AFTER 54 years of struggle against the illegal occupation of their country, Palestinians have turned a corner. “What is happening in Palestine is not complicated; it’s settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing.” That’s just one of the much-shared Instagram posts marking a shift in public perception.

Something has changed when people who usually post pictures of their breakfast blueberry pancakes are replacing them with statements about Gaza.

As busily as many parts of the media frame the carnage in Gaza as “clashes’ between two sides of a contextless conflict that has blown up inexplicably, social media swells with themes of Israeli apartheid and state-sanctioned violence.

High profile people outwith political circles are speaking out, such as singer Rihanna and actors Gal Gadot, a former Israeli soldier, and Idris Elba. “It’s the brutality and bloodshed that has compelled me to raise concern”, Elba says.

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As they beat Chelsea to the FA Cup, two Leicester City players held up a Palestine flag, a significant gesture. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a funder of settler group Elad, which “displaces" Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem. Football legends Paul Pogba and his Manchester United team-mate Amad Diallo flew the Palestinian flag again following their team’s final home game.

One week ago today, 100,000 people marched through London for Palestine. It’s easier to list the major cities and towns throughout the UK that didn’t hold pro-Palestine demonstrations than those that did.

This solidarity movement is building worldwide. In Livorno, Italian dockers refused to load cargo onto a ship taking weapons to Israel. In Leicester, protesters staged a vigil on the roof of the Israeli-owned Elbit factory, which makes combat drones.

What’s changed? Palestine is having its George Floyd moment, and Israel no longer controls the narrative. The world is watching the pain of Palestine with horror. “Bothsideing” doesn’t cut it. People who were scared to speak out have decided that staying neutral in the face of brutality is not an ethical option.

I visited Palestine in 2009 to meet farmers in the occupied West Bank. Their resilience under the boot of Israeli occupation was extraordinary. We travelled from East Jerusalem, to Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho, and Jenin, and met producers like Taysir Sadia Yaseen who kept growing olives even though 600 of his family’s 1,000 trees had been bulldozed by Israel to make way for a "security buffer zone” around an encroaching, illegal settlement.

I spoke with women who make the Palestinian speciality, maftoul, similar to couscous. Their families had been living in the UN Ein Al-Sultan refugee camp all the long years since Israel forcibly evicted them from their homes in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

It’s one thing to use the word “occupation” and another to witness it first hand.

The spiritual and physical ugliness of Israel’s hulking “separation barrier”, the soul-destroying daily rigmarole at checkpoints staffed by sulky Israeli teenage soldiers armed with machine guns.

My most chilling experience was queuing in a car with Palestinian number plates at a checkpoint while a band of settlers stood at the roadside screaming abuse and hammering on the car, undisturbed by the checkpoint guards. These settlers looked unhinged and highly volatile. Nowhere have I felt so threatened.

Palestinians put up with this ever day of their lives.

When I returned from the West Bank I wrote articles for news outlets calling on consumers to boycott Israeli and settlement products, such as Medjoul dates, as part of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

The Herald: A Palestinian protesterA Palestinian protester

It uses the same tactics as the South African anti-apartheid movement. (Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Israel now fits the definition of an apartheid state.) There were letters of complaint but my pieces were published.

In more recent years, those articles may not have seen the light of day because the Israeli government, by deliberately conflating all criticism of Israel with antisemitism, had effectively silenced it.

The respected Palestinian academic Edward Said nailed it: “Fear of speaking out about one of the greatest injustices in modern history has hobbled, blinkered, muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it.”

Glasgow University professor of communications and social change Greg Philo quoted an editor who, defending his news operation’s attempts to portray the situation as two evenly matched sides in a war, rather than the systematic oppression of a stateless people by one of the world’s most technologically advanced armies, as saying: “'We wait in fear for the telephone call from the Israelis.’

Before the latest Gaza onslaught, we watched the trial-by-media of Jeremy Corbyn, hounded as an anti-semite for sticking up for Palestinians.

The idea that he is anti-semitic is preposterous, a monstrous slur. Yet many media outlets joined the witch-hunt lest the bullies added them to its target list.

Perhaps now that Israel has razed the tower block that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news agencies, the fourth estate might find the bottle to craft reports around the facts on the ground, not Israeli government spin, if only to show support for their fellow journalists.

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Those facts, as I see them, are as follows.

The context is half a century of illegal occupation. The recent violence was provoked by Israeli troops who attacked praying Palestinians in al-Aqsa mosque with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, and the escalation of expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, in defiance of international law.

Since then we’ve seen the usual asymmetric death toll repeat. As I write over 300 Palestinians have been killed, including 35 women and 59 children. 10 Israelis have been killed, including one child. Since 2008, Israel has killed roughly 6,000 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians; 1,250 were children.

The Public International Law Centre rightly condemns the current situation in Gaza as “a scene of historic and current human rights violations, and in some cases, war crimes”.

There is no moral equivalence here. As with apartheid South Africa, you must pick a side.

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