Issues and Articles
Protesting must be smart to be effective
By Omer El-Hamdoon
Over the past few weeks, we have seen the tragic loss of life, wealth and property in Gaza. The Israeli propaganda machine continues in its attempt to lead the world in believing that all the children and women who have been killed; all the buildings that have been destroyed; all the schools and shelters that have been attacked and violated; all of that is part of its “right to defend itself”.
Most of the world did not and does not buy this nonsense propaganda, and indeed lots of people were quick to ridicule such claims. The Arabs have a proverb which summarises the Israeli PR attempts: “The [real] fool is the one who treats others as fools.”
In the light of all this Israeli aggression, there have been masses of civil action to protest against this mass punishment of the Gazan people, who have suffered so much before with the ongoing siege against them; and who have now to deal with gross loss of life and property.
These protests have included street demonstrations which – in the UK – reached a dramatic 150,000 on 9th of August, vigils, campaigns to stop arms trade with Israel, calls for boycott of companies who support Israel, or sell produce which has been produced in the illegal settlements.
The civil action has brought so much positive results to the campaign against Israeli terror. It is this kind of action that the Muslim Association of Britain encourages everyone to engage in. Because, in a democratic country, change has to be brought about through democratic processes. As we come up to the next general elections in May 2015; that would be another opportunity to use one’s vote to protest against those who have had shameful stances in this conflict.
Whilst all this protesting is happening, it is imperative that we do not allow emotions (and idiots!) to derail a positive strong campaign.
Boycotting supermarkets – like Tesco – that sell Israeli produce is indeed positive pressure against the illegal siege of Gaza and the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The boycotting has to be one of conscious choice by the consumer, guided by an ethical argument. It should never be through compulsion or acts of vandalism, which will only yield negative results. Nor is the intimidation of others acceptable in our society.
At the same time, our message throughout the Israeli onslaught on Gaza has been that the acts of aggression have been perpetrated by the Israelis supported by the Zionists. It isn't the Jewish people who are bombing Gaza and killing the Palestinians. Therefore, as part of the justice we uphold, we must not allow anti-Semitism to creep into our protesting. Indeed, a significant number of Jews have come out to condemn Israel's genocide of the Gazan people. A few days ago, thousands turned out in Tel Aviv to protest against the unjust war. Even the Jewish Chronicle published the DEC Gaza Appeal Advert, initially. [It later backed down to pressure to remove the advert].
However, we must be just and wise. On a similar note, those who support Israel should not sink low in associating protesting against Israel with anti-Semitism. The two are clearly distinct, and should remain so.
This recent attack on Gaza has shown up the truth that lies behind the façade of many governments who some openly supported the Israeli killing, whilst others not so open. The sad reality is a significant number of those are from Arab Gulf countries. Their claim in this is to root out Hamas from the Gaza strip. The sad reality is they don’t care if three or four thousand people are killed in the process, tens more injured; and the long-term damage to the buildings, wealth and infrastructure.
It is like someone demolishing a multi-storey tower, killing all those inside, under the pretence that there is a nest of ants somewhere in the vicinity!
The response of some UK councils in raising the Palestinian flag in solidarity was highly appreciated; as was the announcement of the Gaza Appeal by the DEC. The DEC is a Government recognised and regulated body. The allowance of advertising of the DEC campaign on the BBC and TFL has also been positive steps. And so much more has been happening, which all adds to the effectiveness of the protest.
So, let us bring out the positives; reject the negative behaviour; and let us be honest and fair, upholders of justice.
World Humanitarian Day 19th August 2014– “More significant than ever before.”
By Khalil Charles
On the anniversary when 22 people killed in a bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, the 19th of August has been designated: “World Humanitarian Day”. Given the tragic theatres of war that are playing out in Gaza, Syria and Iraq, this day has perhaps become more significant than ever before.
Last year a record number of aid workers were killed. 155 deaths and 134 kidnappings were recorded and so far this year a further 79 aid workers have lost their lives in the service of humanity. The majority of the deaths have taken place in Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Pakistan. The day is intended to highlight the plight of aid workers and reflects the sacrifices they make.
Mahmoud Deeb Daher, head of the World Health Organisation’s Gaza office, said: “We need more humanity, and today is a day that reminds me of why I do what I do: to alleviate suffering, and allow people to live in peace.” The work in Gaza has been hampered by what have been described as ‘deliberate’ attempts to single out civilians and civilian targets. On two occasions in the recent strikes on Gaza, Israeli missiles have been dropped on UN Schools.
The strikes were contrary to international law and contrary to the ethos of humanitarian work, which is based on principles, which include humanity, impartially, neutrality and independence. There are growing calls for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes.
The United Nations called for human aid workers to be given access to those in need. In a statement to mark the day, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says, “Attacks on humanitarian workers hinder the ability of people in desperate need to receive lifesaving assistance”.
The lack of cooperation with aid-agencies has been a feature of the Syrian conflict where access on some occasions has been flatly denied. The Assad regime repeated refused to allow the UN to gain access to besieged towns. Recent reports in April suggests that 9.5 million people need urgent help – 6 million of those displaced and 3.5 million Syrians are desperately in need of aid in areas that are inaccessible. The UN World Food programme claims to have reached just 34 of the 262 locations identified as difficult to reach and facing a humanitarian crisis. Some western governments have been persecuting aid workers who have been delivering relief to Syria, under the claim of supporting terrorism, which adds more pressure on humanitarian workers to that region.
Today, the UN agency has launched a major aid operation to reach more than half a million people displaced in the fighting in northern Iraq. An estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced so far in 2014, according to the UN agency - more than 500,000 from fighting in the Anbar region, and another 600,000 displaced from conflicts around Mosul.
In the just over a decade, the UN itself has itself become a target. As previously mentioned the Baghdad strike in 2003 was the start of these commemorative events; UN office in Algiers was hit in 2007, Kabul in 2009 and in 2011 Boko Haram hit a UN building in Abuja, Nigeria.
Despite the conflicts occurring in Muslim lands, commitment to saving and protecting life is of course embedded and strongly endorsed in the religion of Islam. Quranic texts and hadiths encouraging charity works are plentiful and the presence of Muslim charities undertaking humanitarian relief work is on the rise.
Recent studies show that Muslims topped the poll of religious groups that give to charity. On average, Muslims give £371 per person per year, some £100 per year more than other groups.
Overall, there is a growing respect for the work being done to reach aid to those in need. The Secretary General of the UN summed up the gratitude we owe to those who risk their lives to help and provide for others. “Humanitarian aid workers strive to provide life-saving assistance and long term rehabilitation to disaster-affected communities, regardless of where they are in the world and without discrimination based on nationality, social group, religion, sex, race or any other factor.”
It is clear that the risk of aid work are increasing year by year, but it’s also apparent that aid workers are owed respect and gratitude, and that is essentially what this day is about.