As the death toll in Gaza rises, the reaction from Palestinians living in Israel has been one of extreme fear. The recent Israeli airstrikes have caused death and damage to thousands of Palestinians, and with this devastating situation comes a wave of fear that those voicing sympathy for the victims in Gaza may face arrest or other punitive measures.
Residents of Israel’s Arab towns often feel that they are living in a climate of fear and intimidation due to the Israeli government’s policies. They worry about expressing empathy for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, fearing that it may be perceived as an act of treason and that they may be charged with a criminal offense. This fear is rooted in long-held beliefs that voicing support for Palestinians beyond the borders of the country could be dangerous and could lead to long prison sentences.
The decision by the Israeli government to launch airstrikes on Gaza has further exacerbated this climate of fear, as many Palestinians living in Israel fear that if they show sympathy for the innocent Palestinians killed in the violence, they could be arrested or even face more serious consequences. This fear is shared by many Palestinians in the occupied territories who fear that simply expressing sympathy for Gazan civilians could be interpreted as an act of “support for terrorism” and could lead to arrests or other punitive measures.
Unfortunately, the deep fear of speaking out for the innocent victims in Gaza is all too real among Palestinians living both in the occupied territories and in Israel. This fear is further compounded by the fact that the Israeli government has yet to express any empathy for the victims of the airstrikes and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, leaving Palestinians feeling isolated and trapped. Until the Israeli government takes action to ensure that Palestinians living in Israel have the freedom and right to express their views, the fear of expressing even basic sympathy for Gazans is likely to remain.