Coffee Hour

Smoke and Mirrors: The Public’s Mixed Response to the Terror in Palestine

The terror in Palestine has resurfaced, but this time on a global stage. There has been more visibility, and paradoxically, more silence, on this issue than any other humanitarian crisis that I have seen up until now.

And the silence is coming from all angles. The silence from Muslims may not be due to a lack of concern. As Muslim and Arabs, we grew up with the Palestine issue. We have been praying and donating for years as routine. In the 26 years that I have been alive, I have never known when ‘pray for Palestine’ or donate for ‘Palestine’ has not been the routine precursors to any religious sermon. It is standard for us. And our efforts are not going to stop.

But it has also been standard for us to assert the existence of the Palestine state vehemently. Our assertions have fallen on deaf ears to people who always give the same excuses-

“it’s not my place to speak”, “I don’t know enough about the situation”, or “I don’t get involved in politics.” The only that has changed is social media visibility. Well, now you know enough.

Unfortunately, that same viability highlights the ignorance and disregard of other groups, which should be fighting for justice with us.

No one expects personal accounts or even influencer accounts to dedicate massive amounts of time to these issues. But as with the BLM issue, public accounts and brands that already preach for human rights need to practice what they preach.
Too many people, my Jamaican family included, feel deeply about  so many human’s rights issue but do not care about Palestine. They claim that it is not their issue, or it is too political for them to get involved. Or worse, that we as black people have problems too.

There are generally three sides to this argument:

  • The Religious side
  • The racial side
  • And the political side

All are as bad as each other

From a racial perspective, this silence and nonchalance comes from not caring about any race other than your own. It is perfectly fine for people not to want to comment on issues they feel they do not know enough about (even though I think that’s rubbish, it is not a complicated issue).

It is also perfectly fine for influencers to be vocal about other issues like BLM because they are from that community. There is nothing wrong with that. However, influencers need to say that specifically. Answering questions about your silence with ‘I’m black’ or ‘I’m not Arab’ as an excuse shows an extreme level of selfishness and ignorance that has nothing to do with education. It is only about not wishing to concern themselves with the issues of anyone who does not look like them. For some reason, we still have not gotten to grips with the idea that if we allow the subjugation of others, there will never be freedom anywhere in the world. Allow America and Britain to keep funding the massacre of civilians overseas, and what hope do you have of securing justice for yourself at home?

During BLM, so many in the black community fought every day to explain that BLM is not a political issue. Black people were articulate in their explanations that the loss of human life is not complicated and concerns everyone. With this unexplained silence now, all of you have just proven that you also believe, like the white people who sat back and silent during BLM, that all life does not matter- only yours.

On the political side, you have people saying they do not get involved in politics, which I understand on social media. Not every account is for that purpose. But if you have an account or a brand that regularly posts this type of content and often claims to stand up for human rights, politics is not a good enough excuse. That excuse is not good enough.

The religious aspect is even worse because it is dangerous and gives the impression of a holy and justified ‘conflict’. The ideas that drove Jews out of Europe are the same ideas they are using to drive the Palestinians out of their land. But genocide only seems to make sense in a Jewish Holocaust context. Out of that context, everyone seems to become def, dumb, and blind.

From a religious perspective, many naysayers do not want to rock the boat. Reports of Anti-Semitism are always coming thick and fast, and people have learnt that shadow banning and cancelling happen more quickly and effectively when the supposed insult directed at the Jewish community. And no one wants to lose their brand.

But speaking up can be worse. Celebrities are trying to stay in on the discussion and keep themselves relevant by advocating for justice while staying on the fence and ‘all lives mattering’ the situation, which is more insulting than just keeping quiet. Take a stand or shut up because this is not a grey area and has never been a grey area. It is black and white.

This is not a religious issue. This is not Muslim against Jew. This is an oppressive, effectively European power colonising a group of people it considers as Other and snuffing out the lives of people that Europeans consider lesser than they. This has, and never and will never be, a religious issue. And the lack of education that surrounds this issue astounding. Since the dawn of time, the area has been Jewish, Muslim, and Christian and will continue to be so.

And for everyone who tries to make these excuses, here is the problem – none of these issues stands up against the fact that this violence disproportionately affects children and innocents. That should be the only defining factor here.

Even if Israel’s excuse were real (and they are not), the number of children and innocents killed in Palestine over the last 73 years has consistently been disproportionate to the amount of force used. You cannot mistake this for a just war. This is ethnic cleansing, pure and simple.

For Muslims and Arabs, this is a continuation of what we have always known. We will continue to make prayers for Palestine every Jummah, donate every week and send aid because that is what we have always done. For some of us, it’s all we’ve ever know.
For everyone else, this is new and as sad as that is, the spotlight is welcome.

As for everyone else, and my black brothers and sisters, the next time there’s an issue, you can’t beg people to see our humanity if you will happily ignore the humanity of others so that you can keep buying the goods and products you like, keep claiming to be on the right side of ‘politics’ and claiming wilful ignorance.

There are no politics here. There is human life and the eradication of it. It is as simple as that.

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