Last year the lives of the people of Gaza changed dramatically for the worse. 1400 were killed, many more homeless and desperate with short supplies. Last week, Imperial College was educated about Gaza. The aim of ‘Gaza Week’ was to inform us (Joe Public) of the importance of supporting the people of Gaza who are in need of our support. The AhlulBayt society took it upon themselves to promote this worthy cause.
Unfortunately, the opportunity was squandered and what positive effect they might have had was lost under a platform of hate. The stall which was set out everyday with the supposed aim of informing students about the situation in Gaza was covered with leaflets and fliers about the “Palestine-Israel” conflict with several different fliers demanding a boycott of Israel.
As an inquisitive bystander I wandered up to the stall to ask the people manning it why, if they were going to talk about the conflict surrounding the situation, did they not mention some key facts? For instance, the very reason why Israel took the action they did, whether you agree with it or not, was because over 8,000 rockets in 8 years had been fired from Gaza and fallen onto Israeli soil. The towns of Sderot and Ashqelon, and surrounding areas in the Negev were terrorised with these bombardments to such an extent that tens of thousands fled in fear. There are children living in Sderot who have never played outside because of the fear of what could happen to them if the 15 second warning went off and a rocket hit. In fact, why wasn’t it mentioned that rockets are still being fired from Gaza? Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, was kidnapped and taken into Gaza by Hamas on the 25th of June 2006 and still has not been returned to Israel. Hamas have refused the International Red Cross to visit him contrary to International Human Rights. A plain obvious fact absent from any of the information provided was that Gaza shares a border with Egypt. If a boycott on Israel is called for in order for them to open up the borders then it would only be fair and correct if a boycott of Egypt was also called for.
Upon closer examination of these fliers, it wasn’t just that they were one sided but they also had factual inaccuracies (a nice way of saying lies). Misquoting UN resolutions; not mentioning one suicide bombing when talking about the Intifadas, failing to mention Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza with the hope for peace, to name a few.
The one possible redemption for this waste of trees was “The Gaza Massacre one year on…” event. In terms of its title I was already suspicious that it wasn’t going to be very Israel friendly, yet my hope would be that it would at least promote the Palestinian cause in order for progress to be made.
The attendance of this event was slightly er…shvach to use a Yiddish term and just as well because the quality of content was worse. The first of two speakers, Raza Kazim, a senior speaker from the Islamic Human Rights Commision, had one main message: “Are we going to stand with the oppressed, or are we going to stand with the oppressor?” In fact he liked this phrase so much he had it on his T-shirt just in case we didn’t get the message the first time. His black and white view of the conflict not only showed his naivety and ignorance, but also simplified the conflict to such an extent he missed out the basic facts which I mentioned above. So passionate was he on human rights and the cause he was promoting (which veered off helping those suffering in Gaza and went onto boycotting Israel) he proclaimed: “Sometimes in order to uphold the law and to make sure that the spirit of the law is actually preserved we need to sometimes break the laws that are actually there and we need to, as a result of breaking that law be prepared to suffer the consequences of having broken that law.” Now I’m no pacifist when it comes to speaking out against wrongs but is this what a senior spokesman of the Islamic Human Rights Commision should be encouraging us to do?
The next speaker who was dressed more formally in suit and tie and who spoke very eloquently indeed was Toufic Machnouk, the associate director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development. He had a few years ago visited the College, linking what was happening to the Palestinians with the Holocaust and he didn’t disappoint this time round either. The Holocaust, which resulted in the death of over six million Jews as well as blacks, gays and gypsies, was an event which if educated about goes beyond the simple numbers. It was the dehumanisation of a people to not even animals. Those that don’t understand why the Holocaust can in no way be compared with the situation in Gaza and the Palestinians, should go visit Auschwitz, Birkenau , Bergen-Belsen, Majdanek, Treblinka etc… all the different concentration camps and death camps. To desensitise what the Holocaust was in order to score political points is disgraceful and an insult to those that perished and those that survived.
Not only did he equate the Holocaust with the events in Gaza but he was very keen to talk about the “Jenin Massacre” where it was believed that the whole refugee camp of Jenin had been wiped out by Israel, where in fact nothing of the sort happened and was shown to be a complete lie.
Lie after lie and quotations taken out of context were used freely in his very persuasive presentation. The sad thing was that the amount of time he spent talking about the plight of the Gazans was minute compared to how long he spent demonising Israel and its people. Another lost opportunity to talk about a necessary cause.
In a time where dialogue is necessary to promote strong connections between two sides it is irresponsible and extremely divisive for such hate speech to be brandished. It is time for the people who take sides to understand and talk about both sides maturely. Israel is not a perfect country but which country is? Why is there not a call to boycott the countries which murder homosexuals, oppress women, ban freedom of speech and freedom of expression? On the contrary, we should be investing in both sides in order to forge strong bonds and to reach a state of unity between two people. Maybe next year Gaza week will take on a different stance, one to strive towards positive rather than burying their heads in hate.