Palestinian cause is humanitarian issue

Syed Rizvi

This past Friday, the United Muslim Relief chapter at the University of Texas at Austin hosted its second annual “Let Palestine Shine” event, an apolitical charity dinner that provides direct relief to Palestinians in the form of sustenance, shelter, healthcare and education. This event was publicized to the general Austin community. In fact, the organization spent several days tabling and passed out several hundred flyers. Yet the participants of the event were mainly Muslims despite the fact that the event wasn’t religiously charged. 

This could be due to, in part, the stigmatization of the Palestinian cause as religiously charged. After years of propaganda and lobbying, people in America equate Zionism with Judaism and Judaism with Israel and Islam with Palestine. Thus, if you are anti-Zionism, you are anti-Semitic and even worse, anti-Israel. If you find such deductions implausible, just consider history; in fact, not long ago, here in America during the Red Scare, being a communist meant you were anti-American and surely a Soviet spy. 

To be concise, the Palestinian cause has been cast as anti-Semitic, anti-American, and, God forbid, pro-Islam. However, this should not the case. Palestine is a humanitarian cause, and events such as “Let Palestine Shine” should be able to bring people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together. 

For this humanitarian claim to make sense, it has to be made clear that the fight over Palestine is not a religious conflict. Religion does play a factor in the conflict, but in the same way that religion plays a role in your everyday life. Religion is a moral driving force for many Palestinian-Muslims, as I am sure it is for Palestinian-Christians. Similarly, as 20th century fascism was ostensibly based on Christian teachings and current Islamic Wahhabism,  Zionism is an ideology that is racist and oppressive. Thus, as quickly as we reject the association between fascism and Christianity and Islam and Wahhabism, we should reject Zionism equating to Judaism with the same fervor. The people of Palestine, which the United Nations recognizes as a state, are struggling for their basic rights every day. The region’s religious affiliations is irrelevant to the fact that we face a tragedy in Palestine.

The Palestinian conflict is political in part. However, as Americans, we should not forget the human element. The oppression and injustice against Palestinians violates the human conscious. There is a prevailing idea among Americans that the loss of Palestinians is a necessary evil and collateral damage that is executed by Israel for security reasons. This argument is dispelled by Israel’s disproportionate aggression, economic oppression, and invasive and illegal settlements, all of which independently go beyond sensible security measures. 

Since Sept. 29, 2000, 132 Israeli children have been killed and 2,053 Palestinian children. In total, 1,185 Israelis have been killed and 9,100 Palestinians. The suffering of the Palestinian people extends beyond the graveyard. Israel has 5,271 Palestinian political prisoners detained while Palestine has 0. Now if you are lucky to be alive and not in prison, you may still not have a home or a livelihood. Since 1967, 28,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed, and the state has an unemployment rate of around 25 percent. Furthermore, what little hope they have remaining is dwindling as Israel continues to increase its number of its illegal Jewish-only settlements. Currently, there are around 262 settlements. The discrepancy is staggering, but as noted, there has been losses on both sides. That is why it is important to frame this as a humanitarian issue so the oppressors cannot continue to carry out their injustices under the guise of “security.”

You might be wondering, if the situation is really that lopsided, then why haven’t I heard about this? Well, in small part, because of a discrepancy in media coverage. In fact, a report shows that the Associated Press overreported Israeli deaths by 30 percent. In contrast, 34 percent of Palestinian deaths went unreported. The fact is that this is not a conflict of religiosity. This is a humanitarian issue, and it deserves our full attention and support. So next time, join me in breaking bread as we unite together in solidarity against the injustices against Palestinians. 

Rizvi is a government senior from Dallas.