Over the last week or two, I’ve been inundated with questions – “Why are you asking SSMU to take a position on such a divisive topic?”, “What are you trying to achieve?”, “Why do you hate my people!?” I’d like to address some of these concerns.
The first point I’d like to make is something that bears repeating – the resolution was, above all else, an issue of human rights. It was not meant to condemn Israel for being Israel, nor was it meant to ask SSMU to take a stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It was asking SSMU to speak up on behalf of the Palestinian right to education by condemning the bombing of educational institutions.
Of course, it is impossible to completely extract just one issue from such a complex conflict. That said, the resolution was very clearly focused on the fact that there were and still are countless students who are being denied their right to pursue their education in Palestine. This fundamental human right to education is an inalienable right that every human being has, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.
However, this right is being denied on a daily basis in Palestine. For example, two universities in Gaza were completely destroyed. 66 schools in Gaza, half of which were run by the UN, have been damaged far beyond the point of usability or even recognition. There are Fulbright scholars – recipients of one of the most exclusive scholarships across the world – that have been denied exit visas out of Palestine by Israel for the sole reason that they are Palestinian.
As students, how can we stand idly by when there are students just like us who do not have the opportunity to study? While we may complain about our classes and criticize our professors, we all know that our education here will shape our future, and we all know that our education here will certainly continue to impact our lives daily. It is our responsibility as students to speak up on behalf of our counterparts in Palestine who are being denied this fundamental human right.
This was not a resolution condemning Israel as a political entity; rather, it was condemning Israel’s actions – an important distinction. This motion was submitted because the Israeli government has been systematically denying the Palestinians’ right to education, and because this has been going on for decades. I hoped to raise awareness about this matter, and at the very least engage students in debating the issue.
After all, without education, how can we ever hope to end the vicious cycle of conflict in Israel and Palestine? There is no doubt in my mind that education, as part of a comprehensive respect for equality and human rights, is one of the keys to achieving true peace in a region with such a tumultuous history. And while such an approach requires both time and dedication, I believed that we at McGill would, at the very least, stand up and speak on behalf of the students in Palestine and Gaza. Clearly, I was mistaken.
Khaled K is a U3 BCom student, and wrote the motion calling on SSMU to condemn the bombings of educational institutions in Gaza for last Thursday’s GA. To reach Khaled, email firstname.lastname@example.org.