As many of you know, Israeli forces recently attacked a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Palestinians in Gaza. According to Al-Jazeera, nine people have been killed, including a Turkish-American, Furkan Dogan, 19, who was shot four times in the head and once in the chest. Al-Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, who was onboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Mamara, when it was raided by the Israeli military, reported that Israeli warships surrounded the Mavi Mamara and fired tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets before Israeli commandos stormed the ship and shot live bullets roughly five minutes later.
Elshayyal was detained before eventually being released by Israeli authorities. Dozens of the humanitarian activists on the Mavi Mamara were injured and flown home. Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, announced that relations with Israel will never be the same, while thousands in Turkey demonstrated in the nation’s capital.
This horrible criminal act has sparked protests throughout the United States and worldwide. My friends and I had already planned a trip to New York city earlier this week for the sake of visiting, but when we heard about the emergency protest being organized in Times Square, we made sure we made an appearance and expressed our solidarity in whatever way possible. One of my friends, who went across the street to grab a snack, said he heard people shouting profanity and racial slurs, such as “rag-heads,” at the crowd of demonstrators. It’s no doubt in my mind that these individuals wouldn’t have made such racist and hateful remarks if my friend wasn’t White.
Amidst the massive protests nationwide, it seems that Obama is only giving Israel a “slap on the wrist” for the murder of humanitarian activists. It is crucial to understand that this incident represents a symptom of a larger problem. The blockade on Gaza, which limits Gazans from receiving proper necessities, such as food, water, electricity, and medical supplies, must be lifted. It is absolutely outrageous that Israeli apartheid is being tolerated in the 21st century and the fact that US politicians and many in the mainstream American media refuse to condemn Israel is extremely disturbing. It’s easy to see how the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla disrupts the peace process and provokes potentially violent reactions, but it’s even worse when war criminals are not held accountable for their actions — silence only fuels more anger and hostility towards Israel and the United States.
Elsewhere, president Obama continues to advance the war in Afghanistan and orders drone attacks in Pakistan. Al-Jazeera released a report from a United Nations human rights official, Philip Alston, who urges the CIA to end the drone strikes in Pakistan. According to Alston, “CIA personnel could be prosecuted for murder under the domestic law of any country in which they conduct targeted killings, and could also be prosecuted for violations of applicable US law.”
Where is the “change?” In all of this violence and injustice, we also see millions of Americans protesting and raising awareness about what’s happening internationally. I went to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla rally in Philadelphia the other day and video-taped the entire protest. Below is a clip from the protest, where Gaza Freedom marchers shouted “shame” to a small group of Zionists. Resolving this conflict should not be about hate and violence, it needs to be about working towards peace. The criminals must be condemned and held responsible, while the people — Muslims, Christians, Jews, or whatever you might be — need to come together and work at building a solution.
Anyone who attends the Gaza rallies or watches the videos I posted from the Philadelphia protest will see the incredible diversity of people who condemn Israel’s blockade of Gaza and military occupation of the Palestinians. There are Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, and many others standing in solidarity with the people of Gaza — this is not about “Muslims versus Jews” or “anti-Semitism.” This is about calling for peace and an end to the violence, injustice, and occupation. This is about coexistence for the children of Abraham. May God help us reach that understanding and establish that kind of Love in the world for all people. Ameen.