As infantry forces from the IDF made their first raids into the Gaza Strip, Israel launched a savage air campaign of revenge attacks, killing at least 1,900 Palestinians in the blockaded enclave of Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that a campaign of reprisal had “only just begun.” After Hamas fighters poured out of Gaza a week ago and carried out operations in southern Israel, Israel promised to destroy the organization.
Since then, Israel has imposed a total siege and launched unprecedented air raids on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, where 2.3 million Palestinians live. Several celebrities and prominent personalities from all over the world, including those in Pakistan, have taken a stand to bring attention to the situation of the Palestinian people and to denounce the atrocities that have been committed against them as heartbreaking news and footage continue to surface from Palestine.
Using his own life experiences and his commitment to effecting positive change, world-famous boxer Amir Khan has voiced his unflinching support for Palestine. My life’s work has been dedicated to winning a championship so that I can use my platform to do good in the world. I’ve never been afraid to say what’s on my mind or to advocate for those who are marginalized. After the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, I went to Poland to help the displaced Ukrainians who had to flee their homes because of the conflict. There were many voices raised in protest of these atrocities, yet I look around at my peers, friends, and coworkers and see those who are choosing to keep silent as the world observes what is unfolding in Palestine. Why? People are obviously reluctant to publicly express their support for Palestine. Palestinian life is important. Whoever speaks up will be remembered forever. God also remembers those who did little to stop the slaughter of defenseless Muslims.
Hasan Raheem, a Palestinian-American singer, used his popularity to bring attention to the dehumanization that his people experience. It’s a sign of how dehumanized the Palestinians have become that they’re expected to ensure the safety and happiness of their oppressors (Israel) even as they’re being brutally repressed, imprisoned, and murdered on a daily basis. To paraphrase another of Hasan’s tweets: “If you don’t have humanity, your religion makes no difference.”
Ushna Shah, an actress, has made a public statement in support of Palestine in which she questions the value of self-interest over moral principle. What if I never have the opportunity to try out for the Hollywood special that everyone dreams of becoming a part of? What if I never again become the face of a major cosmetics company or get a commercial for a multinational corporation? Decades from now, my offspring will be able to look back and see that I was on the side of history.
Actor Osman Khalid Butt showed his support for the international campaign for Palestine by posting stirring images and statements online. As part of his call for international action against war crimes, he also decried the silencing of pro-Palestinian voices and the deployment of banned weaponry.
Canadian actor Armeena Khan recently spoke out in support of human rights and communal harmony during a peaceful demonstration.
She also posted an emotionally devastating piece about the murder of Palestinian infants, ending with the words, “I don’t think I can cry anymore.” I can’t even begin to comprehend the anguish of the real parents, if just the thought of them is enough to drive me crazy. Baby after baby has been sent to me on film, all of them dead or dying or maimed or burned. Killing innocent infants is never acceptable. Period. As I cuddle my newborn, I can’t help but think of the parents who have had to endure the pain of child loss. Due to extreme mental fatigue, I must immediately log off. Online anti-violence activists have never behaved so disgracefully and cruelly in my experience. You should feel guilty because you’re probably parents. Consider if this were to happen to them. Think about that for a second. In particular, there should be “no excuse to kill babies over land.”
These public figures’ protests and speeches are emblematic of a growing international movement demanding justice for the Palestinian people and an end to their suffering. Their words and deeds serve as a reminder that, in times of crisis, speaking up for the oppressed is a universal responsibility. The eyes of the world are upon us, and those who have the courage to do the right thing will be remembered.