• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Gaza is not history, the time for speaking out is now

BySarah Challen Flynn

Feb 16, 2024
Palestinian flags and placards saying Gaza against a sunset background

Four months on from the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza, the scale of Israel’s indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians and decimation of the Gaza Strip will be no new story to most. Throughout the international community, and at home in Edinburgh the shockwaves of grief and outrage continue to reverberate.

This must not be a time to slip back into routine and relieve the pressure on the UK government to play its part in ending the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

While it is shocking and harrowing to quote numerous statistics of death tolls, houses destroyed, tons of explosives dropped, it is essential not to forget the individual lives behind each of these figures. The most striking example in recent days is that of 6 year old Hind Rajab, whose body was found after 12 days missing, having called for help from a car after Israeli fire killed her family members. Two medics from the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), dispatched to search for Hind, were also killed in an attack the PRCS has called ”deliberately targeted”. Hind’s story has become emblematic of the devastating impact on children, and Palestinians more widely, of Israel’s war on Gaza.

Since October 7, Israeli attacks have killed over 10,000 children in Gaza. The tragedy of Hind’s death can not be repeated. These ever rising statistics should provoke as much outrage in the ever silent Westminster and across UK institutions as they do across the UK populace.

The individual lives of 10,000 children have been snuffed out, their futures taken away from them, alongside opportunities for education for Gaza’s population. As of 24 January, Al-Jazeera reported that 133 schools were being used as shelters in Gaza, and at least 346 schools and all 12 of Gaza’s higher education institutions had been partially or entirely destroyed. No student has attended school in Gaza since 6 November. 

When educational institutions are either reduced to rubble or transformed out of necessity into places of shelter, rather than havens of learning and opportunity, the global academic community can not turn a blind eye.

As journalists, we must also be vigilant of the targeting of our colleagues in Gaza. Al-Jazeera reported on 1 February that more than 122 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, which UN experts have condemned. Brave journalists have risked their lives on the front lines in order to expose the horrific realities in Gaza, to break through the walls of online misinformation.

Across Scotland and the rest of the UK, hundreds of thousands of people have continued to take to the streets in university based, city wide and national demonstrations for Palestine, and students have consistently been at the forefront.

Fear of backlash has frequently prevented students, academics and journalists from writing and speaking out on political matters, and especially on Palestine. In the harsh political climate, in which former home secretary Suella Braverman labelled pro Palestinian demonstrations as ‘hate marches’, this comes as no surprise.

Now is not the time to lose hope, as the recent ICJ ruling represents a significant step on the international stage, as does the ruling of Professor David Miller in the UK.

After his dismissal from the University of Bristol in 2021, a recent tribunal ruled that Prof Miller was wrongfully dismissed due to his comments on Palestine. This ruling should establish a precedent that anti-Zionist views should be protected as a philosophical belief under the 2010 Equality Act. Miller’s lawyer, Zillur Rahman, described the outcome of the tribunal as “a pivotal moment in the history of our country for those who believe in upholding the rights of Palestinians”. It is important to make the distinction that anti-zionism and criticising the actions of the Israeli state is not inherently antisemitic. 

Thus, academics and students alike should feel reassured that speaking out for the rights of Palestinians and against the immense acts of violence being committed by Israel should not come at personal risk or be discouraged by fear for their academic careers.

6 year old Hind will be remembered. Gaza’s universities will not be erased. The legacy of Palestinian journalists will be honoured. As students and academics, as journalists, as workers, we must continue to push for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the massacre in Gaza.

Image via Sarah Challen Flynn