The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


USM educates community on Israel-Palestine

Sarah Grace Meyn
Emad Al-Turk spoke on the current war between Israel and Palestine on April 16.

USM’s Students for Human Rights organized “Journey to Understanding: Israel and Palestine Unveiled” on Tuesday, April 16. The devastating realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and potential paths forward were the focus of the talk. The talk featured speaker Emad Al-Turk, a Palestinian refugee, philanthropist, and co-founder of the Islamic Museum of Muslim Cultures.

Al-Turk opened by tracing the ancient historical ties of the Palestinian people to the region, before providing an overview of the past century. This included the British mandate era, the 1947 UN partition plan, Israel’s declaration as a state in 1948, subsequent wars, and the failure of peace efforts like the Oslo Accords to resolve the conflict and establish a Palestinian state. He also stated that anti-Zionism is not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic.

Turning to the present, Al-Turk outlined in grave detail the daily brutalities and human rights violations Palestinians face living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and the suffocating siege on Gaza. Images highlighted the occupied land in Palestine by Israel over the last 7 decades.

Statistics highlighted by the speaker revealed over 40,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza alone, with 70% being women and children. Millions have been displaced, homes and infrastructure lie in ruin, basic needs like food, water, and electricity remain scarce, and poverty is rampant.

Al-Turk was unsparing in his condemnation of Israel’s actions, which he characterized as war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and an open-air concentration camp tantamount to genocide against the Palestinian people. He accused Israel of seeking to make life unlivable to force Palestinians out of their ancestral lands.

“Knowledge is power. So, for you to actually understand the context and understand the history and understand what’s happening, I’d encourage you to not only listen to our elected officials, don’t only listen to the media, because those are corrupted views, one-sided views,” Al-Turk stated. “That is what this conflict is actually exposing: the hypocrisy of the West and Israel, because all of you young people have been listening to TikTok and social media, listening to what’s happening directly from the ground. That’s why they want to kill journalists because they don’t want those videos that are coming out and showing the brutality of the Israeli Offensive Force.”

The solution, according to Al-Turk, is unwavering international pressure on Israel through economic boycotts, sanctions, and a complete arms embargo. He called for an end to the occupation and equal rights for Palestinians. At the local level, joining organizations like Mississippi for Palestine is one way.

Theo Sutton Jr., a member of the audience, echoed the need to look beyond racial, political, or religious divides when it comes to human rights and humanity. “Two wrongs don’t make a right and there’s no injustice greater than the other one we’re talking about. We’re talking about human rights and humanity,” Sutton said. “I think we as Americans are accustomed to believe that everything we do is right. This white supremacy trickles down to black folks as well. This whole country has a supremacist mindset, that we can do and say whatever we want because we are Americans, and that’s simply not the case. And we’ve aligned ourselves with other countries that feel that way as well. So, outside of just race, outside of politics, outside of religion and things like that you really have to look within your heart and say ‘If this was happening to my child, if this was happening to my family. How’d I feel about it?'”

During a passionate Q&A session, the speakers urged attendees to educate themselves and others on the realities of the occupation, lobby elected representatives to change policies, protest injustice, and join the pro-Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement.

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