Millions Take to the Streets in Unprecedented Show of Support for Palestine

On October 7th, the world witnessed the most aggressive response Hamas has had toward Israel.  Hamas, fired around 5,000 rockets into Israeli territory, overloading their anti-missile system in a never-before-seen offensive many Israelis refer to as “their 9/11”. Israel’s response was equally unprecedented: a reinforcement of the naval blockade that had dramatically impacted the lives of the inhabitants of the Stripe. The blockade has notably entailed a closing of all borders, actively stopping humanitarian aid from passing to the extent that many people were forced to drink salt water. In addition to the rockets, the fences separating Israel and Gaza were breached, and many in the international community were witness to the kidnappings and shootings that took place during the rave organised just a few kilometres away from the border. 

This article will not delve into the specifics of the events in Gaza, as the reports are both convoluted and contradictory. Initial reports suggested terrorists were responsible for a shooting at an Outdoor Tribe of Nova rave just a few miles away from Israel’s militarised border with Gaza, but following videos seen by the public revealed the involvement of the army. Various claims have emerged from Israeli authorities, including allegations of child beheadings, sexual assaults on women, and the taking of hostages by Hamas. However, these accounts vary widely in terms of the severity of the crimes mentioned and the credibility of the sources given. Increasingly, videos that allege to depict how Hamas militants prepare for this offensive are surfacing on the four corners of the internet. 

Videos have surfaced of how Hamas militants prepared for this offensive. Many Western public broadcast services have been found to use images from video games and pass them off as footage from a battlefield. Apparently, the only evidence that a hospital was bombed by Israeli missiles are statements, deleted immediately, by Netanyahu’s spokesmen on social media. Social media has also become a platform where war is happening. Multiple trends have surfaced such as one where Israeli users put baby powder on their faces, create fake blood stains with ketchup, and hold a cloth rolled up to an orange with two ‘X’s as eyes and a curved line as a sad mouth so as to mock Palestinian civilians shown mourning their family members who fell victim to Israeli bombings.

Watching the reactions of a select few Israeli and Jewish actors on social media, I’ve come to realise that not only is the pro-Israel propaganda in Israel terribly entrenched in both communities but the local population is not entirely cognisant of the fact that their state is actively engaged in a war. Soldiers with M-16s patrolling Tel Aviv’s beach are normal, living next to a community that propaganda says is always ready to kill you in the name of jihad has become the norm. I don’t think that the images of the desperation of the Palestinian community properly reach Israel, and I do not think that they are made aware of the existence of an essentially defenseless, unprotected community constantly under the threat of sporadic bombing and military persecution. 

On the other hand, and this is something that will surely be remembered in the history books, there has been large-scale worldwide civil support for Palestine. Unexpected countries have come out and shown their support through protests. Few would expect nations to rally so strongly behind a cause. Thousands have taken to the streets to express their support for the Palestinian community. From Indonesia to Yemen, to Mexico and South Africa, people of all faiths and ages have vouched for the security and the rights of the people of Palestine. This is a huge consolation because it means that billions of people around the world bear the knowledge that Israel is a settler-colonial state built on the abuse of a community and that what is happening to the Palestinian population is an overt and unabashed crime against humanity. However, responses from the international community have been variable. Indeed, some European governments have banned all pro-Palestinian demonstrations (France, Sweden, the Berlin region), while others have implemented controversial censorship on signs and flags protesting responses to the ongoing crisis. Most notably, in London, a sign depicting UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, The POTUS Joe Biden, and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu with the message “Wanted For War crimes’ was confiscated by the police during a Palestine solidarity protest in London. 

I went to Paris to cover some of the pro-Palestinian protests that occurred despite President Macron signing off on a ban of such demonstrations. On this occasion, the French people who took to the streets showed great courage as they openly defied the government. We cannot let the events of history pass us by while we stand idle and think we are powerless. Each of us is part of the global community. Although the sheer number of people on the planet may overwhelm us, it must not lead to our inaction and inertia. But the truth is that we are extremely powerful and that community mobilization really can change the course of history. The wave of rallies,  demonstrations, and other events of varying scales bring global awareness of the plight and resilience of the Palestinian people. They also remind us how intertwined it is with the great struggles of our time: the struggle for gender equality, LGBT+ acceptance, and climate change, to name a few. 

Aside from continuing to demand the liberation of Palestine and a formal apology from the state of Israel, there is a lot we can learn from these past few weeks. The international mobilisation that has prevailed despite continued efforts to curtail it is a demand for social justice and a demand for an end to a conflict that has seen generations of Palestinians die, flee and despair over avoidable deaths. 

We must continue to demand justice for Palestine, we must continue to protest, and we must continue to learn that the changes in history were made by the people who took to the streets.

Published on The University Observer on 26th October 2023

Photo credits: @mg_photojournalist