It is difficult to even conceive of the humanitarian tragedy that is currently unfolding in Gaza. Over 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, out of which 71 were children. A further 2,200 Palestinians have been wounded and, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, 40,000 have been displaced and are currently seeking the dubious protection afforded by UN shelters across the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip. The 1,825 airstrikes conducted by Israeli forces in Gaza have leveled 1,600 homes, and wreaked havoc upon the territory’s already crumbling infrastructure; UNICEF reports that up to 900,000 people in Gaza currently have no access to potable drinking water. The start of Israel’s ground offensive earlier this week is only going to add to the death, destruction and devastation. The past two weeks have been the deadliest for the people of Gaza since Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, in which 1,391 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians (including children), were killed by the Israeli military.

The current round of violence in Palestine is taking place in the context of Israel’s economic blockade of the Gaza. In place since 2007, the blockade has led to the imposition of severe restrictions on the movement of people, goods, and services into and out of Gaza. As a direct consequence of the blockade, the people of Gaza live in a constant state of deprivation, facing shortages of food, medicine, and electricity. It has also led to the almost complete and total decimation of Gaza’s economy; according to the UNDP, manufacturing in Gaza is now almost nonexistent, and unemployment has been rising steadily. The sheer scale of the problem is exemplified by the fact that Gaza lacks the infrastructural capacity to even repair the damage inflicted by Israel’s military offensives; thousands of homes destroyed by Operation Cast Lead six years ago remain unrepaired, and there are virtually no mechanisms in place through which to support the thousands being displaced by the conflict.

Across the Western world, there has been virtually no condemnation of Israel’s completely unjustified and disproportionate use of violence in Gaza. The United States has once again affirmed its unwavering support for Israel’s military actions, and has been loathe to even condemn the mounting evidence of civilian casualties, asking only that Israel voluntarily display restraint. The same has been true across Europe, where much of the blame for the conflict has largely been placed on the shoulders of Hamas. The dominant narrative that has emerged is one that suggests Israel is simply defending itself against an implacable and intractable foe in the shape of Hamas.

The mainstream media has played a huge role in perpetuating this narrative. With the exception of a few notable media outlets on the Left, most newspapers and television channels have been providing Israel with sympathetic coverage, using the notion of ‘balance’ and the need to present both sides of the argument to suggest that there is some parity between the actions of Hamas and those of Israel. According to this view of things, the rockets that have been fired into Israel by Hamas constitute a clear provocation, and that Israel has simply responded to this in order to defend the lives of its citizens. Following on from this, it is argued that the continuation of hostilities is also Hamas’ fault; given that Israel is seen not as the aggressor but as a nation pursuing its right to self-defence, Hamas’ refusal to surrender or submit to Israeli terms for peace is held as being responsible for the death being rained down upon Gaza.

While Hamas should be condemned for its policy of targeting Israeli civilians with its rocket attacks, focusing solely on this aspect of the equation ignores questions of proportionality and Israeli culpability. This narrative ignores, for example, the fact that since 2001, rockets fired from Palestine into Israel (not all of which were launched by Hamas) have killed 28 Israelis. These deaths are regrettable, and the lives of Israeli civilians are no less precious than those of Palestinians, but to treat the actions of both sides as being equivalent is ludicrous. As one of the world’s foremost military powers, equipped with sophisticated planes, tanks, munitions, and missile defence systems, Israel has used all the means at its disposal to collectively punish millions of Palestinians, showing a callous disregard for life in the pursuit of its strategic objectives.

The lopsided nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict extends beyond a simple examination of relative military strength. Founded on the basis of an exclusionary ideology that militates against the possibility of co-existence with the Palestinians, Israel has continued to pursue an expansionist agenda, widening the scope of its settlements in Palestinian territory while refusing to make even the smallest of compromises in the interests of establishing a lasting peace in the region. Indeed, it was Israel’s refusal to engage with Hamas after the latter was elected to power in 2006 that arguably set the stage for the conflict we see today. Backed and subsidized by the world’s most powerful nations, Israel has been able to pursue its territorial ambitions free of any real constraints or inhibitions. Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians, has brutalized tens of thousands more, has demonstrated nothing but contempt for their fundamental human rights, and continues to inflict untold misery upon them. It is ironic that a country created as a home for people fleeing persecution in Europe should now find itself unleashing so much violence against another group of oppressed people.

In Pakistan, there is a tendency to view the Israel-Palestine conflict through a purely religious lens as an existential conflict between Islam and Judaism. This line of reasoning often leads to a tremendous amount of soul-searching about the role played by the ‘Muslim World’, with the assumption being that it is somehow the responsibility of the Muslim Ummah to look to Islam for inspiration in order to aid the Palestinians. In reality, different Muslim countries have done little more than mouth empty platitudes in solidarity with the Palestinians. Indeed, some have even extended their support to Israel; in Egypt, for example, the brutal military regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has continued to demonstrate its complicity with Israel, tightening the screws on Hamas while simultaneously attempting to negotiate a ‘ceasefire’ on exclusively Israeli terms. Within Palestine, the PLA President Mahmoud Abbas has once again shown his complete and total lack of power, demonstrating his inability to stand up to Israel in any meaningful way. As is usually the case in such matters, realpolitik trumps allegiance to any imagined Pan-Islamic identity.

As such, rather than looking to forge solidarity with the Palestinian cause on the basis of Islam, it perhaps makes more sense to recognize that the struggle of the Palestinian people is the struggle that has always been waged by the oppressed against their oppressors. Undaunted by the odds stacked against them, the people of Palestine have remained unbowed in their resistance to Israel, and have continued to fight for the right to lead lives free of domination and subjugation. Their struggle is not unlike that waged by the colonized people of the world against their colonizers, and by ordinary people fighting against authoritarian regimes. The battle being fought by the Palestinians is one that pits the weak against the powerful and they deserve our support not because they are Muslims, but because they are fighting for principles we should all support in the interests of changing the world for the better.

The writer is an assistant professor of political science at LUMS.