We as a sector must speak up for Palestine

[Image Description: A protestor at a protest holding up a sign that says “Not war, it’s colonialism. Not eviction, it’s ethnic cleansing. Not conflict, it’s occupation. Not complicated, it’s genocide.” Image by Nikolas Gannon on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. This is my fourth blog post on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza. Before I go further, yes I condemn Hamas’s atrocities committed on October 7th against Israeli civilians. And I also condemn antisemitism, a serious issue that has been on the rise all over the world.

And I condemn the war crimes and terrorism against Palestinian civilians that Israel has been committing since then, and for the past 75 years. As you read this, the number of Palestinian civilians that the Israeli government has massacred approaches 16,000 since October, including nearly 8,000 children. The death toll of Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian civilians this year has surpassed the Nakba of 1948. It will get worse, as Israel ramps up its aggression against southern Gaza, where it had previously told civilians to evacuate to. There is no place for Palestinian civilians to go to be safe. And as winter approaches, there will be more famine and starvation. The death toll will rise even higher.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been fielding messages sent to me by email and through various social media platforms. A lot are supportive (thank you). Some are angry. I am trying to remember that everyone is hurting, and that the comments calling me a Nazi or antisemitic or a supporter of terrorism or a condoner of the murders of babies, etc., come from a place of deep-rooted trauma. Many colleagues may not have been alive during the Holocaust, but it still affects them. Just like even though I was born after the Vietnam war, with its own horrifying massacres of civilians, it’s still in the collective memory of my community, and I have visceral reactions seeing horrific and heartbreaking images and videos of toddlers shaking from bomb blasts, parents writing children’s names on their bodies so they could be identified if they died, other parents weeping over their already dead children, a man hugging his mother, begging her to wake up, among so many others.

More than a few comments were along the lines of “I follow you to read about nonprofit and philanthropy, not to hear about your thoughts on this conflict.” These comments are disappointing. I have always loved our sector because, theoretically, more so than other sectors, we fight for a just and equitable world. No matter what our missions are, this is the one that unites us all. We can argue about how we go about it, what strategies we use, etc., but we should agree that the fundamental reason we exist is to make the world better.

And I am not sure that we, as a sector, are living up to that purpose in this moment. Too many people and too many organizations are still too silent. Or worse, chastising or punishing the people who are speaking out in defense of Palestinian lives. Meanwhile, I received word from a colleague working on relief efforts in Gaza that not enough resources are coming in from foundations:  

“Grassroots donors are pouring in, but the philanthropy community is basically absent. With very few exceptions, major funders are absent. The foundations sitting on billions are doing mostly nothing. Those that are doing something are making gifts of a few hundred thousand at best. Not nothing, but also nowhere near what they’re capable of. [Regarding] Funders 4 Ceasefire: what seemed like a noble effort at first is apparently a feel-good statement with no actual money behind the words. Only a small handful of foundation signers (out of ~150) seem to be funding anything remotely related to Palestine or related advocacy.”

If this is a test, our sector as a whole is failing. We are failing to apply all the DEI lessons we’ve been learning regarding power, privilege, oppression, equity, and justice. We continue to intellectualize, equivocate, and engage in both-siding while a genocide happens on our watch, funded by our tax dollars. It has been surreal to be in discussion with people in our sector who genuinely cannot answer with a simple “no” when asked “is it ever ok to murder 16,000 civilians, half of whom are children?”

I think about our fundraising training, about how statistics don’t persuade people, and that we need to tell stories of individuals, because our donors cannot grasp numbers. In similar veins, the human mind cannot comprehend the mass murder of 8,000 children. We must remind ourselves that these are not just numbers and statistics. Each number represents a child with a name and hopes and dreams and people who love them.

This genocide, and the ethnic cleansing and terrorism Israel has been conducting not just over the past two months but over the past seven decades against Palestinians, should offend our sector to its core and anger us all and move us to act. Especially as nearly 4 billion of our tax dollars (in the US) have been used to fund it every year.

But it’s not too late. We can still speak up for Palestine, as individuals, as organizations, and as a sector. Share on your social media. Call your elected officials to demand they support a permanent ceasefire. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors. Attend protests. Release statements. Uplift Palestinian voices. If you’re a with a foundation, advocate for increased funding. You will lose some donors and supporters, but this is the time for our sector to live its values of equity and justice.

I also know that not everyone can speak up. But if you can, please do so.

To everyone who continues to use their voice and platform, donate, contact their elected officials, and take other actions, and to all the funders who have been supporting Palestine with funding and in other ways, thank you. I know you’ve probably been dealing with a lot of push back. It should not be this controversial to say that we’re against genocide, that we’re against the massacre of civilians and the slaughter of children. Please do the best you can, and rest when needed so you have energy to continue our sector’s overarching mission of creating a just and equitable world, which must include a liberated Palestine.

As this week (December 5th) is the anniversary of his death, let us remember Nelson Mandela’s words: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”