We cannot overstate the pain and difficulty we’ve experienced as we face what is happening 5,700 miles from our comfortable academic world. Yet we must watch on with the rest of the world and witness what could turn into a repeat of the whole-scale civilian massacre that happened three years ago in the Gaza Strip at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces, in what is known as Operation Cast Lead.

The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, in conjunction with other organizations and sources, reports from the operation that “1,389 Palestinians were killed, 759 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, 350 of them seriously. Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was already on the verge of collapse prior to the operation. According to U.N. figures, Israel destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings and 20,000 people were left homeless.” This occurred in the span of 22 days.

History seems to be repeating itself.

Three years ago, Israeli forces killed almost 1,400 human beings in the span of three weeks during their ground invasion of Gaza, with international impunity.

Since 2006, Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip. It has turned the 140-square mile strip into a prison by preventing 1.6 million human beings from leaving. These people are unable to escape the rockets, shells and bombs that rain down on their cities.

This Wednesday, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said Israel is leaving “all options on the table,” including a ground offensive into Gaza.

We mourn the loss of life in Israel and the terror inflicted on human beings there. However, we reject any attempt to divorce the assault on Gaza from the fact of the brutal occupation that Israel has imposed on Palestinians since 1967. Under this occupation, Palestinians have no form of legitimate political representation.

We reject this because Palestinians are occupied. Because they are under Israeli occupation.

Because Israel systematically strips these humans beings of their civil, legal and human rights as a part of the unbelievably immense apparatus of occupation both in Gaza and the West Bank. This is an occupation which the United States has sustained to the tune of $115 billion — a relationship unlikely to end anytime soon. An occupation that Israel will continue for as long as it can, as long as the international community remains silent.

Three years ago, 1,400 human beings with no voice were killed, and history may now repeat itself as the world watches. We are operating in a colonial system, a system with multiple layers of oppression. We choose to speak for the human beings who have no voice in this system and to whom the world will not listen.

Penn for Palestine is a student organization that aims to raise awareness on all issues related to Palestine. Its email address is pennforpalestine@gmail.com.

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