Dear Malala, why won’t you speak up?

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: Eleven years ago, the world watched in shock as a young girl, whose only crime was to ask for her fundamental right to education, was targeted and attacked. Eleven years later, that very girl refuses to stand up for the thousands of children who were and are in the same position as her. Targeted and killed, attacked and traumatized, the children of Gaza are helpless. So, why is Malala choosing to be neutral rather than calling out Israel for all their war crimes?

Eleven years ago, Malala found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. Since then, she has had to deal with the repercussions of that attack. Only she knows the trauma of the violence, only she knows of the struggle she had to face, both emotionally and physically. And today, she is a product of that very violence. A Nobel Peace Prize winner for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. An activist who has addressed audiences ranging from Barrack Obama to the Queen of England. Yet, she is selective in her vocalization against violence.

The situation in Gaza is dire, to say the least. An estimated 3000 people, civilians, have been killed. At least 1000 thousand of them are children ranging from as young as 3 weeks old. The ones who haven’t been killed are displaced, short on food and water, under the constant threat of being bombed and living a life of fear. The world has watched in shock as, despite the obviously glaring atrocities being committed, the world leaders have refused to stand on the side of justice. Politics has drowned out the voices of the innocent. Celebrities we once admired have disappointed us.

And in the midst of all the injustice is Malala. In her first statement, speaking about the ethnic cleansing taking place, Malala did not call out the state of Israel for their constant bombings and complete blockade of Gaza. Instead, she chose to hide behind the “all lives matter” stance and save herself of any controversy. Last night, Israel broke all international laws and bombed a hospital killing at least 500 innocent refugees, most of them women and children. The world sat in shock and the genocide was undeniable. The people who once sided with Israel voiced their grievances. Yet, Malala did not call out Israel. She did not use the right rhetoric and she did not call it for what it was: genocide.

Why would Malala not choose to call out the government of Israel? Why would she simply refer to it as the “unjust occupation” when the situation has progressed so much further than that? So much more than an occupation but a genocide, an ethnic cleansing of the people of Gaza. Why would Malala advocate for the people of Israel, many of whom are rejoicing over the deaths of innocent civilians? Hasn’t the time for being politically correct and neutral ended?

This is the very same girl who looked Obama in the eye and questioned about the drone strikes in Pakistan. This is the very same girl who stood up and spoke against the Rohingya persecution in Myanmar and demanded to “halt the inhuman persecution of Burma’s Muslim minority Rohingya people” and that they deserve, “citizenship in the country where they were born and have lived for generations” along with “equal rights and opportunities.” Why has Malala suddenly become selective when it comes to speaking up against Israel? Especially when she has a platform to raise awareness, a platform that she can use to educate people with a firsthand account?

If the likes of Malala who wasn’t afraid of the Taliban, takes a step back from Israel, it makes us question: who will be the voice for the unheard in Gaza? Who will be able to talk about the fear and the pain and the injustice, if not a survivor herself?

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