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Israel-Palestine war: Why don't British Palestinian lives matter?

The silence of our political establishment and faith leaders over the dehumanisation of Palestinians in Gaza has been deafening
A poster of 7-year old Yousef Abu Mousa, a Palestinian child killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza placed in Piccadilly Circus, London on 31 October 2023 (Reuters)

This author is not writing under her own name for fear of making herself and her family a target for hate crimes.

As I write this piece, dozens of my family and friends have been killed in Gaza in the past three weeks. Some men were among the victims, but they were mostly women and children. Grandmothers and babies were not spared. 

Even now, I have loved ones trapped under the rubble, as neighbours and what’s left of our family dig frantically with their hands to try to save them. In the coming days, more innocent lives will be lost in Israel’s ground invasion and continuing air raids. 

The deafening silence from the British establishment leads me to conclude that the plight of my family in Palestine means less to them than the lives of others - and this breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer rightly said in parliament that British Muslims should not apologise for terror attacks committed in our name. But he followed that up a few days later by visiting a Welsh mosque, during which he repeated a call “for all hostages to be released” - as though British Muslims needed to be reminded of this fact. He has since then refused to call for a ceasefire despite acknowledging that thousands of children were being killed by Israel.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have used the bombing of my people as a way to play politics, either by trying to paint the Labour Party as antisemitic or by playing into vile culture wars. Some UK politicians have called for a ceasefire, including Humza Yousaf, the Scottish first minister, who has family trapped in Gaza. 

How many of our elected politicians would accept their innocent families being killed in the name of peace? It is very different when it’s your own loved ones who are the innocent casualties of war, rather than some Arab Muslims you don’t value. 

Dissenting voices

Other Labour politicians who have backed ceasefire calls include London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, among others. 

These dissenting voices might have done some damage control, so that the Labour Party doesn’t completely lose the 71 percent of Muslims who voted for them in the 2019 general elections.  Their brave stance will also enable more Labour MPs to take this position, possibly ensuring that Starmer is delivered the keys to Downing Street - not that he would thank them for it. 

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Sunak, meanwhile, has refused to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, instead following the US position of urging humanitarian pauses.

If it was not clear in the past, it is clear now: British Muslims and British Palestinians have no fair, balanced and honest brokers

That simply means that rather than being killed today, my family could be killed tomorrow. Despite more than 250 British lawyers and law professors stating that Israel has broken international law, our government continues to endorse the collective punishment of innocent women and children, including the 200 British Palestinians stuck in Gaza, while further risking the lives of British hostages taken by Hamas. 

For many young British Muslims, this is the first time they are seeing the majority of our political and establishment figures demonstrating that not all lives are equal.

Even King Charles, who issued a statement for Israeli victims and held talks with the chief rabbi, hasn’t issued a statement to support grieving British Muslims or met families of British Palestinians. This double standard by a king who claims to be close to global Muslim communities has been laid bare for the whole world to see.

Compounding this issue, the king held a meeting at Buckingham Palace with relief agencies for Gaza, but did not invite Muslim groups such as Islamic Relief, the UK’s largest Muslim charity. 

Second-class citizens

The chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said recently: “To all our friends from whom so far we haven’t heard a single word, your silence is deafening.”

To him, I say he has lost any and all support through his failure to call out the dehumanisation of my loved ones in Gaza, who have nothing to do with the terror attacks. His silence is also deafening as he has failed to condemn Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calling Palestinians “children of darkness” and invoking the Amalek, a biblical nation that the Israelites were ordered to eradicate.

The chief rabbi and other faith leaders have failed to speak up as Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant equated Palestinians with “human animals”. The archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on Channel 4, suggested “not rushing to judgement”, but in the same interview, pointed fingers in one direction and not the other, drawing anger from both Christian church leaders and Palestinian Christians alike. 

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Indeed, the silence of our political establishment and faith leaders over the dehumanisation of Palestinians has been deafening. It comes as Save the Children says the number of Palestinian children killed in the last three weeks exceeds the annual number of children killed in conflict zones since 2019.

As a British Palestinian Muslim, I have faced a number of attacks over the past few weeks, including my property being vandalised and verbal abuse on the streets. This is why I am scared to even put my name to this article, as I know it would make me and my young family an even bigger target for hate crimes. 

In 2017, a terror attack on a mosque in Finsbury Park killed one man and injured around a dozen others. Just a few days ago, a petrol can with the words “IDF [Israeli army] rule” scrawled on it was thrown over the gate of a mosque in Oxford.

If it was not clear in the past, it is clear now: British Muslims and British Palestinians have no fair, balanced and honest brokers, and even when someone like the United Nations secretary general speaks in a balanced manner, he is condemned

This conflict shows that all lives are not equal, and Muslims are second-class citizens in Britain, with no political home or support from the establishment. We are being shown that British Palestinian lives don’t matter.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

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