Navigating discussions about sensitive topics with friends and family can be challenging—especially with the rampant misinformation peddled by mainstream media and our own government. Some of the most effective organizing starts at home, so these conversations are very important! Here are some suggestions for addressing questions about the attack on Gaza with those who may not be fully informed:
When confronted with statements about atrocities such as rape, acknowledge the gravity of the situation. You can say, “It’s indeed distressing to hear about such atrocities, but it’s important that we don’t let unverified news influence us. What there is evidence for, however, is sexual violence by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians for the last 75 years. The only way to eliminate this sexual violence is by ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
DID YOU KNOW? Rape has played a role in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians since 1948. Many families fled their homes over concerns their women would be raped by Zionist forces. Unlawfully detained Palestinian political prisoners are also subjected to rape and torture. There are several prominent detailed accounts from prominent Palestinian women, among them freed prisoners who have documented the deliberate use of rape and sexual torture against them. [source How colonizers weaponize rape: reflections from the Palestinian case – Mondoweiss]
To counter perceptions about civilians, explain, "The term human shield is a deflection. Israel makes the decision to bomb areas where they know innocent people are located. That is a choice. No one is forcing them to do that."
DID YOU KNOW? In many cases of bombings perpetrated by Israel since Oct. 7th, Amnesty International found no evidence of the presence of fighters or other military objectives in the vicinity at the time of the attacks. [Source: Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza - Amnesty International]
Responding to concerns about hostages, express empathy, but bring it back to the bottom line: "The plight of hostages is deeply concerning. Initiatives promoting dialogue and peaceful resolutions are critical to addressing these humanitarian issues. Killing tens of thousands of innocent people does nothing to help get hostages home. Instead the constant bombardment of Gaza puts their lives in danger. Also, did you know Israel held over 5K Palestinian political prisoners before October 7, with nearly 200 of them being children? Since then, that number has doubled."
DID YOU KNOW? In July of 2023 the UN heard from Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 in a detailed report Israel’s illegal detainment of Palestinians. Since 1967 Israel had detained approximately one million Palestinians in the occupied territory, including tens of thousands of children. As of her report in July, there were 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including 160 children, and approximately 1,100 of them were detained without charge or trial. [Source: Special Rapporteur Says Israel’s Unlawful Carceral Practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Are Tantamount to International Crimes and Have Turned it into an Open-Air Prison | OHCHR]
When faced with accusations that being pro-Palestinian means you are antisemitic, emphasize a nuanced approach: "Supporting the rights of Palestinians doesn't equate to being anti-Semitic. It's about advocating for justice and peace."
DID YOU KNOW? Jewish organizations have consistently been on the streets supporting the rights of Palestinians. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now are a constant reminder that this is a human rights issue and Palestinians deserve peace through justice. [Source: How Anti-Zionist American Jews Are Organizing For a Ceasefire in Gaza | Teen Vogue]
Reject False Binaries:
Pushback on the idea that killing innocent people is a matter of "good vs. evil." The Israeli government wants you to believe that the killing of innocent people is justified by using rhetoric such as “children of light vs. children of dark” or they have no other choice but to collectively punish Gaza because it is a matter of “terrorism vs democracy.” But all children deserve life, security, and hope. All children deserve shelter, food, water, and the freedom to grow.
DID YOU KNOW: Israel has a history of using racist tropes to dehumanize Palestinians. In 2008 study by world-renowned political psychologist Tel Aviv University's Professor Daniel Bar-Tal found that "Israeli Jews' consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering. [Source: Israel's dehumanization of Palestinians enables oppressive occupation | National Catholic Reporter]
Encourage understanding by saying, "Caring about what's happening in Palestine is about promoting global peace and justice. If we do not speak out against the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians then we are turning a blind eye to injustice."
Addressing concerns about Israel's right to exist, you can state, "Whether or not you believe the state of Israel is a legitimate state, no state’s right to exist should come at the cost of the entire other population, and Israel’s existence has historically been at the expense of Palestinians."
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Even if the propaganda were true, this doesn’t justify Israel’s genocide. Israel has been bombing residential buildings, schools, and hospitals—even those clearly marked with UN flags. They have murdered over 16K people, including over 7K children. They have stripped the people of Gaza of food, water, medical aid, and life—can anything justify that?
If Celebrating Christmas...
If celebrating Christmas: Did you know Palestinians from Bethlehem, Jesus’s birthplace, have canceled Christmas celebrations to bring attention to Palestine? Not only is Israel committing genocide in Gaza, but Palestinians in Bethlehem (and across Palestine) have been living in prison-like conditions, even before October 7. They don’t have freedom to move in their own homeland and are under violent military occupation. Don’t you think understanding that reality is important in honoring Jesus and this holiday?
CODEPINK Community-Contributed Resources
- Anti-Zionism is Not Antisemitism: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/video-why-anti-zionism-not-anti-semitism
- Debunking Sexual Violence Propaganda: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/watch-debunking-israels-mass-rape-propaganda
- The Fallacy of the Human Shield Rhetoric: https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/opinions/2018/6/18/the-fallacy-of-israels-human-shields-claims-in-gaza
- Bethlehem Cancels Christmas: https://www.instagram.com/reel/C0fd1omv-Vz/?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==