Dublin protest, October 2023. Image from www.rte.ie
On the 7 October 2023, and after 75 years of being on the receiving end of extreme levels of state sanctioned violence, the militant group Hamas broke international law when it kidnapped and killed Israeli civilians, including children. Part of their assault reportedly included the deaths of many as 260 people who were attending an all-night dance festival in Southern Israel. The actions of Hamas have been rightly condemned by politicians, other institutional leaders, and ordinary people across the world. In its immediate aftermath, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared war on Hamas announcing that Palestinians would pay a heavy price for the attacks.
Less forthcoming, particularly amongst political leaders, was any acknowledgement that the violent events of the 7 October didn’t happen out of the blue but were a consequence of a persistent regime of brutality that has been waged on Palestinian people much of which has been sanctioned by the west and funded, in the main, through billions of dollars of US aid to Israel every year. Don’t just take my word for it. In 2022, Amnesty International produced a detailed report that paints Israel as an Apartheid state that imposes an institutionalised regime of oppression and domination against the Palestinians where it exercises control over their rights including the supply of goods into the region, the freedom of movement, and the denial of right to return for Palestinian refugees.
Within a week of the attack by Hamas, 6,000 bombs had been dropped on Gaza a strip of land that houses around two million people, half of whom are children. The Israeli government justified these attacks, and the repeated denial of water, fuel and other essential supplies by claiming Hamas were using civilians as human shields. US support for the actions of Israel was unwavering. Almost immediately Joe Biden conflated Ukraine and Israel in seeking a €106 billion 'aid package' much of which is to purchase some of the world’s advanced miliary weapons. In Europe, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Tel Aviv and expressed Europe's unconditional support for Israel's revenge attack without a mandate from members states.
All the while, news report after news report played down mass protests against the actions of Israel that involved tens of thousands of people around the world including amongst ordinary Irish people with thousands taking to the street in support of Palestinians and against the actions of Israel. Some countries sought to ban similar protests including France and Germany. In the UK, Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed waving a Palestinian flag 'many not be legitimate' as it may be deemed to be supporting acts of terrorism as she told police officers to ‘use the full force of the law’ against any expressions of support for Hamas. In Dublin, the tech company Wix fired an employee because of a social media post where she described Israel as 'a terrorist state'. 
As the death toll in Gaza continues to rise, mainstream news reports continue to act as if the decades of injustices Palestinians have endured simply never took place. Many commentators, including in Ireland, persist with an ‘equal sides’ perspective of two countries at war with each other. They cloak the bombardment of Gaza in a narrative that their job is not to ‘take sides’ describing the occupation as ‘complex’ and ‘difficult to understand’. This isn’t true and there are many easy to access accounts of the context of what is going on from a range of reputable sources. All accounts agree that many Jews were forced to flee their own potential annihilation in Europe when they settled in Palestine in the 1940s, a part of the world which is said to have religious historical significance for Jewish people. To illustrate, The Israel Forever Foundation describe ‘The Land of Israel’ as ‘the Jewish national homeland: the history, faith, religion, culture, and identity of the Jewish people have always been tied to this land which bears our name.’
Source of the map: Palestineportal.org.
But the new country they sought to create wasn’t built on empty land. It was the homeland of the Palestinian people who endured a brutal nakba which displaced the majority of people already living there by Zionist militia in the first instance and later by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
Today, Palestinians are annexed either in the West Bank or Gaza strip as forced evictions by Israeli settlers (meaning they literally come to your house and force you to leave then either take it over or bulldoze it) have continued to expand into Occupied Palestinian Territories. These settlements, in the words of the UN, 'constitute flagrant violation of International law'.
A turning tide?
In the book Conflict Is not Abuse, Sarah Schulman comprehensively detailed how, in 2014, the world watched on in real time as genocide was unleashed by Israel on Gaza. She observed,
IN OUR CONTEMPORARY MOMENT, one human disaster rooted in over-identification with the “bad” group or unself-critical family that blatantly violates human decency is the Occupation of Palestine and the suppression and murder of Palestinians by Israelis. Like all creations of the other as monster, Jewish Supremacy is a pure manifestation of “loyalty” without opposition; a creation rooted in the mirror of Supremacy and Trauma. One of the most glaring and lethal applications of this false accusation of harm as a justification for cruelty in turn is the way Palestinian resistance to occupation has been pathologized instead of supported.
Nothing will bring back the thousands of deaths and injuries that are occurring as a result of Israel’s revenge attack, rebuild the whole communities that have been flattened, or reverse the impacts of hundreds of thousands of people being deliberately displaced. It is also unlikely that the actions of the IDF will in any way protect the safety of any Israeli hostages that are being held who are surely just as likely to lose their life by Israeli air strikes as anyone else in Gaza.
But the othering of the Palestinian people Schulman describes is no longer a credible position as, more and more, and with the help of social media, Palestinian people are sharing first-hand accounts of the details of their lives. Palestinian journalists invited to participate in ‘both sides’ debates are refusing to accept this narrative and are openly challenging western journalises for failing to report on the bombing of Gaza in context. One example worth watching is when Yara Eid fought back against the false narrative offered by one Sky news reporter.
Other people who once avoided engaging with the events in the Middle-East are now speaking up and to describe Israel as an apartheid state is no longer considered a radical opinion. Where Von Der Leyen’s impromptu visit to Tel Aviv and unwavering support for Israel may have gone largely unchallenged in the past, her actions prompted 842 EU staff members to write a letter expressing their fury over her stance and any claims that it represented the views of Europeans.
Picture source: The Guardian, 28 October, 2023
In one of many protests (depicted in this image) hundreds of arrests were made when police broke up a demonstration of mostly Jewish protesters who, on the 28 October, took over the main hall of New York’s Grand Central Station.
Opposition by US Jews didn't just start in 2023 rather has been growing for some time. The organisation Jewish Voice for Peace was one of the first to call for an immediate ceasefire. Some individuals have also used their platform to break through false narratives including the Hollywood actor Seth Rogan whose brand image often centres on his Jewishness and whose parents met on a Kibbutz in Israel. He helped break through the hegemonic expectations for US Jews when, in 2020, he openly discussed how he was 'fed a huge amount of lies about Israel' as a young person and that nobody told him that the Jewish state was created on land where Palestinians were already living.
What can we (in the west) do to stop this?
Now is the time for mainstream politicians, including in Ireland, to stop lagging behind public opinion. This includes Sinn Féin who have for many years claimed to be pro-Palestinian. However, both McDonald and O’Neill legitimised the visit of US president Joe Biden in April 2023 despite his ongoing, decades long vociferous support of the occupation of Palestine. By contrast, TDs from People before Profit (PbP) boycotted Biden’s speech in the Dáil choosing to stage a protest outside instead. Had they been allowed to question Biden, they would have attended but this request was denied. Sinn Fein also voted in favour of a problematic government motion that asserted ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’ following the October 7 2023 attacks on civilians by Hamas but denied the same right to Palestinians. One of their senior party members Matt Carthy eloquently summed up the problematic nature of this motion in a speech in the Dáil as follows:
the words ‘Israel must defend itself’ means in practice that Israel takes that right in practice as licence to bombard civilians, to bomb schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure and that has now been taken as licence to enforce the displacement of 1 million people from one end of an open air prison to another, to deny food energy, medical supplies to a besieged civilian population, to actually deny them water, to ensure that children, the sick, the disabled the elderly will literally die of thirst.
His speech as well as an equally impassioned speech by Richard Boyd Barrett of PbP went viral across the world including in the Middle-East.
Sinn Féin proposed amendments to the government motion including the insistence that Israel act within international law but these were all defeated. However, when PbP presented a counter-motion that did include the right of Palestinians to resist occupation and attack as well as calling for the resignation of Ursula von der Leyen, the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador and that Benjamin Netanyahu be referred to the International Criminal Court, Sinn Féin opted not to support it and the motion fell.
What is happening in Gaza is not a ‘humanitarian crisis’, an expression more typically reserved for disasters such as flooding, or earth quakes. It is a deliberate air and ground assault on a mostly civilian population who are caged in the worlds largest open air prison. Its impacts are most definitely creating overwhelming need for the most basic supplies for human survival including food and water. So much so that twenty days into the siege of Gaza that has followed the 7 October attack UN aid agencies announced they would have to reduce their aid operations because they simply have no fuel.
Our immediate demands can be clearly expressed. A ceasefire to stop the deliberate ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people, emergency aid to Gaza and an end to the 17-year long blockade. We must keep pressuring our politicians to take meaningful, decisive action, join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement that lists the goods and services to avoid, and continue to fly the Palestinian flag in solidarity with those under occupation.
This is written by Dr Camilla Fitzsimons who works as an Associate Professor in the department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University, Ireland. She is also member of Academics for Palestine.
 When I wrote this article, my website was hosted by Wix.
 Schuman, S. (2016). Conflict is not abuse: overstating harm, Community Responsibility and Duty of Repair. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 137.
 https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2023-10-18/19/. Accessed 22 October 2023.