By Aminta Kilawan-Narine
As Indo-Caribbeans and as people of faith, we need to care about the atrocious loss of life occurring in Palestine, and the decades upon decades of violence resulting in deplorable living conditions for Palestinians. To assume what is occurring is anything less than genocide would be wholly ignorant.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is rooted in colonialism, which we Indo-Caribbeans are all too familiar with. Beginning more than a century ago, this conflict has snatched the lives of tens of thousands of people. It has displaced several million Palestinians, with a disproportionate impact on women and children. According to UN Women, as of November 2, following the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, strikes by land, sea and air against Gaza took the lives of 9,061 Palestinians, with over 22,900 injured. Among those affected, 53 percent are women and children. This all occurred within the span of just four weeks.
We all should care about this humanitarian crisis, and take note that the conflict is funded by American tax dollars. As a community, we should join in the calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Palestinians have been living under siege for 75 years. We cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocity. While some feel the Israel Palestine conflict is too controversial to touch, there is one side glaringly more advanced when it comes to its military, thereby able to wipe out countless innocent lives. The heartbreak on both sides is tenable, but the undeniable truth is that Palestinians have suffered loss of life at an exponentially greater level. The Israeli government continues to commit war crimes and violate human rights law. It has blocked Palestinians from accessing food, water, electricity, and fuel. It has withheld humanitarian aid. This is persecution at the highest degree. It’s been going on for decades upon end. Children have grown up among rubble.
And yet, the United States continues to express unwavering, bipartisan support of the Israeli government. More recently, the Biden Administration has pushed a narrative that condemns Hamas, as opposed to condemning genocide, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing thereby misguiding the long-standing persecution at the hands of Israel. Farudh Emiel, a local community organizer from Richmond Hill, underscored in a social media post, “This is not oppression olympics.”
Like the land in Guyana, it should be noted that Palestinian land is located near oil banks. We too must reckon with what the discovery of oil in our homeland could mean for its people. In a powerful statement issued by gender justice organization Jahajee Sisters, the organization stated:
“As indentured laborers, Britain exploited us for sugar profits. The U.S. fuels the conflict in Palestine so it can influence oil markets and bring home billions of dollars in defense sales. Indo-Caribbeans also know empire tries to make its behavior palatable. Just as it was politically expedient for Britain to say it was using consensual “indentured labor” and not “slaves,” the U.S. says it is protecting the Jewish people instead of its own interest in having a foothold in the Middle East. Moreover, as in the Middle East, Britain colonized Guyana, pitted ethnic groups against each other, and departed – leaving the region in shambles. We come from a people who have survived. We want to see Palestinians survive too.”
We ought to care that our tax dollars are funding this deplorable violence. We also ought to care that so many in our country are devolving into hostility and hate. Post 9/11, the entire country experienced a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes. What we currently are living through runs parallel. In October, Jasper Singh, a 66-year-old Sikh man, was killed in a brutal attack along the Van Wyck Expressway amidst what New York police officials have described as a wave of hate crimes since the war between Israel and Hamas began. Earlier in October, a 19-year-old Sikh man wearing a turban was assaulted on a New York City bus in Richmond Hill. This is also being investigated as a hate crime. In addition to a rise in Islamophobia, we are also seeing a rise in anti-semitism.
The only way leading to peace and justice, is to demand a ceasefire and protect those most vulnerable. It is in fact possible to mourn all Palestinian and Israeli lives lost, and to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as well as a stop to military funding to Israel and an immediate distribution of humanitarian aid. People are rising up in the masses to demand this, at a minimum, including South Asian and Indo-Caribbean organizations like Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) who sent buses to Washington D.C. to rally for Palestine. In a virtual session convening Black activists in October, Angela Davis highlighted, “People here in the U.S. are slowly recognizing that when we think about Palestine and Israel, it is the Palestinians who are calling for the end to the occupation, supported by increasing numbers of Jewish allies in Israel and in other parts of the world. It is they who represent the progressive direction of history. Freedom and democracy the world over will always remain unattainable goals as long as Israeli settler colonialism continues to oppress the Palestinian people.”
There are tangible ways you can help to advocate for Palestinians right now. One effective way to do so from the comfort of your homes is to make a call to your Congress Member. You can call 202-224-3121 and use the following script:
My name is ____. I am a constituent of [representative’s name] from [city, state]. I am calling to ask that the Representative add their name to the Ceasefire Now resolution led by Representative Cori Bush regarding the ongoing violence in Israel and Occupied Palestine. It is absolutely urgent that the Representative demand a ceasefire, and that they call on the Biden Administration to deliver humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The majority of American voters support an immediate ceasefire. As elected representatives, you are morally obligated to end this genocide.
To find out who your Congress Member is, visit https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.