Content warning: This article discusses the killing of children and an ongoing genocide that may be affecting family members of students, faculty and staff at the University of Connecticut.
Do not look away from the news. Do not look away from social media.
Under normal circumstances, the latter is the last advice I’d give; however, we are the furthest thing from “normal circumstances.” Elected officials in the United States are bankrolling, supplying and cheering on another genocide while failing to recognize that and act accordingly. This will undoubtedly have horrific implications for the future of humanity.
Since Saturday, Oct. 7, Israel has bombarded Gaza and parts of the West Bank with wanton, indiscriminate airstrikes and the full-throated support of U.S. officials from President Joe Biden to so-called “progressive” politicians like Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn. Consumers of news and social media living outside of Southwest Asia have most likely seen the death toll in Gaza tick upwards with each swipe upwards, insulated by access to food, water and electricity that Palestinians currently do not have. As of writing this, over 5,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, half of whom were children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
To underscore the breathtaking severity of these figures, Israel has taken as many civilian lives in just over two weeks as Russia did four months into its invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, these atrocities were committed against a captive population besieged within an area smaller than the city of Philadelphia (although these references are meant to serve as measurements, it is worth dispensing of the notion that the only way to communicate the scale of Zionist aggression and occupation is to compare Palestinian deaths to European or American situations).
Dwarfed by the sheer loss of human life and mass displacement of millions of people in what many Palestinians are calling “the second Nakba,” a secondary tragedy today is the reduction of Gazans to the impersonal numerical value of a death toll. Try as some might, neither the headlines nor the infographics can capture the rich life experiences of the individuals, families and neighborhoods killed by Israel. Passive scrolling cannot properly memorialize the thousands of slain children who spent their entire lives finding moments of joy, play and togetherness under a blockade older than most of them.
At the same time, social media has emerged as one of the only tools Palestinians have to expose the face of the war waged against them by Israel, the United States and Western Europe.
Motaz Azaiza, a Palestinian photojournalist, has used Instagram to showcase the extensive destruction caused by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. In one video, Azaiza used personal drone footage to illustrate how Israeli bombs flattened the southern city of al Zahra, located where Gazans were told to evacuate pending a ground invasion of the Strip. Other posts by Azaiza put grieving parents, orphaned children and dead bodies of all ages front and center in scenes that are harrowing but ultimately necessary to watch, especially as accounts such as his are suspended by platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
I personally understand that the non-stop broadcast of destruction in Gaza may cause some to instinctively avoid social media due to mental health concerns, but wellness is a luxury that the people of Palestine cannot afford.
Deliberately choosing to limit one’s intake of developments in Palestine is a form of complacency that indicates who can afford not to care about the issue. The vast majority of the time, this is limited to people in the Global North whose countries wield the very same military apparatus being used to ethnically cleanse the north of Gaza.
But currently, there is nothing more important than caring. This is because the State of Israel is ramping up for a genocide in Gaza, and the Biden Administration is fully endorsing by deploying three-star Marine general James Glynn to advise Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, according to a report by Axios.
Although university students have likely read the United Nations “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” ad nauseum, it nonetheless speaks to the conditions in Palestine. The Convention characterizes as genocide “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” by killing or inflicting physical or mental harm upon its members. Additionally, genocide includes “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction,” as well as measures meant to prevent births.
Surely ordering an evacuation of 1.1 million Gazans from their homes while bombing their exit route; enforcing a blockade that leaves over 5,500 pregnant people without working hospitals in which to safely give birth; and warring against a civilian population under the guise of fighting “terrorists” meet, if not exceed, these criteria.
Americans are not in the position to call for a mere ceasefire, as anti-Zionist Jewish activist groups have led the charge to demand — the misguidedness of this well-intentioned but fundamentally flawed tactic is a topic in itself. Instead of rendering Palestinians helpless against an unaccountable Zionist occupation, which wields disproportionately more power at the negotiation table, the immediate task for people in the U.S. is right in front of us: ending economic and military support for the occupation. Politicians voicing support for the State of Israel today can’t simply be rendered unelectable through community organizing and protest — they have to be etched in history as active supporters of a genocide. We fundamentally failed to do this by allowing for the election of fervent Iraq War supporter, Joe Biden, to the office of president; we can’t make that mistake again.
As part of a state actively supplying Israel with the tools for committing genocide, we share responsibility for the mass death that will occur should we not intervene and end the U.S. government’s military support for Israel. Just as Azerbaijan, which is an ally of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, received virtually no global pushback for expelling tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians from the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh — formerly known as the Republic of Artsakh — Israel will be let off scot-free for committing one of the most swift and devastating atrocities of the century by virtue of its good graces with the U.S. empire. Helplessness against genocide today may mean helplessness against the catastrophic effects of climate change tomorrow. Action is costly, but inaction is infinitely costlier.