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From Pittsburgh to Palestine

By: Jacqueline Moon, Contributor

Originally published January 30, 2024

Since October 7, more than 17,487 Palestinians have been murdered in Gaza alone at the hands of the Israeli government, and the death toll is still rising.

To call the situation in Palestine anything other than a genocide is a disservice to the thousands of people being targeted and murdered each day. A genocide is defined as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or part” (The Genocide Convention). It is not a conflict, it is not a war, it is almost entirely one-sided and offers no safety to innocent civilians, and it is a genocide.

The genocide of the Palestinian people is unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. Growing up, I remember learning about the Native American genocide, American chattel slavery, the Holocaust, and various other atrocities senselessly inflicted upon innocent groups of people. My heart and the hearts of my classmates broke as we read these stories. We couldn’t possibly understand how people could be so evil to one another and more than that, we couldn’t understand how others could sit by and watch as these things happened. Every time we learned about a new crime against humanity, we vowed that we would the people to stop them if they ever happened in our lifetimes. We would speak out, we would fight back, we would remember to love our fellow man. Looking at the situation in Palestine today, I now realize we have willingly broken our promise.

Over the past two months, I’ve been enraged by the lack of discussion surrounding the Israeli occupation of Palestine in any of my classes and on the Saint Vincent campus in general. Aside from a few one-off conversations about it among friends, almost no one I know has talked about the genocide. To me, this lack of discussion feels dystopian and almost inhumane. I don’t know how so many people are seemingly okay with being indifferent towards this issue and most of all I am disappointed in my professors for not facilitating conversations about it in class.

By no means am I saying I have been perfect in my support for Palestine. I learned about the situation much later than I should have, I haven’t been able to attend any protests to show my support, and I don’t know as much about the history of the situation as I’d like to, but I’m ready to talk about it and that’s more than I can say about most of my educators.

All schools, but college campuses specifically, should serve as places where students and faculty alike can engage in discussions about global issues. They should encourage their students to grow beyond intellectual development in their disciplines and challenge them to become empathetic and informed citizens of the world.

The passion I have now for discussing issues regarding social justice can be almost entirely credited to my high school religion and philosophy teacher, Mr. Crossen. A proud Catholic and a man well-versed in the practice of radical empathy, Mr. Crossen always made sure his students were aware of poignant social issues. He taught his students as pupils and as people, ensuring they would walk out of his classroom feeling more connected to the world and the people around them than when they came in.

“An educator has the responsibility to prepare her students to be competent not only in academics, but also in moral decision making and for participation in a just society,” Crossen

said. He continues, “One important job of any educator is to burst her student’s soap bubbles and to teach them compassion in action in a world that desperately needs it.”

For Mr. Crossen, just like all other prominent social justice issues, talking to students about the Palestinian genocide is nonnegotiable and is essential to their development as human beings. He hopes the discussions he prompts in class will inspire his students to take action when they see injustice in the world as he states, “An education, especially a liberal education is designed to help students learn to think and to act.”

While my search for information and communal support for Palestine has not been found at my college, it is being practiced in my home city. Palestine is over 5,975 miles away from Pittsburgh, but that distance has done nothing to deter come of its residents from showing their support for full liberation of the land. Since early October, Pittsburgh has been home to a number of protests, demonstrations, and forums addressing the Palestinian genocide.

Political organizations, like Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation have focused on organizing and taking action on a local level as they lead protests against Arconic, an industrial corporation located in downtown Pittsburgh that produces materials used to make aircrafts for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Calling attention to the occupation in general opens up discussions about how people can get involved on a local level. These conversations are then turned into actions as they encourage people to consider the role their community plays in the genocide.

Caleb Jackson, a member of the PSL’s Pittsburgh chapter, reflected on this chain reaction and stated “I believe if we can help people connect locally (like with the Arconic action) it gives people this idea like hey in my own city/neighborhood I’m aiding in the genocide of these people. I don’t want a company like Arconic to freely exist here, let me do something about it.”

Although it can be easy to believe the idea that small actions made by a few people in an isolated part of the world can’t actually make a positive difference, the effects of collective action are undeniable. “I think people in the US are unaware of the power we hold…We’re socialized to be very individualistic,” Jackson said.

Jackson believes that it is because of global outrage against the occupation that the temporary cease-fire occurred. People from all over the world have banned together to show their support for Palestine and their condemnation of the Israeli government by participating in boycotts organized by the Boycott Divestment Sanctions, a movement made to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. The movement targets specific companies to maximize their impact. These boycotts have resulted in a loss of $11 billion in Starbucks’ value alone (Newsweek).

Community action works and is one of the best and only ways everyday civilians can show up for people who need it. Without directly confronting the genocide by starting the conversation, no progress can be made. Right now, the people of Palestine need us to show up for them in any way we can. It is undeniably our time to speak out, fight back, and remember to love our fellow man. There are things we can do at almost any level to show our support, but to get there, we must first be willing to start the conversation.


Editor Note: The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely the author’s. Publishing of any opinion piece does not represent endorsement of the piece by The Review staff or Saint Vincent College.

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