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NEW: A Diary of a Palestinian Living in Israel

From top-charting songs to dating apps, genocide fever has taken over Israel.



(Palestinian citizens of Israel march with anti-war banners and Palestinian flags during a rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and marking the 48th anniversary of Land Day in the town of Deir Hanna, Israel, on March 30, 2024. Photo by Marcus Yam for the LA Times via Getty Images)

“I’m sure you heard the news,” read the WhatsApp message. “They have taken Nadera,” it said, referring to Israel’s arrest of Palestinian professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian. Nadera was arrested for “incitement” after she (correctly) labeled Israel’s actions in Gaza as genocide. I had, of course, heard the news because I, like millions of other Palestinians, have been glued to my phone for the past seven months, seeing image after image, video after video, of Israel’s genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza and its unrelenting attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.


Nadera is a well-known professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But despite being a professor, she is, in the eyes of Israel, a threat – not for anything that she has done, but simply for being. Nadera, like me, is one of the 2 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship – non-Jews who live in the apartheid state of Israel (Nadera is also a U.S. citizen, in case Joe Biden cares).


People often ask what it is like to be a Palestinian living in Israel. Here’s what it’s like: We are the remnants and reminders of the 1948 Nakba, people whose nation was destroyed, communities razed, and whose families remain scattered around the world to make way for Jewish immigrants to take over our country and homes. We are the “enemy from within” for whom laws are enacted to enshrine our subservient status while at the same time being told we should be grateful for being “allowed” to live in our homeland.


As Palestinians in Israel, we must maneuver a system of Jewish supremacy and open racism every day, while living with the very people who perpetrated the Nakba or support it. Israeli politicians have made it clear that we are only here because David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and who spearheaded the Nakba, did not, they say, “finish the job” in 1948, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. 


I’ve lived in Haifa since 2010 after spending my childhood in Canada and later living in Gaza City and Nazarethas well as Ramallah, where I served as a legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team in the early 2000s. Though I have lived here for many years, not a day goes by when I do not hear anti-Palestinian racist statements from Israeli politicians and ordinary citizens. My well-intending Jewish Israeli friends urge me to brush it off – “You know how Israelis are,” they say, apparently in an attempt to convince themselves these comments are aberrations and not what Palestinians live through daily in Israeli society. But they are not aberrations; racism and threats are commonplace, pervasive, and longstanding.


Genocide Fever


Since Oct. 7, genocide fever has been in full swing. For seven months, Israeli politicians and pundits have spewed genocidal statements on Israeli television and social media on a daily basis. Israel’s far-right heritage minister, a man who early in the war called nuking Gaza an option, recently said that Israel “must find ways [to deal with] Gazans that are more painful than death.” But these are not just statements. They are matched by deeds. 


Israel’s violence has become so commonplace that Israeli soldiers openly brag about killing, wounding, maiming, and torturing Palestinians on social media. Israeli soldiers, who have learned there are no repercussions for their actions, film themselves dedicating the blowing up of Gaza buildings to their children, proposing marriage against the backdrop of Palestinian homes and buildings reduced to rubble, writing “save the date” notices on bombed houses, and gleefully playing with the lingerie of Palestinian women. Killing Palestinians earns Israelis bragging rights, and dating apps are filled with pictures of men brandishing weapons and showing themselves in combat in Gaza.


But it’s not just Israeli politicians and soldiers. Some of the top-charting songs in Israel (a few even with over 20 million views on YouTube) call for Gaza to be erased and for Palestine’s celebrity supporters, such as Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa, to be killed. Israeli comedian Hen Mizrahi made a comedy routine about Palestinians being killed by food airdrops in Gaza. These airdrops are only necessary because Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians in the besieged enclave. Mizrahi later doubled down on his comments on national TV, repeating the same line uttered by some Israeli politicians and officials: “There are no innocents in Gaza.”



A post shared by @dianabuttu

It doesn’t stop there. At every turn, a sign can be found promoting Israel’s attacks. Signs in English quoting Nikki Haley’s call for Netanyahu to “finish them” are plastered on storefronts and displayed in apartment windows. Images morphing Adolf Hitler with Hamas leaders can be found on highway overhangs.


But the most popular slogan these days, “Together We Will Win,” is everywhere – on billboards, commercial websites, and business cards. It was even stamped on eggs – yes, eggs – alongside the expiration date, of course.



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“Your Neighbor Will Just Report You to the Police”


My Israeli neighbor has a “Together We Will Win” bumper sticker on her car.


“What does ‘win’ mean?” I recently asked her. 


“You don’t know what win means?” She replied.


“Not really. I am asking what ‘win’ looks like. So far, more than 35,000 Palestinians killed, including 15,000 kids....”


She shrugged and unabashedly answered, “This is the price.” 


Her response is typical: A recent opinion poll shows that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis – 94% – believe the Israeli military has used “adequate or too little force” in Gaza. About 88% of Jewish Israelis believe the number of Palestinians killed or wounded in Gaza is justified. These are astonishing figures given the apocalyptic scale of death and destruction that Israel has meted out on Gaza and its people. 


A friend warned me not to say anything to my neighbor. “Don’t express dissent,” she told me. “Your neighbor will just report you to the police.” My friend is right to worry. Alongside the genocidal frenzy, Israel has taken measures to crush any domestic dissent, including banning protests, passing a law to shut down Al Jazeera, and going after those who dare speak out against genocide, including professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian.


Since Oct. 7, hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested for “incitement” and “supporting terrorism” as expressions of solidarity with Gaza are characterized, speaking out against Israeli state crimes, and, in some cases, for writing Quranic verses. Students – ratted out by fellow classmates – have been disciplined by their colleges or universities for “liking” social media posts, while those who openly advocate genocide remain free to do so. Armed militia groups patrol Israel’s streets and social media posts and report Palestinians, including doctors and professors, to police. 


Palestinian neuroscientist and folk singer Dalal Abu Amneh received death threats for posting “There is no victor but God" with a Palestinian flag emoji on social media after Oct. 7. After reporting the threats to the police, she was arrested – not those who threatened her. Following Abu Amneh’s release, her neighbors staged a months-long protest outside her home, with some calling for her expulsion and threatening her with death and rape. The mayor of her town ran his re-election campaign by showing up to the protests, threatening to expel her, and even changing the name of her street to “Israel Defense Forces Street.” That, of course, is permissible, but denouncing genocide is not. 


The reason for the crackdown on Palestinians in Israel is clear: Keep us afraid so we do not dare to speak out. And while the carnage continues in the occupied territories and our families, friends, and nation are battered, we are expected to stay quiet, even as our Israeli neighbors and colleagues treat genocide as entertainment.

 

(c) 2024, Zeteo



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