[Column] Silence is complicity in the violence in Gaza

Posted on : 2023-11-24 16:47 KST Modified on : 2023-11-24 16:47 KST
It’s a lie to say that there’s nothing we can do for Palestinians
Participants in a rally outside the Israeli Embassy in Seoul on Nov. 23 hold up signs calling for an end to Israel’s massacre in Gaza and US support for Israel’s massacre of Palestinians. (Baek So-ah/The Hankyoreh)
Participants in a rally outside the Israeli Embassy in Seoul on Nov. 23 hold up signs calling for an end to Israel’s massacre in Gaza and US support for Israel’s massacre of Palestinians. (Baek So-ah/The Hankyoreh)
By Kim So-min, freelance writer

In November 2015, more than 130 French citizens were killed when the Islamic State orchestrated a massive terrorist attack on Paris.

Global landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the White House and the Empire State Building lit up in blue, white and red, in a nod to France’s tricolor flag. The lights on N Seoul Tower in Korea’s capital rotated through the three colors. Facebook allowed users to place the colors on their profile pictures. The hashtag #PrayForParis was seen all over social media.

Then when a terrorist drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in 2017, many social media users expressed their solidarity by changing their profile pictures and posting the hashtag #PrayForLondon.

At the same time — and indeed in the years before and after that — people were being killed through Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, an area barely half the size of Seoul. There were 1,391 killed in 2008 (including 318 under the age of 18), 167 in 2012, 2,203 in 2014, and 232 in 2021.

Through this September, right before the war in Gaza broke out, 230 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli settlers and soldiers this year. But the world remained quiet, as if nothing had happened. Mourning is the marker of whom we see as human.

“But Hamas attacked first,” some will say. When 120 of 193 countries in the UN General Assembly supported a ceasefire resolution on Oct. 27, the US voted against the resolution on the grounds that it didn’t denounce Hamas, while South Korea abstained.

If we’re going to talk about who attacked first, let’s not forget that Gaza is an open-air prison. After Hamas won a resounding victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Israel built a 6-meter-high wall around the Gaza Strip.

Gaza fishers are fired upon while trying to fish. Israel regularly cuts off access to raw materials, water, electricity, food and pharmaceuticals. Gaza’s water supply has been polluted by Israeli bombing.

If we’re going to talk about who attacked first, consider the Nakba, meaning “the catastrophe.” After the US approved the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, Israel drove 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.

If we’re going to talk about who attacked first, we ought to consider the racist empires of Europe. In 1917, the UK, which controlled the Suez Canal, issued the Balfour Declaration, pledging its support to the construction of a national state for Jews in a land where Jews and Arabs were living together.

Fascism in Europe massacred the Jews and drove them out. And then Israel massacred the Palestinians. Palestine was colonized and the cries of its people have been ignored for 75 years. Generations of Palestinians have had nothing to look forward to but death in the open-air prison to which they are confined.

The countries that have ignored their pain or made it worse have done nothing, washing their hands of the whole affair. But it’s a euphemism to say they’ve done nothing.

While South Korea has taken cover behind feigned neutrality, more than 10,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed by Israeli attacks. Seven out of every 10 dead are women or children. UNICEF has revealed that each day, 136 children are dying in Gaza. After cutting off fuel, water and electricity, Israel has gone so far as to bomb Gaza hospitals, ambulances, refugee camps and bakeries. Ahmed Shabat, a child of only four years of age, fled to a refugee camp after losing 17 members of his family. But when the camp was bombed as well, he lost both of his legs as well.

What words are there to describe this other than genocide and ethnic cleansing?

I know an activist in their late 40s who is associated with Workers’ Solidarity, which has advocated for Palestinian liberation for more than 25 years. They described the feeling of learning of the plight of the Palestinians as leaving them “as shocking as when I learned about what happened in Gwangju in 1980.”

“Where is the world I thought I knew?” they asked. Still, they’re finding a small silver lining to this tragedy: “People have started to take an interest in Palestine.”

A rally in solidarity with Palestine held on Nov. 18 in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, saw around 100 attendees. At the rally, Choi Kyu-jin, the secretary general of the Association of Physicians for Humanism, related the situation on the ground in Gaza as told to her by a doctor there on Nov. 11.

“The hospital where this doctor works has 50 pregnant mothers expected to give birth by the end of this month, but it is unsure of whether it will be able to keep all these mothers and infants alive. The continued bombardment has made it so that vehicles delivering medical supplies are unable to reach the hospital, and even the medical staff are unable to easily go between buildings because of snipers. This doctor is pleading: ‘Too many have died already. Please, do everything you can to end the bombing now so that we can at least save those currently dying.’”

Around the world, people are coming together at protests to condemn Israel’s air raids on Gaza. On Thursday, Israel said that they would pause fighting for four days, but that the war would go on.

It’s a lie to say that there’s nothing we can do. To be silent is to be complicit in the violence against Palestinians.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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