By Lila Suboh and Dana Saifan
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community,” stated Newt Gingrich, a U.S. Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
That’s right, Palestinians are “invented” people. The 4.3 million people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the 5 million Palestinian refugees are “invented” people.
Maybe it is because Palestinians are “invented” that they don’t deserve basic human rights, such as access to water, roads, electricity, food and medical supplies? Or maybe they don’t deserve a homeland of their own because they are “invented” people? Or maybe, just maybe, it is because Palestinians are “invented” that they are subjugated to live under Israel’s occupation, which has been deemed illegal under international law?
The truth is, we are all “invented” people, living in “invented” nations that were birthed at the expense of indigenous peoples, disregarding those human beings’ real identities, histories and experiences prior to the invention of nations.
Despite the superficial invention of labels for strips of land spread across vast oceans, the people on these lands are very real. UCLA students and Los Angeles residents are very real. The Palestinian people are very real.
Likewise, the struggles of students on campus and Palestinians are real and concern us all. Last week, UCLA students rallied against a proposed 20 percent hike to University of California Student Health Insurance Plan fees and caps on student benefits.
In a more severe struggle for access to health care, the Palestinian people face worsening health conditions as the Israeli military’s checkpoints impede pregnant women, the sick, and the elderly from reaching hospitals in the West Bank.
The Israeli blockade prohibits vital medical supplies, such as needles and medicine, from reaching Palestinians in Gaza whose lives depend on them.
While the Palestinian struggle for basic health needs, as a matter of life or death, is more critical and overt than UC struggles to maintain health care, the understanding of access to health care as a basic human right is universal.
As UCLA students, we face budget cuts and fight for access to higher education. Palestinian students persist through roadblocks (both physical and financial) each day to attain their education, despite the chilling reality that only $192 is spent on each non-Jewish Palestinian child per year by the Israeli government, compared to $1,100 on each Jewish Israeli child, according to the Washington Report.
And just as our minority communities around Los Angeles are racially targeted and incarcerated, Palestinians are deemed “security threats” because of their race.
According to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 are prosecuted each year through Israeli military courts and more than 4,700 Palestinians are in prison as of Jan. 1, 2013.
We are all “uninvented” human beings that are equally deserving of our human rights, from UCLA students to Palestinians.
This week, Students for Justice in Palestine is hosting its annual Palestine Awareness Week, a program dedicated to educating the UCLA community about Palestine and its people who resist Israel’s oppression within the Palestinian territories, within Israel and around the world. This is an opportunity for UCLA students and faculty to learn why this conflict is not as complicated and controversial as many have portrayed it to be.
As human beings, Palestinians deserve equal rights – it’s as simple as that. With the solidarity of UCLA students and faculty, these rights are possible to attain, just as it was possible for students and faculty to help deconstruct South African apartheid in the 1980s.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu emphasized, by standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, “You are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.”
Lila Suboh is a fourth-year international development studies student and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA. Dana Saifan is a third-year psychology student and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA.