Sarah Dajani’ 26
At first light, before the sun rises on the 18th of October at 5:00 a.m, there were a dozen members of the Israeli Occupation Forces at the house of Suhail Khoury, a leading musician, a social influencer in Palestine, and a teacher that I was lucky to have, in Occupied East Jerusalem. The soldiers stormed into the house looking for the youngest child, Shadi, a 16-year-old boy. They kidnapped, beat, handcuffed, blindfolded, and barefooted him. Despite the horror of this story, it is not uncommon for Palestinians. AMNESTY International reports that “Israeli police targeted Palestinians with discriminatory arrests.” Just like in the case of Shadi, children are often denied medical care, are interrogated without the presence of lawyers or family members, and their hearings are concluded with no clear alleged crimes.
However, Shadi is lucky with the family he has: his 89-year-old grandmother wrote what happened in English and shared it online while his sister and cousins posted on their Instagram accounts in both Arabic and English. This led friends and acquaintances of the family to share the story on our accounts which eventually led congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and the U.S. model Bella Hadid to share it on theirs. Shadi is lucky because his family had the means to express their concerns. Shadi is lucky because his friends decided to take action. But how can one call a kidnapped, abused, and tortured child lucky?
We live in a time in which a share button and the number of views play a key role in influencing communities and creating change; yet, we see what I want to call a resource disparity that leads one story to go viral and others to be silenced. These resources happen to be what resonates with the ‘civilized:’ the Western world and the ideals of the Western world. I am going to illustrate with an example for each of the two claims. I do not want to be misunderstood as implying that a story could be undeserving of the coverage its receiving; in fact, my intention is the complete opposite. I want to point out how one might support a crisis at the expense of another and emphasize that the first step towards an end to any form of oppression is an unselective coverage of it.
Firstly, I would like to look at the double standard in dealing with security in Afghanistan compared to the war in Ukraine. This double standard is a manifestation of modern-day white supremacy. Let’s consider the advisor to the UK board of Trade, Daniel Hannan, who said that what makes the Ukrainian crisis shocking is that Ukranians “seem so like us.” Continuing, he said, “Its people watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts.” Later, showing extreme naivety by suggesting that war is only “visited upon impoverished and remote populations,” the arrogant insistence of Hannan to use the passive without determining the source of the war is of extreme supremacy and entitlement. Considering the modern history of colonialism and wars—mainly orchestrated not by “impoverished and remote populations”—Hannan is denying developed countries’ involvement in impoverishing developing countries in the first place.
This is not a criticism of any specific individual or official, but one that highlights a system of supremacy designed to favor the Eurocentric narrative. There are countless recent examples of people who communicated their shock about the Ukrainian crisis on the expense of undermining the struggles of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. One such example is from the senior foreign correspondent for CBS News, Charlie D’Agata, who said that Ukraine is not a place “like Iraq or Afghanistan.” Ukraine “is relatively civilized, relatively European city where you do not expect that or hope it’s going to happen.” Although D’Agata issued an apology saying that he had “used a poor choice of words,” his words, in fact, reflect an ingrained supremacy that separates him and the people who are ‘relatively’ like him from others in suffering.
Secondly, I want to demonstrate how aspirations accordant with Western values are more likely to lead to wider social intervention by looking at the current abuses and human rights violations in Iran in comparison to those committed against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Both struggles are ones for freedom: Iranian women’s freedom of choice and the Uyghurs freedom of worship. However, the latter’s aspirations are experiencing significantly less coverage because some of their choices, like keeping their hijab, happen to be what Europe has made possible to ban and the United States restricts in certain academic and social settings. So I am wondering if Western activists would be concerned with the safety of Iranian women if their choice was to keep their hijab rather than get rid of it?
To conclude, Shadi’s story was faced with more support than other Palestinian children because it was shared in a language understood by the West. Shadi, the minor, the musician and the football player who attends an international school and whose grandmother is able to express her fears and concerns in English along with Arabic, is unlikely to go against Western ideals. Yet, despite Shadi’s appealing ‘profile,’ he is still illegally detained by Israeli authorities. This is because anyone is under the threat of abuse in an oppressive regime and defending human rights indiscriminately is only the first step in ending this abuse.