Why are Palestinians supposed to take it – again and again?

The West is trying not only to stifle but to criminalise all Palestinian dissent.

Palestinians carry wounded brothers on a stretcher after recovering them from the rubble of a destroyed area following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, 25 October 2023. [Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE]

Since Israel began its blatant genocide of occupied Gaza almost three weeks ago, a frothing army of pedestrian Western politicians has confirmed their repellent character once more.

Chief among them are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and British cabinet minister Suella Braverman. Both have pursued – like grovelling suitors – Israel’s welcoming embrace, eager to impress their child-mass-murdering darling with loving bonbons of adulation and devotion.

For his predictably slavish part, DeSantis has, in effect, unilaterally scrapped the first amendment of the US Bill of Rights which allegedly guarantees every American citizen the right to express ideas “through speech” and “to assemble or gather with a group to protest”.

The Ivy-league-trained “ignorant bigot” and flailing US presidential candidate earned a burst of fleeting attention earlier this week when he banned a pro-Palestinian student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), from the state’s university campuses.

To my knowledge, the governor’s sweeping cancellation of the SJP has not prompted perpetually aggrieved, third-tier TV personalities and “free-expression” warriors like Bill Maher – who likely has spent more time inside the Playboy Mansion than a library – and company to howl like colicky babies about this egregious assault on unfettered speech.


Not to be outdone on the supposedly sacrosanct “free speech” and “right to assembly” cancellation score, Braverman – the stunt-addicted, bound-to-get-me-on-TV Home Secretary – tried to go one hysterical step further by attempting to have the Palestinian flag outlawed altogether.

Reportedly, Braverman approached several agreeable English police forces – who have been judged guilty, by the way, of institutional racism – asking her compliant chiefs to review if flying or waving the flag constituted the criminal offences of “harassment” or “incitement to violence”.

I gather that the racist police officers are still pondering whether or not to enforce the crazed edict.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of unintimidated Londoners and fans of the Scottish football club, Celtic, let Braverman know what they thought of her and the proposed ban by hoisting – at the risk of being jailed – the Palestinian flag in demonstrations over the weekend and during a Champions League match on Wednesday.

Good for them.

These acts of solidarity by ordinary people in defiance of erasing any overt exhibitions of support for trapped Palestinians and their just cause are fine examples of necessary responses to the West’s state-sanctioned resolve not only to stifle but to criminalise dissent.

It is an old, instructive story that proves that so-called “liberal” democracies will not tolerate having Palestinians and their millions of allies protest the cruel and lethal actions of their apartheid-practising pal in the Middle East – even peacefully.

The explicit meaning of this systemic suppression of Palestinian “voices” is that Palestinians must have no “voice” at all.

They should, instead, shut up and accept as a geopolitical reality Israel’s right to steal and evict Palestinians from their land and homes, as well as to traumatise, imprison, maim and kill them, while invading and obliterating what remains of Palestine with carte blanche impunity.

For further and convincing evidence of this pervasive censorial attitude, please see much of the genocide-giddy Western media these days.

The bizarre corollary, of course, is any challenge to this absurd construct at any time, anywhere, by anyone, amounts, apparently, to a “blood libel” or worse, the vacuous rhetorical canard, “anti-Semitism”.

Hence, the determined push by Israel and its fanatical surrogates abroad to have the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement barred and tarred as an illegal, anti-Semitic affront to thwart Israel’s right to steal and evict Palestinians from their land and homes, as well as to traumatise, imprison, maim and kill them, while invading and obliterating what remains of Palestine with carte blanche impunity.

Palestinians are expected to allow rabid settlers to carry out what, by any measure, amounts to pogrom after pogrom and permit Israeli forces to carpet bomb, starve and dehydrate them to death because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – and his avid champions in the fourth estate – says he can without restraint or remorse.

Palestinians have no right of reply. They have to take it – again and again and again.

De facto: any form of “armed” resistance – including, but not limited to, the throwing of rocks, the burning of tires, or the flying of kites – is considered an outrageous capital offence that often warrants the summary execution of youthful offenders, such as Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar.

The 20-year-old was killed on June 1, 2018, while she tended to Palestinians who had been shot near a perimeter fence in Gaza as they defied their brutal occupation by releasing flaming kites that, invariably, landed on unharmed pieces of parched Israeli soil.

At first, the Israeli military claimed al-Najjar’s murder was “an accident”. Months later, the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, concluded that this was – surprise, surprise – a lie.

“Contrary to the many versions offered by the [Israeli] military, the facts of the case lead to only one conclusion,” a spokesperson for B’Tselem said at the time. Israeli security forces deliberately shot and killed al-Najjar “despite the fact that she posed no danger [and] was wearing a medical uniform”.

In light of Israel’s killing of more than 7,000 Palestinians in the full-throttle pursuit of genocide, nearly half of whom are infants and children, I wonder whether linguist Noam Chomsky and activist Norman Finkelstein – traditional and outspoken friends of Palestinians – are prepared finally to abandon their tactical or wholesale opposition to BDS.

The hellish times and circumstances demand it.

Indeed, in a little-noticed section of its 2021 report, A Threshold Crossed, which found that Israel has, for generations, committed “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) endorsed the main pillars of the BDS campaign.

Remarkably, the group wrote that “all states” should: “Subject agreements, cooperation schemes, and all forms of trade and dealing with Israel to enhanced due diligence to screen for those directly contributing to the commission of crimes of apartheid and persecution of Palestinians,” and “impose targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against officials and entities responsible for the continued commission of grave international crimes, including apartheid and persecution”.

I suspect HRW was motivated to ratify the ethical, legal and moral imperative and legitimacy of BDS by this simple, yet profound impulse: Each one of us is required, in the face of shocking and ingrained injustice and inhumanity visited upon generation after generation of besieged Palestinians, to do something about it.

We will no longer abide lectures by Israel, nor the wretched likes of Ron DeSantis and Sue Braverman, dictating the terms of resistance to the genocidal ferocity of an apartheid state.

Those obsequious days are over.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.