– by Andy Shallal, CEO & Founder Busboys and Poets
The past few months have been traumatizing for anyone with a cell phone and access to social media. For people living in Gaza it has been unimaginably horrific seeing entire families wiped out and most of Gaza’s inhabitants displaced, starved and without shelter. 1 in 100 Palestinians have been killed. As of the latest count over 24,000, mostly women and children have been killed and at least double that number have lost a limb or face a serious injury. Hospitals have been targeted and bombed. Mosques. Journalists. Health workers. Writers. Poets. Most of Gaza is now uninhabitable. Those who have managed to stay alive are now facing malnutrition and disease due to lack of access to basic healthcare. Israeli officials have vowed to continue the relentless bombardment of Gaza despite worldwide condemnation. This is not to diminish from the suffering of Israelis who have lost loved ones and who have to await the fate of their loves ones.
Our government, the major supplier of weapons to Israel, has not called for a cessation of hostilities or a ceasefire. These are necessary first steps to ensure the safety of the hostages and for Gazans to get the needed humanitarian help and begin to rebuild their lives. A recent resolution presented by Senator Sanders asking our State Department to look into how our weapons are being used by the IDF was soundly rejected by most Senators. Only a handful of Senators and Representatives have demanded a ceasefire.
What has been lost during these very troubling times is the humanity of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have been called “human animals”, “rats”, and undeserving of basic human rights. These are dangerous words coming from the highest levels of government. These are words that proceed horrors. They prime the pumps of hate and push otherwise well meaning people to do unimaginable things. These are words that were used by the Nazis about Jews. Against black enslaved Africans. Immigrants and Muslims. Right now, these same tactics are being deployed to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere in the West Bank. Even Palestinians who live in Israel and carry Israeli passports are fearful for their lives and have to remain silent or face serious retribution from the government and their neighbors. Israeli Jews face similar fear. Most troubling however is that right here in the US decent has been muffled. Civil rights are slowly eroding. Anyone speaking out in support of Palestinian lives is seen as pro-Hamas or worse and quickly silenced. Many have been fired from jobs and black listed for speaking out for Palestinian rights. A Palestinian American child was stabbed 26 times by a neighbor for no other reason but for being Palestinian. Three Palestinian American college students from Vermont were shot and seriously injured while walking home wearing Palestinian scarfs.
It is for this reason that we are celebrating Palestine Week. To uplift Palestinian culture and humanity.
During this week-long event we hope to highlight and showcase the richness of Palestinian culture. The food, music, art and poetry. We will also have conversations around Gaza, Israel and the US, the role of the United Nations, ending the violence and a look forward toward a future with peace, justice and prosperity for all. We hope to bring you the people who are on the front line of this struggle. Beginning this Thursday January 18th with a “food and folklore” curated dinner with Laila El-Haddad – renowned Gaza chef and activist. Her work was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown when he visited Gaza back in 2016. Linda Sarsour author and activist. Josh Paul the high ranking State Department official who served for 11 years in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, who recently resigned from the State Dept in protest of the war on Gaza. Gina Dent, professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz and outspoken pro-Palestinian activist. Miko Peled, author and Israeli-American peace activist. We will cap the week with a visit by renowned civil rights and black liberation icon Angela Davis. Check out our listing for more information and updates.