Why do you care about Palestine?

Why do you care about Palestine?
One of my first Palestinian sunsets. Gaza, Palestine, 2016.

I have spent a lot of time in Palestine, both Gaza and the West Bank, but I'm not Muslim or Jewish; I'm not Arab, Levantine, or North African. My mom is from Argentina and my dad is Italian American. I was born in New Jersey; I am just a guy working in tech in San Francisco.

Friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and random people seem so puzzled by my intense emotions around Palestine: "why do you care so much about Palestine? Why go there?"

Growing up, my catholic abuelita lived in the same house as my parents and I. Religion was important to her and from a young age I was curious about Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth.

In 2007, I raised money from Y Combinator to build my first startup. In 2016, I learned about Gaza Sky Geeks. I thought that a trip to Palestine would help me understand a bit about my grandmother's religion and I'd get to share some of what I learned from Y Combinator with others.

Me, my brother James, and our abuelita. New Jersey, 1986.

I bought my plane ticket and was off, but I had no idea what was in store for me.

I didn't expect that I would make life long friends on my first trip or that my experiences with Israeli brutality and racism would forever change my life. I didn't expect to fall in love with Palestine; for its joy and sorrow to become my joy and sorrow, for its intense desire for life and freedom to become my desire to see it alive, brilliantly free, and uniquely itself.

But, it's not just my experiences that cause me to care deeply about Palestine. I care because as an American, I am complicit in the ruination of Palestine's culture, children, and future as a free and vibrant society.

I care about Palestine because I am a human being.

As tech workers, we build the software which directly oppresses Palestinian people. We help write the code for the weapons, which murder innocent children. And while doing all of these terrible things, we are among the highest paid people in the US workforce.

Regardless of which company we work for, as taxpayers our tax money buys the planes that Israel uses to bomb refugee camps (accidentally and with great regret, of course). With our help, the murder of Palestinian children by the thousands in Gaza is something "America can certainly afford", while our children owe debt on school lunches.


Watch the bright flash & listen as Israel bombs civilians living in darkness, paid for by American tax dollars. Gaza, 2018.

Meanwhile, staggeringly clueless alleged "leaders" in our industry have less empathy for human suffering than that of a tree stump. Tal Broda of OpenAI openly cheers for genocide and death and suffers no consequences for doing so. Paul Biggar, who suggested peaceful, non-violent actions to take against the genocide in Gaza, is fired from the board of the company he started.

This is the industry we work in. Our contribution to society is that we aided and abetted the imprisonment of Palestinians and punished those who tried to speak out against it.

And you are asking me why I care about Palestine?

Have you listened for even a moment to our Palestinian brothers and sisters suffering under Israeli military occupation and apartheid in Gaza and the West Bank?

Have you seen the videos Palestinians post year after year after year of their children being slaughtered by Israel? Of their homes being stolen by vicious, racist settlers from the US?

A Palestinian child sits in front of shops and homes which have been welded shut by Israel. Khalil, 2016.

What I experienced over a few weeks during my first trip to Palestine in 2016 is a minuscule fraction of the suffering a normal Palestinian endures for their entire life.

If hours of interrogations, demands for the names and phone numbers of all Palestinians I know, repeated questioning about my religious affiliation, and physical violence happen to me, a white guy with an American passport from San Francisco, on my first trip to Palestine... can you even begin to imagine how much worse it is for Palestinians?

Wire above catches trash thrown by Israeli settlers living illegally above Palestinians. Khalil, 2016.

As bloviating American "thinkers" vacuously describe Erez as "a key symbol for hope and coexistence", I find myself increasingly exasperated and perplexed; are people really this naïve?

Have you watched as Palestinian children with missing limbs hold up cards with a number on them for a camera as Israeli soldiers scream and laugh at them? Have you seen the orange chairs at Erez where elderly and sick Palestinians from Gaza are forced to sit and watch Israeli propaganda on big screen TVs in an endless loop?

My first entry to Gaza, 2016.

Have you seen the spy recruitment signs in Erez showing a brown hand shaking a white hand with a website URL (online as recently as 2021)? Of the few Palestinians who've had permits to enter Erez, how many have been coerced, blackmailed, and extorted into working for Israel? How many decided to die from lack of medical care instead of working for their oppressors?

Have you seen the lights on in Ashkelon from your window in Gaza? Have you wondered how nice and cool their homes must be as you lay awake all night in Gaza, without power, as sweat pours down your face in the sweltering heat? Have you spent all night listening to the endless loud buzzing of Israeli military drones circling above you?

The ball of light in the background on the left is Ashkelon. In the foreground, Gaza is illuminated only by the occasional car headlight or the lucky family with a diesel generator. Gaza, 2017.

Have you been stuck in Gaza, prevented from leaving by Israel, while Israeli bombs you paid for, with your tax money, rain down from the sky over you? Have you said goodbye to your friends as they stay behind for whatever horrors come next while you get to leave?

Have you wondered how Palestinians in Gaza endure living this way for their entire lives?

Have you texted your friends in Gaza asking if they are alive? Listened helplessly as they've told you that they can't find food for their toddlers? Have you seen them plead for help on social media, asking for some one – anyone – to help their families leave so they won't be murdered by Israel? Have you watched their goodbye videos?

Have you run out of words to say to them?

I have.

How can words ever begin to capture the level of human suffering the Israeli occupation causes?

Being born as a Palestinian means being born into a life controlled entirely by the Israeli military occupation. A life carefully curated and managed by Israel, which has publicly stated it intends to displace Gazans to the Sinai, expand illegal settlements, and prevent an independent Palestinian state all while its right wing support base cheers for the death of Palestinians.

What future does this child have? Why have we sentenced her to a life of imprisonment? Khalil, 2016.

Millions of lives born into an endless maze, driving within infinite concentric circles, trapped in a prison built by Israel, and funded by the hardworking people and families of the USA.

Don't ask me why I care; ask yourself why you don't.

Special thanks to my friend Anam Raheem for her tireless effort reading and providing feedback on my posts. Read her work on her blog.