resources, to be allowed to go home, this is seen as a call to destroy the Israeli people. But it’s not. It’s a call to end the apartheid state Palestinians have been forced to live under.
Dehumanization is required for people to allow genocide to occur. If you have found yourself justifying what Israel is doing because there has been violence on both sides, it’s understandable why you might think that. The Israeli government has put millions into propaganda to convince you that if you stand against Israel, you stand against all Jewish people. They have demonized the Palestinian people as terrorists, even the children, to shut off the part of your brain that knows collective punishment is wrong.
We need to acknowledge that propaganda works. It’s understandable if you live in the West and didn’t know about the Nakba, the great catastrophe when 750,000 Palestinians were violently displaced from their homes and entire villages were slaughtered. It’s okay if you didn’t know about the 17 years of restrictions on movement, food, water, and fuel that the people of Gaza have endured before this bombing even started. The same targeted messages that taught you not to trust your body and to question your own instincts are at work on you again now.
Targeting mosques, hospitals, and schools is a war crime. Your instincts are correct. It’s not that complex. Speaking out for Palestine does not mean you don’t care about the hostages. They are also in danger with the ongoing bombings, starvation, and lack of water. It has to be possible to acknowledge the pain of one community without denying the pain of the other. But we also can’t pretend the Hamas attack on October 7 was without context. Senior U.N. official Craig Mokhiber wrote before he resigned that, “The European, ethno-nationalist, settler colonial project in Palestine has entered its final phase, toward the expedited destruction of the last remnants of indigenous Palestinian life in Palestine.”
War crimes do not justify further war crimes.
As a community that cares deeply about body liberation and bodily autonomy, this is our lane. As human beings who care about the loss of life of other human beings, this is our lane. And for those of you like me, as white settlers living on stolen land, with a government that is funding and supporting this genocide, this must be our lane. It’s time we join the global community and human rights organizations from around the world in calling for a ceasefire. Medical treatment, food, water, fuel, and humanitarian aid must immediately be allowed in.
We are not free until we are all free. We cannot fight for body liberation while ignoring what our government is doing. Do no harm is not good enough. We must do active good. Standing against war crimes will always be the right thing to do. There are no two sides to genocide. Break your silence. Stand with Palestine.
https://t.co/6wjfpneRht This is a Google doc with an extensive list of links to articles, videos, and images about Palestine and Israel. It was created and is maintained and updated by Madeline Pendleton. It covers everything from the history of the region including the Nakba to Israeli war crimes to the comparison of Israeli to Palestinian death tolls to the debunking of propaganda to anti Zionist Jewish voices to information on Hamas and more. Content warning: some of these links lead to images that are very difficult to look at, including the section of children’s deaths. Please take care of yourself as you learn.
https://decolonizepalestine.com/ This is the Decolonize Palestine website, which is “a collection of resources for organizers and anyone who wants to learn more about Palestine.”
https://www.amnesty.org/en/ Amnesty International works to observe, document, and end abuses to human rights all over the world.
www.hrw.org Human Rights Watch investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world
www.unrwa.org United Nations Relief and Works for Palestine Refugees in the near East “Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on. UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.”
www.BDSmovement.net If you’re looking for boycott information, here is where you want to go. “The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources on body liberation, weight stigma, body image and more. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.