As another attack on Gaza unfolds, young Australians remain dumbfounded by Israel’s actions.
The civilian death toll continues to rise and more gruesome and disturbing images are being shared on the Internet. As I watch this conflict continue, I sense a weight of responsibility on my shoulders to work towards working towards a situation that will ensure that the latest attack on Gaza will be the last.. As Martin Luther King once said, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.”
The current grossly unjust situation in Gaza demands our advocacy in any form possible. To remain neutral in the face of injustice is to take the side of the oppressor.
Call me an idealist if you will, but I am a firm believer in people power, particularly the power of youth working in unity. It is a sad state of affairs when even those who seek to advocate for the Palestinian cause by attending rallies, writing to politicians or writing letters to the editor are often faced with a swath of opposition, questioning the effectiveness of their advocacy. At times, we can be our own worst enemy in the face of hopelessness against the backdrop of the sheer strength of the Israeli military force, the Israeli propaganda machine and decades of failed peace talks. But as the Arabic proverb goes, “iid waHda matsa”afš”— One hand doesn’t clap on its own.
As an advocate, it is easy to fall in the trap of questioning the effectiveness of advocacy. We should be mindful that as Australians, we possess power by virtue of Australia’s temporary position on the United Nation Security Council. As young advocates, we can raise awareness of the nature of atrocities being committed against innocent civilians and the numerous breaches of international law in Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
In an age of information overload, the conflict can be grossly misrepresented; this does nothing but gross injustice to the innocent lives being lost to this senseless conflict.
The Public Relations war is evidently playing out in the Australian media scene. Most recently, the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network has slammed a cartoon published in The Australian that depicts a Palestinian militant with a hooded face bending down to pat his young child on the head, telling the boy to “go out to play and win the PR war for daddy”.
Sadly, the cartoon highlights a prime example of the manner in which the narrative of the conflict works to hold Palestinians ultimately responsible for their own children’s death. Indeed, it is of immense concern when the arguments about the responsible party to the conflict shifts to the victims – who are at this stage, largely represented by innocent civilians and children.
As the conflict intensifies, so too does the battle being waged online. What distinguishes the current onslaught of Gaza from previous phases of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past few decades is the fact that it is currently under immense scrutiny from social media on a global arena. Real-time reporting on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook are providing instant access to online images and information, which helps shape a global reaction to the events as they unfold. Social media works to remove intermediaries such as media outlets from the equation to present events to the globe at large as they unfold. Notably, doctors in Gaza are saving lives and tweeting their personal experiences with the bloody conflict between shifts. Statistics have a danger in their use. In their excess, they can lead to shock value. The more they are used, the more casualties can be simply objectified. Suddenly, human suffering and loss is transformed into a mere statistic.
In a society attracted to visuals, art is a potent tool, which holds the ability to effectively share the impact of the horrors of war. Through art, loss becomes about a person and their story. The use of statistics in the reporting of casualties can be dangerous in their use. The excess of their use can lead to “shock value”, in that the more they are used, the more casualties can be simply objectified. Suddenly, human suffering and loss is transformed into a mere statistic.
Spoken word poet and community activist, Ahmad Al-Rady has sought to humanise the conflict through his spoken word piece ‘I beg of you’. Recorded as a video, his piece aims to “raise awareness on the injustices currently occurring around our planet and to try and give a voice to the voiceless” so that they may have an opportunity to “tell their side of the story”. With minimal graphic representation and an absence of maimed corpses, his words are powerful weapons to convey the horrific experiences of two young children.
Musican and human rights advocate, Ayse Goknur Shanal seeks to use her voice for the cause—literally. As a seasoned opera performer, she sees performing arts as a “non-confrontational way to raise awareness”.
“Through classical music, you can reach a demographic that you cannot otherwise access in term of advocating a cause,” Asye said.
“Music is a universal language and this common ground I find is very effective in engaging with audience and opening dialogue.”
Ayse is organising a fundraising concert on September 5, 2014hat revolves around themes of loss, sacrifice, grief and suffering— important human emotions appropriately conveyed in the art form that Ayse is involved in.
Ibrahim Abdo has launched a Facebook page called The Gaza Times because he felt there wasn’t enough representation for Palestinians in Australia. Through the page, he has collected more than $10,000.
Now, Ibrahim is on a mission to raise $90,900 for a fully equipped ambulance by organising various fundraising events.
“It is a mammoth task, but our community is generous,” he said.
Activist and lawyer, Mariam Veiszadeh is working closely with fellow human rights activists to formulate a thorough campaign involving many members of society. Mariam created a Facebook page immediately alongside other activists called the Gaza Advocacy Project.
“When the conflict commenced, I was seeing horrific images of maimed bodies, especially of young children,” she said.
“As a new mother, my helplessness was intensified.
“Social media has always been an effective advocacy tool and I wanted to provide a forum for the community in which they could transform their frustration and anger into action to positively improve the situation, even if it was just in a minuscule way.”
Mariam will be working with activists like Ahmad, Ibrahim and Ayse to campaign in unison.
As young Australian advocates, we possess the power to make a change. Each and every one of us has a unique set of talents. Whether it be performing arts, fine art, graphics, photography, IT skills, writing or event management, whatever your talents are, lend them to the cause. To act effectively, we ought to work together to ensure that the sacred human rights of Palestinians are protected. In a globalised world, we need to to think globally and act locally. Decades of peace talks have failed; it’s time to do things differently.
If you are interested in participating, volunteers are welcome to join the Gaza Advocacy Project by following us on Facebook or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.