Why I Stand with Palestine

There’s a blood-stained history on all sides. But, the Palestinians have consistently gotten the worst of it over the past 75 years.

Judith Mahoney Pasternak Oct 14, 2023

For the sake of clarity and perspective I write this from Paris, where I am an immigrant from the United States, born in New York of half Jewish, half Irish ancestry. My native land celebrates as a national holiday the moment it (that is, its white settlers) stood up to fight for political autonomy; there were casualties on both sides. My Jewish family marks the flight of the Jews from slavery in Egypt with an annual feast. As a child I was taught to revere the Easter rising of the Irish against their country’s British occupiers, although the Irish lost and suffered by far the greater part of the casualties. Here in my adopted land, the peoples’ rising against their hereditary masters, the nobility, is also a national holiday. And none — repeat, none — of those struggles was easy or came without a price in blood, for the most part the blood of those rising up, but also, often, the blood of those risen against.

My Jewish family marks the flight of Jews from slavery. The Irish side of my family revered the Easter rising.

And, also for the sake of clarity and perspective, I revisit the history of the nation of Israel, declared as such in a 1947 partition plan approved by the United Nations General Assembly. In 1922, Jews constituted some 12% of the population of the Palestine Mandate, the area controlled by Great Britain. But at that point, the West began encouraging Jewish immigration there, and by 1947, Jews made up 32% of the population. A year later, however, they were a majority by hundreds of thousands, thanks to the arrival of the refugees from the death camps of Germany’s Third Reich. The United Nations, for its several reasons (none of those reasons particularly friendly to Jews), declared two nations, a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine. The division never worked; Israel was the homeland of too many Palestinians, rendered second-class citizens by the terms of the division. War ensued. Israel won. Palestinians have been semi-stateless ever since, and Israelis murder them with impunity, singly or en masse.

It is, in other words, a bloodstained history on all sides, but the Palestinians have consistently gotten the worst of it. And yet, this week, most of the mainstream media and even normally Palestine-sympathetic commentators are deploring the Israeli blood spilled since Saturday’s “invasion” by Hamas, the militant Islamist Palestinian force.

None of this is to say that the indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed noncombatants is a good or even morally neutral act. Indeed, such acts are defined as war crimes in all the codes that define those crimes. But in history and in what one might call national karma, numbers count. So does who started what, and what was the provocation. Since the first war-crime codes were adopted, they have never been applied to the winner of any war. No tribunal, for example, has ever tried the United States for Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or the firebombing of Dresden. A recent former U.S. President might have observed that losers get convicted of war crimes, and winners get away with them. But history and karma know that for 75 years Israel has been attempting to expel the Palestinians or exterminate them while they are a captive people. The latter constitutes the crime called genocide, and the victims of that continuing crime on Israel’s part outnumber all Palestine’s victims by orders of magnitude.

Dear Friends: The Hamas assault was a violent, brutal act, criminal under international law. But it was not an invasion. It was and remains a violent, brutal uprising against a murderous occupying force. Please consider the difference between where your sympathies usually lie, where they lie today, and why.

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