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Selective Silence: Human Rights Organizations and the Palestinian Tragedy

Recent weeks have laid bare an unsettling truth: Gaza has witnessed the heart-wrenching loss of more children in a short span than the total casualties in conflicts worldwide since 2019. According to Save the Children, the numbers are unsettling – 3000+ children have perished in Gaza since October 7, along with an additional 30+ in the West Bank. We often fail to realise that these aren’t just numbers; they are the stories of innocent lives inhumanely extinguished by Israel. Yet, as this colossal humanitarian crisis unfolds, the silence from the very organisations entrusted to champion human rights is nothing short of baffling.

Human rights organisations claim to be the sentinels of justice. But they find themselves caught in a confounding conundrum. Their reaction, or the lack thereof, to the agony of Palestinian children paints a strange picture. This selective silence in the face of the escalating suffering in Gaza raises serious questions about the consistency and impartiality of their actions that can’t be ignored

In the Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza, a vicious cycle of violence and devastation persists, especially in the last couple weeks. Thousands of children bear the scars of conflict, and it’s a painful fact that over 40 percent of the 8,000-plus casualties are innocent children. This grossly unequal suffering should spark an urgent call to action, but instead, we are left in bewildered astonishment as the world watches.

Human rights organisations around the world released statements that appear on the surface to acknowledge Israel’s atrocities. However, a closer look reveals a pattern of spotlighting Hamas, even in the face of Israel’s overwhelming military might. This calculated emphasis should raise questions about neutrality. While international law indeed applies to both sides, the glaring power imbalance between a heavily-armed state and non-state actors muddles the narrative.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 dictate clear rules of engagement in armed conflicts. There is supposed to be a strict adherence to principles of proportionality and the distinction between combatants and civilians. But the enigma here lies in whether these principles are consistently enforced across the board in the ongoing conflict, or only where it is deemed convenient.

The Palestinian suffering transcends the immediate casualties of war. Israel’s blockade, in place since 2007, has plunged the region into a humanitarian abyss characterised by acute shortages of food, electricity, fuel, and water. Hospitals teeter on the brink, and Gaza’s healthcare system is in a state of near-collapse. But the global silence appears perplexing.

Further intensifying the puzzle is the recent decision by the United States to wield its veto power, obstructing a UN Security Council resolution that aimed to secure “humanitarian pauses” for delivering lifesaving aid to Gaza. The rhetoric about upholding humanitarian values stands in stark contrast to actions on the ground.

A resounding question persists, leaving us all in a state of controlled exasperation: Why do human rights organisations, who vigorously champion causes like feminism and LGBT rights, maintain a seemingly lukewarm stance when it comes to the Palestinian tragedy? The hypocrisy here is glaring, yet it remains unresolved. The agony of children in Gaza demands every ounce of attention and advocacy, every bit as much, if not more, as issues that receive relentless support.

Theoretically, human rights organisations are supposed to shoulder a profound moral and ethical responsibility, a duty to raise their voices when human lives hang in the balance. They cannot afford the luxury of selective silence as it erodes their credibility and undermines the very principles they exist to uphold.

The urgent call to human rights organisations resounds, not as a reproach but as a fervent plea. Their fundamental mission – safeguarding human rights and championing the voiceless – cannot afford to waver in the face of this ordeal. The innocent children of Gaza beseech nothing less, as the riddle of global indifference looms large.