By Essam Yousef
There are almost no limits to the pleasure of giving, and there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained when it is related to taking happiness into the hearts of others. This is, without doubt, one of the benefits of involvement in charitable and humanitarian work.
With experience in humanitarian activities, the psyche is cleansed of selfish thoughts. The very act of giving — of your time, wealth, skills or all three — can have extraordinary side effects, such as hatred being replaced by love; conflict by reconciliation; brutality by harmony; and so on.
Humanitarian action can control the imbalances brought about by the transformation and distortion of human and humane concepts, turning a God-fearing way of life into one which is value free. When materialism overwhelms spirituality, human identity and the essence of life itself is lost.
World Humanitarian Day provides us all with the opportunity and tools for the human spirit to be revitalised by beginning or increasing our involvement in charitable endeavours. In doing so, we can polish the true image of the human being, with its principles, natural assets and intellect. The potential benefits for the world are incalculable.
Human activities provide us with a wide range of knowledge across the secular and religious domains, which should be compatible. The more we learn, the more we need, and the more we need to question and challenge until we are mature enough to build fair, honest and just societies. It is only then that people will be able to communicate with each other in a way that gives life full meaning and the principles of respect, dignity and human rights can be maximised in both theory and practice; limitations and falsehoods can be weeded out.
Humanitarian action stems from a belief in the basic goodness of human beings and the entitlement of each person to the full gamut of social and cultural rights. This is strengthened by the tools to develop respect for the innate principles of co-existence and mutual support with which society thrives. Such principles may involve voluntary engagement or be part of a struggle for justice synonymous with the fight against oppression the world over.
The Palestinian cause remains one of the most prominent and important of contemporary issues. It requires a great deal of energy to be expended, not only regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid but also in focusing on many different aspects of life. The latter includes the dissemination of the Palestinian narrative to counter the falsified history that dominates the mainstream media and political thought; tackling efforts to violate the identity and civilisation of the victims of injustice; and correcting the lies propagated by the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, as well as exposing the state’s ongoing theft and colonisation of the land.
Involvement in humanitarian activities to help the Palestinians can generally be determined by two things: the effects of the Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestine, with all its racism and tyranny; or the continued absence of justice despite the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause based on international laws and conventions. The presence of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in occupied Jerusalem brings the third aspect into play; the cause carries with it a lot of symbolism across the Islamic world.
The very nature of the cause means that it requires humanitarian activists to be involved in charities and NGOs, human rights organisations, politics, economics and the media. Popular mobilisation across all of these fields and more is essential.
The list of genuine grievances is long and complicated, and it tears at the conscience of the world, whether we like it or not. It includes the original occupation of historic Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 of its indigenous people; they or their descendants remain refugees to this day. The natural resources of Palestine have been looted by the occupiers, especially the water sources, for the benefit of illegal settlers. Despite assurances in Israel’s “Declaration of Independence” in 1948, the holy places of the Muslim and Christian Palestinians have not been protected and respected; many are being Judaised by the colonists. Furthermore, the imprisonment of the people of Palestine in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip using the Apartheid (“Separation”) Wall and siege — as well as frequent Israeli military offensives against the civilian population — make the humanitarian situation in Palestine a crisis of immense proportions.
Indeed, the siege of Gaza shapes the nature of the ongoing conflict regarding the politics and the humanitarian response. It affects every aspect of life, with the people being deprived of necessities such as fresh water, baby milk and medical supplies; not only medicines but also medical disposables and equipment are in desperately short supply if they are available at all. Homes and hospitals alike are lacking in fuel for essential purposes; even emergency generators can no longer be guaranteed to work when the electricity supply is cut off.
The Palestinian cause in general and the siege of Gaza, in particular, are gaining the support of free people around the world, but more must be done. The arrogance of the occupying forces sees them continue to commit violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity on a daily basis. The voice of the people of Palestine is being stifled as their rights are trampled upon by the occupation state.
Humanitarian work, therefore, is an essential component of the struggle for Palestinian rights; for justice; and for peace. It must not be politicised; aid must go to those in need, with the scale of their need being the only criterion which determines what they will get. As the rest of us give thought to World Humanitarian Day, that is the very least that the people of Palestine deserve.