Are Palestinians Oppressed?

Palestinian nationalists frequently claim that they are oppressed by the Jews, but are they? Are Palestinians an oppressed group? Palestinians in Israel face informal discrimination in the labor market but this is nothing unusual in the liberal democratic world as Muslims in all Western democracies generally face informal discrimination in the labor market. Furthermore, the Israeli government is hardly to blame for informal discrimination in the Israeli labor market, a practice which is illegal in Israel as in all other liberal democracies.

Palestinians in Gaza are not ruled by Israel and are thus not under Israeli control (Gaza has a border with Egypt replete with the Rafah crossing) and Palestinians of Gaza are thus not oppressed by Israel. Israel imposes limited sanctions on Gaza but many Muslim countries impose comprehensive sanctions on Israel and Palestinian nationalists who support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) advocate comprehensive sanctions on Israel. Yet, no one claims that those Muslim countries oppress Israeli Jews.

The densely populated areas of Judea and Samaria are known as Area A and are under full Palestinian Authority civilian administration and security control with no permanent Israeli military presence whatsoever, thus those Palestinians living there are not oppressed by Israel. Palestinians living in Area B live under Palestinian Authority civilian administration and Israeli military security control. Other than imposing security measures necessary to ensure the security of Israeli citizens are Palestinians not oppressed by Israel and their government is the Palestinian Authority. Area C is under full Israeli military administrative and military security control and Israel rarely issues building permits to Palestinians, something which discriminates against Palestinians there. It is true that the Israeli Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) runs an effective police state in Area C and Area B for Palestinians and although this is purely motivated by legitimate Israeli security concerns for its citizens, this nevertheless impacts many affected Palestinians.

Palestinians living in Arab countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are not oppressed by Israel which has no influence whatsoever over their lives. It is true however that Palestinian non-citizens of Lebanon face extensive legal discrimination and effective institutionalized oppression in Lebanon. The vast majority of Palestinians live under Arab dictatorships (including the PA and Hamas) and are oppressed like all peoples living under dictatorship. However, this is hardly Israel’s responsibility. In sum, the vast majority of the Palestinian people live outside of Israeli rule and can thus not possibly be oppressed by Israel. 

The truth is rather that the Jewish people are traditionally an oppressed group in Muslim society – including historically inside Palestinian society. Rabbinic Jews were systematically structurally oppressed and discriminated against and those Rabbinic Jews still living in Muslim countries are still structurally oppressed and discriminated against. Halakhically Jewish Median Jewish communities living in Muslim countries remain structurally oppressed and discriminated against.

E.g. were Rabbinic Jews in both Islamdom and Christendom in medieval times forbidden to bear arms and could only defend themselves by hiring armed gentile guards. This medieval prejudice against the Jews persists in the frequent claim that it is somehow illegitimate, even “illegal” for the Jewish nation state to militarily defend itself from terrorist/military attacks against its citizens and territory. Rabbinic Jews remain structurally oppressed in discourse throughout Islamdom and the Muslim world as Anti-Jewish discourse has become increasingly pervasive since the 20th century.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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