LONDON – Living in the UK, a supposed ‘first world country,’ I am ashamed to have been ignorant towards the suffering of Palestinians under Israel’s colonization up until recently.
This wake-up call is not a revelation but a realization: this is not a conflict; it’s the oppression of an entire nation.
The Gaza Strip, crowded with 2 million Palestinian civilians who are not allowed to leave, is facing “unimaginable consequences” because of the Israeli bombing campaign, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement Friday.
Unless there is a ceasefire and humanitarian aid is allowed in, Guterres said, “the people of Gaza will face an unprecedented avalanche of human suffering.”
This is not a religious dispute, but the ruthless suppression of indigenous Palestinians at the hands of the settler colony, Israel.
It’s alarming that UK political leaders seem to lack sympathy towards Palestinian suffering. The BBC reported that two Labour councilors resigned the party following Sir Keir Starmer’s statement that Israel “does have that right” to withhold power and water from Palestinian civilians.
Similarly, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak initially focused on six Britons who were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
These shameful responses from the UK’s main political parties makes me question those in power and how their words are influencing people.
For far too long, I, like many, had been desensitized to the murder of innocent children and families, to these daily horrors faced by Palestinians, especially now in Gaza, while I had the privilege of attending school or simply relaxing at home.
My shame deepened to learn that the UK provides arms and weapons to Israel, enabling the continued destruction of Palestinian lives and land.
According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the UK issued Single Individual Export Licenses for arms sales to Israel with a value of £387 million between 2016 and 2020. The statistics are staggering, highlighting the UK’s existing colonial power.
The UK’s financial connection to oppression can no longer be ignored.
Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem since 1967 has resulted in an entrenched system of discrimination and oppression.
Shockingly, more than 1,000 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip sustained permanent disabilities during last year’s Israeli military onslaught, according to the Middle East Monitor.
This inhumane treatment affects Palestinians of all faiths. Al Jazeera reported this month that in Gaza, 97% of water is unfit for human consumption, quoting the Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
The ongoing blockade that keeps most humanitarian aid – water, food, medicine and fuel needed by hospitals – is only making the situation worse.
These statistics are both shocking and a reflection of a terrifying reality. But they also offer an opportunity for change.
The siege of Gaza by Israel must end, and it’s a responsibility we all share. It’s a global fight for justice, a call for unity against the injustice, oppression, and ruthless murder taking place in Palestine.
The hashtag #FreePalestine isn’t just for social media account decoration; it’s a human rights statement, a call for worldwide unity to speak out against the suffering of an entire nation.
The ability to walk outside without fearing for one’s life should be a basic human right, not a privilege.
The awakening to this struggle emphasizes to me the importance of journalism as a platform for social justice. Collectively, we must be the voice for those who cannot speak, and we must stand together worldwide. In doing so, we can encourage others to speak out against conflicts in their own countries and unite for justice.
It’s imperative that we take action to end this injustice. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, led by Palestinians, calls on individuals, businesses and governments to take ethical steps against Israel until it complies with international law.
This movement includes boycotting companies involved in Israeli apartheid, such as Coca-Cola, Puma, and Hewlett-Packard. This will not be a quick solution but is vital to ensure we are not complicit in the suffering of Palestinians.
Boycotting these companies is an expression of protest and a call for a fair world where human rights are upheld.
The situation in Gaza, an enclave bordering Egypt, is dire. Scarce resources, traumatized children and severe depression are the direct result of Israel’s blockade.
It’s a crisis with a political solution, and we must demand change.
Our awareness and action can break through ignorance and privilege.
We cannot be neutral when innocent people are being killed, tortured and oppressed. The suffering of Palestinians is a global concern and a reminder that we are not truly free until justice prevails for all.
Anjola Fashawe is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.