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Delivering Community Power CUPW 2022-2023

Western students must stand up for Palestine

We have the power and the responsibility to call out our leaders for their complicity

Middle EastWar ZonesHuman RightsEducationSocial Movements

Pro-Palestinian student rally at McGill University, November 9, 2023. Photo courtesy Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill-SPHR McGill/Twitter.

As students, we stand as inheritors of our small, delicate planet. One day, it will be our burden to spin the gears of the world. We are the ones who will be left with the aftermath of others’ choices, who will have to pick up the pieces left by past generations.

These days, anyone can be a student. Stories can be sent and shared from halfway across the globe. We have the chance to learn from everyone, anywhere, so long as we are willing to seek and listen.

Perhaps it is out of fear of our unprecedented connectedness that we see the backlash directed against us.

We watch as professors and corporate executives call for the blacklisting of students showing any kind of empathy with Palestine. We watch as student movements for peace and justice are smeared and banned by the leaders and university administrators of the so-called free world. We watch as our fellow students are doxxed and harassed for the crime of expressing their humanity in words.

Is it too much, then, to demand that our so-called leaders act to stop the genocide currently unfolding in Gaza?

Or is it too unacceptable to call for Palestine’s freedom “from the river to the sea” while being expected to remain silent—or even cheer—on Israel’s explicit calls for “Nakba” and “Amalek” against the “human animals” of Palestine?

Perhaps the ruling powers are afraid of our verdict. Perhaps they know, deep down, that history will not look kindly upon their support for the atrocities committed by the occupation forces—not only in the last month, but in the 75 years leading up to this second Nakba.

They try to silence us—we, the generations of tomorrow—because they are afraid. They are afraid, as they recite their empty confessions and regrets to victims who will never hear them, that we will not be kind to their memory.

So they scare us. Attempt to force us into lock-step. Make us complicit with their crimes.

It is so easy to become lost, to feel small and powerless when these supposed leaders try to deprive us of our moral compass. So remember that you are not alone. Know that the whole world cries for justice, cries that enough is enough.

Remember, always, that you have a voice. From this day, we will wield the reins of power and the pen of history. We, the students, will be the ones to judge our predecessors in the balance.

Remember, when you see the digits file across TV screens, that behind each number is a story. Remember the families who choose to stay in their homes as occupation tanks inch closer. Remember the doctors who remain with their patients and the reporters who keep the cameras rolling, while guns and missiles are pointed at their backs.

Become a student to their struggles and their hopes, and a teacher to pass their stories on to all those who need to listen.

Remember the dreams shattered by our governments, by our leaders who stand with Israel and every crime committed in its name. Know that when they refuse peace, refuse to act against or even acknowledge the genocide being committed by the Israeli state, they deny Palestinians their dreams.

Know that every desperate measure they take to censor us is proof of their fear. Fear of our power, of our unity, of our common human decency they rejected so long ago.

I am Chinese, and my family has lived through war. My grandparents were born at the tail-end of the Japanese occupation of China. My ancestors lived through the Opium Wars, the collapse of the Qing dynasty, and the Chinese Civil War.

In China, we call these events the “century of shame,” perpetrated—directly or indirectly—by Western imperial powers. “Never again” is a promise we tell ourselves and to our ancestors, that we will never let ourselves be degraded by colonial occupiers anymore.

To my fellow students, I ask that we promise together: never again.

Never again will we let those in power silence our voices for peace.

Never again will we stand by, obediently, while they cheer on the worst crime against humanity of our time.

My greatest wish—as a student and a human being—is to live in a world where all peoples, regardless of race, creed, or faith, can live in peace and dignity. A world where children can grow up free from the horrors of war.

In the words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “We suffer from an incurable malady: Hope.” We must fight, when all seems dim, so that the world of our dreams can be born. We must fight on, for hope.

Andrei Li is the science and technology editor for the McGill Daily. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Learning Network, the Paper Crane Journal, and Francais pour l’avenir.

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