A lot of ink is being spilled over the actions of on-campus groups across American universities in the face of war in the Middle East. The country’s top newspapers have devoted their energies and resources to petitions signed by pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses and the ire that they have since provoked.
I believe that these are mere distractions. The need of the hour is to refocus our attentions to what is going on in Gaza — to educate ourselves about it, and to offer unconditional solidarity to those affected by it. Litigating the contents of petitions authored by college students is pointless. The attacks in Israel are devastating and tragic, and anyone who denies it is not a serious interlocutor. Hamas’s nihilism seems to have spared no one that came in its way, and they are still keeping hostage 200 civilians. The horror of these attacks has led the world over to extend their support and sympathies to the people of Israel. We must now equally extend this support and solidarity to Palestinians as well — be they in Gaza, the West Bank or members of the exiled diaspora. Otherwise, it may be too late.
As the Israeli army prepares to launch a full-scale invasion of Gaza, the current environment echoes the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Palestinians and their supporters, many of whom are Muslim, are now expected to denounce Hamas before they make any pleas to prevent ethnic cleansing. In Illinois, a Palestinian child was stabbed to death by his parent’s landlord who was provoked by anti-Palestinian rhetoric on the news. Military hawks have lined up like clockwork to justify this invasion of a territory blockaded for nearly two decades. The general news media seems also to have abdicated its responsibilities to fact-checking and neutrality, while social media apps seem to be shadow-banning critics of the Israeli government. For those of us familiar with the Palestinian cause, much of this is par for the course. In the news, dead Gazans are mere statistics who have passively died, whereas slain Israelis are portrayed humanely and with dignity. Are we so depleted that we cannot offer it to them both?
In this respect, I have sadly found the Yale Daily News’s coverage lacking as well. Ryan Gittler Muñez was the lone voice in defending those speaking up for Palestinians on-campus. The News has appropriately covered the grief and dread that has reverberated amongst Jewish and Israeli Yalies over the last 10 days. This is vital — being heard and feeling seen is helpful to cope. It also helps us truly understand what they are currently enduring. Consequently, the News must also now let us hear from Arab and Palestinian students or on-campus groups such as Yalies4Palestine, some of whom have been subjected to hate speech in the last few days. In a heartening response to these disturbing anti-Palestinian acts, Rabbi Jason Rubenstein and Imam Omer Bajwa at the Chaplain’s Office established a gracious dialogue between the two communities. This is not to conflate the Israel-Palestine conflict merely to a religious one, but the dialogue is a helpful start to allaying tensions on campus.
If we are to concern ourselves with this war, then as members of an elite institution, with proximity to those in power, our responsibility is towards using our resources to prevent a further massacre. Vilifying each other on campus with indiscriminate use of the word “terrorist” against colleagues, doxxing fellow students and reporting faculty is not us rising to the occasion. This doesn’t mean I approve of the language used in these tweets or petitions or that I am unaware of the pain they have caused. It is just that the time to aid Palestinians is now or never: they are navigating a terrifying potential military invasion, possible permanent displacement and a deadening of political avenues.
Gaza is home to a civilian population of 2 million people, half of whom are under the age of 18. These children and their families are without electricity and water for days and were given a single day by the Israeli military to move south and avoid the shelling of their homes. It is also where the hostages are being held.
At a time when global leaders have abandoned all sense of responsibility by condoning a violently disproportionate counterattack by the Israeli government, it is upon us to educate ourselves and demand better action. Call or write to your congressperson and express your support for a ceasefire. Critically engage with journalistic accounts from the Middle East. If possible, donate to emergency response groups.
And most importantly, seek out Palestinian voices.
ZAINAB FIRDAUSI is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science. You can reach Zainab through email@example.com.