The Palestinian demand for freedom and justice is subjected to a campaign aimed at delegitimizing these demands. When we raise our voices and challenge this oppression, we are silenced, attacked and branded anti-Semitic. Now there is a growing tendency to legislate that criminalizes our claim for justice and seeks our accountability, and formalizes our exclusion. The most recent attempt in this effort is the decision to oppose the "boycott of Israel" movement of the US House of Representatives. As the deputy Rachida Tlaib, herself the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, noted, the decision was "a violation of our freedom of speech and our right to boycott the racist policies of the Government and the State of Israel."
There are outsiders promoting the quest to reduce this space of rights, as they try to put us in the corner of history, rather than consider a people can stand on his feet freely and dignity. This trend is an extension of the systematic Israeli occupation, the racial discrimination we face within our homeland, and our deprivation of all rights. This situation envelops every aspect of our lives.
On the hill where I live in Ramallah, I can see two Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the heart of the West Bank. The authorities allow the illegal settlers in these two settlements to consume our water more than we consume. They have the roads and infrastructure that distinguish them from us. We have been tried under martial law in Israeli military courts, which are almost 100% in all cases, while settlers living in the neighborhood can harass and attack Palestinians with impunity. The policy of building and annexing settlements that Israel has practiced for decades has already created the reality of a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Today, 13 million people live under Israeli rule.
Several cases of injustice
We can say that it is not the same for a group of people governed by a set of laws, and another is subject to a multi-tier system of laws. This reality underlies many cases of injustice that can be classified under different names, but in the end it is an institutional system of systematic repression and hegemony by a group of people to another group. The promise of an independent Palestinian state has become an illusion called self-rule, confined to our cities and towns. We live in ever-shrinking islands swallowed up by an escalating wave of Israeli expansion and control.
Yet we see statements, resolutions and laws by parliaments and governments around the world that claim that our freedom and our advocacy of our rights are a violation of the peace process and the two-state solution. Sometimes I wonder: what alternative reality can the Palestinian people live in? We as Palestinians are increasingly deprived of our right to speak, identify, or even challenge this fact. When we seek to use means of protest that are compatible with basic democratic values, such as human rights, the right to boycott and freedom of expression, we clash with so-called anti-Semitism.
The equality of criticizing Israel with the most hatred is a tactic that has been taken away to delegitimize that criticism. It is a serious charge that leaves convicts associated with the worst human behavior, with little or no space to respond. However, this tactic is constantly reinforced to promote a political agenda rather than to use it to combat anti-Semitism. We saw this as a statement of action when US President Donald Trump attacked four non-white Democratic congressmen after describing them as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
Numerous Palestinian and international organizations have been attacked and delegitimized by calling them "terrorist" or "anti-Semitic" for their defense of Palestine and human rights, with the aim of reducing their funding or closing them completely. The civil rights icon, Angela Davies, the rapper, Taleb Quelle, and the director of the Berlin Jewish Museum, Peter Schaeffer, were all victims of this approach.
At the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy, which I chair, our digital campaigns that show the human aspect of the struggle for freedom and rights have been met with hate speech, silencing Palestinian voices, denying our existence as a people and classifying us as Muslim terrorists. These attacks and attempts to delegitimize also targeted a film we released about the mental health of the children of Gaza, because it shows the terrified children living under siege.
The phenomenon of deflation of freedom is no longer confined to these campaigns of general distortion, but rather to political and legislative initiatives aimed at criminalizing our struggle for freedom and rights. In the United States, at least 26 states have enacted legislation to confiscate the right to protest against Israel through its boycott. The decision of the House of Representatives is not the first attempt, and will not be the last to silence us. This attempt is not isolated, but it is part of a growing global wave. Whether criticism of Israel is combined with anti-Semitism or the prohibition of boycotting Israel through any form of protest, these initiatives have taken their course in Germany, France, Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and this list is not final.
The threat posed by this trend is not limited to Palestine, but such legal and political measures strike at the heart of fundamental democratic values and rights throughout the world. It is a global vision based on exclusion: denial of civil rights and human rights for some groups, but not for all. It is another example of the effective use of intimidation and racism to incite the "other" and to attack those who do not comply with a certain form of political submission.
We must all stand against what is called anti-Semitism and against all forms of hate speech, whether anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant or anti-black. We must also be wary of those who actively use hate speech to normalize injustice and facilitate impunity.
For those who share, or advocate, the universal values of freedom, justice and equality, we call upon them to stand up against initiatives that seek to stifle the Palestinians and collectively seek to create a space for a more just world.
Salem Brahma, Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, an independent non-governmental organization working to raise awareness of Palestine and mobilize people to take action for change.
When Palestinians seek to use means of protest that conform to basic democratic values, such as human rights, the right to boycott and freedom of expression, they collide with so-called anti-Semitism.