The Israeli genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, with support from the US and other Western powers, has created an environment of increased Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims. CAIR has stated that they have received 2,171 complaints of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias since October 7, an increase of 172% from the previous year.
In October, 6-year old Palestinian-American boy Wadea Al-Fayounne, was stabbed to death in his home by the apartrment’s landlord. In November, three Palestinian students wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh were shot in Vermont. One of the students, Hisham Awartani, became paralyzed by the shooting from the chest down. Hisham grew up in the West Bank.
Last week, during the first weeks of the spring semester, pro-Palestine students at Columbia University were sprayed with a hazardous chemical called “Skunk.” CAIR reports that, “Skunk was invented by Israeli firm Odortec and first used by the Israeli military against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank in 2008. It is most often used by the Israeli occupation forces as a form of collective punishment against Palestinians for daring to protest. It has since been developed by Mistral, a US company, and is used by police departments.” Several human rights organizations including Amnesty International, have denounced the use of the chemical, saying that it is a form of collective punishment with “torturous and humiliating after-effects that severely impact victims.” The attack took place during an event that was organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), called “Hands off Yemen and Gaza! No more tuition for the war machine.” A Columbia University student present at the protest said that the attackers were Columbia students who allegedly served in the IDF.
The rise of these horrific incidents comes from state and media narrative, which have reinforced the idea that Palestinians, and Muslims, are savages, barbaric, and want to kill innocent civilians. Referring to Palestinians as “animals,” as “Amalek,” (as said in a speech by Netanyahu), and Palestinian culture as “the grip of a death cult,” (as said by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Jake Wallis Simons), creates frameworks of extreme dehumanization and a mindset that not only sees Palestinians as lesser than, but creates an environment where average people feel that they can attack, demean, marginalize, and even kill someone for being Palestinian or pro-Palestinian.
Institutions must do more to protect Palestinians in the West. Otherization and dehumanization are the root causes behind the violence enacted towards Palestinians in the diaspora, and media organizations, government officials, and internet personalities have blood on their hands for inciting violence against innocent Palestinians.