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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Palestinian plight issue of humanity, not beliefs

Twenty-two days. Over 1,300 Palestinians killed, including 200 women and 410 under the age of 16. Over 5,300 wounded. Thirteen Israelis killed, including nine soldiers. Total war costs are estimated at $1.43 billion. And yet, the day after Israel declared a cease-fire, Hamas fired 20 more rockets. 


The politics of the the Middle East are too complex, too rooted in religion and history, too mind-numbingly counterintuitive to discuss in a mere 650 words by a sophomoric collegiate op-ed columnist. I can't convince myself to even try. But on Monday, the Distinguished Lecture Series played host to Amira Hanania, a 27-year-old journalist from Palestine, whose wisdom belies her age.  


The event also featured UW-Madison doctoral student Matt Sienkiewicz, who co-produced and filmed the documentary Live from Bethlehem."" Together, their remarkable telling of modern-day Palestine through video, journalism and anecdotes helped frame many of the common-day struggles of the Palestinian people, detaching them from the chaos, violence and indolence of the region. They presented a side to the story that is as ubiquitous as any human story, one of hope and despair, of living, loving and raising a family where wants are great and daily security is in short supply. The fact that it was a Palestinian story should be of no consequence. Yet today, in the aftermath of Israel's offensive into Gaza, the Palestinian story cannot be as important as the human story. 


All we seem to have is words and numbers: Gaza, Hamas, Fatah, Muslim, Jew, Israel, West Bank; 1,300 dead, 13 dead, 5,300 wounded, 20 rockets, $1.43 billion; self-defense, war crimes, proportionality, white phosphorus. We have The New York Times' account of the war, the Israeli Defense Department's account of the war, the UN's account of the war. Do we truly have the Palestinian story? Both Hanania, through her candid and personal account, and Sienkiewicz, through his documentary, went through great pains to show a side that was first a call to our common humanity and secondly Palestinian.  


Hanania's lucidity and remarkable insights were presented throughout the night, destroying the Israeli argument for war in one clear and straight sentence: ""It is not self-defense when you are killing defenseless people."" Her call, unlike most, was not for involvement, but for support of people.  


""Tell your representatives not to support governments, but to support people,"" Hanania said.  


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Here, you find the crux of the Gazan plight: They are not supported, not by Hamas, whom she claimed took political power by force; not by Israel, who has occupied, humiliated and corrupted daily life to an almost incomprehensible extent; not by the international community, which has refused to take a global stance on the ongoing humanitarian condition; and not the the United States, which has continued to support and supply, via billions of U.S. dollars, the Israeli military. They have no defenders, no representatives, no voice and no humanity. 


With this recent offensive, Israel seemed to invite, almost force the world to take sides. Before this offensive, I was unwilling and too ignorant to take a side. I cannot say that is the case anymore. I look at numbers and read the words, and I can't help but take a side. Think of the hospitals, schools, roads and infrastructure that could be built in Gaza for $1.43 billion. It was reported that Gaza ""looks like an earthquake zone,"" with more than 50,800 Gazans left homeless. In the immediate aftermath, the BBC reported that more than 400,000 Gazans were left without running water. The incessant bombing campaign razed 4,000 Gazan buildings and severely damaged 20,000.  


In almost any other ""conflict"" involving any other two peoples, there would be overwhelming international support, with the United States backing, for the rightful independence of the oppressed from ""ownership,"" in order that a nation may be created. Yet maybe this is the ruse, that this isn't just any conflict. At least that is what we are led to believe. However, there is one thing that is evidently clear: Palestinians are people, and in as much as that matters, they need support. 


Joe Koss is a junior majoring in secondary education in social studies. Please send responses to 

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