Humanitarian crisis in Gaza sparks protest in America

MOTHER CLINGS TO HER CHILD as she try to rush to safety. But is anywhere in Gaza safe? (NBC News)

Mea Marvin | Opinion Editor

February 28, 2024

America was slapped in the face with a great and heartbreaking shock on February 26th, 2023. Society was bone-chilled and in awe. 25-year-old active duty U.S. Air Force member Aaron Bushnell committed an extreme act of protest against the war in Gaza. He committed the act of self immolation whilst dressed in military fatigues (what military members wear into battle or while working). Could there be symbolism to this choice of wardrobe? 

Bushnell posted on the social media platform Twitch earlier that day. He seemed to declare a call to action “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?,” his post read. “The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.”

MOTHER COMFORTS DAUGHTER amongst rubble in Gaza. (NPR)

This was followed by a livestream by Aaron Bushnell, where he expressed: “[He] will no longer be complicit in genocide… [he is] about to engage in an extreme act of protest. But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.” 

He then set his phone down and doused himself in a flammable liquid that was in his water bottle and lit himself aflame. He astoundingly stayed standing until he lost consciousness, yelling, “free Palestine.” The fire was extinguished and he was rushed to the hospital where he suffered extensive injuries. Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead at 8:06 pm that evening. 

This brings us to the topic of what Bushnell meant when he elucidated the war between Israel and Hamas was a genocide of Palestinians. Is this true? 

Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported that over 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in this war with 10,000 children’s lives also lost. This corresponds to one child being killed every 15 minutes.

Since their invasion, Israel has also carried out air raids that have repeatedly targeted residential buildings, hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, communication towers, schools, refugee camps, and Muslim places of worship (mosques). All these are civilian objects that are (supposed to be) protected under the International Humanitarian Law. 

Israel has also forced the collapse of hospitals and water sanitation services by intentionally cutting off the electricity supply to the Gaza strip. This causes mass blackouts that contribute even more to the humanitarian crisis. Along with this, Israel has also either seized or demolished 948 buildings, leading to a huge displacement of many Palestinians. 

The Israeli government has even gone as far as establishing a two tiered legal/political system that imposes military rule and control over Palestinians and completely denying them of their basic protections or rights under international law. The Occupied Palestinian Territory reported that these qualify towards a crime against humanity (apartheid).  

This sensitive topic was brought up to junior Emily Ohman, who articulated that Bushnell was “really trying to find himself away from the bystanders by showing that he was willing to take action.” This action is most definitely characterized as a passionate demonstration of resistance. “However, I think it calls to question whether his action was the most effective way to protest,” Emily continued. This is a valuable aspect to bring to light. Was this the best way to convey disobedience to the war effort? She inquired whether his “conviction elsewhere would have been more useful. Maybe he could’ve contributed more directly to saving Palestine rather than this bold statement that doesn’t necessarily assist or improve the current situation.”

Mrs. Bennett, a highly respected English teacher at SCHS, remarked, “this is one more tragic loss of a person protesting a much larger humanitarian tragedy.” What does Aarons extreme measure tell the American people? Should we be doing more or paying more attention to the crisis going on beyond our country?

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