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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The dangers of complacency: Why Americans have a responsibility to support Palestinians

Joe Piette/FLICKR
A vigil dedicated to Aaron Bushnell sits outside a military recruiting storefront in Philadelphia mere days after his death.

On Feb. 25, a Twitch stream went live outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., sharing video footage of a man in fatigues who would identify himself as Aaron Bushnell, a cyber-defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron of the U.S. Air Force.

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” Bushnell stated as he made his walk to the embassy. “I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest. But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all.”

Bushnell would then place his phone on the ground and douse himself in liquid from a bottle, before indeed committing one of the most extreme acts of protest: self-immolation, or the act of setting oneself on fire.

As Bushnell burned, he repeatedly chanted “Free Palestine!” First responders and law enforcement gathered at the scene. He was rushed to the hospital, but succumbed to his injuries that night.

And while he was not the first to commit this form of protest against the horrors occurring in Gaza — a woman carried out the same act in December 2023 outside of the Israeli consulate in the state of Georgia, according to Reuters — Bushnell’s role in active duty brought a wave of attention to the act.

Self-immolation is a horrible sacrifice. While it has garnered attention throughout history, there’s no ignoring the cost of human life from such an extreme form of activism. And while it’s a decision and a sacrifice many of us can’t wrap our heads around, Bushnell made a choice.

The media cycle and its consumers could no longer remain blind or neutral to the plight of Palestinians — to more than 30,000 people in Gaza who have died since Oct. 7, a number that experts agree is likely conservative, according to Time.

Bushnell, while at a devastating cost, did what he set out to do. Complacency is dangerous, and for months, many have been comfortable with turning their heads away the horrors occurring in front of them. He forced public awareness — especially in the West — to a subject they had been apt to ignore.

As Americans, we have a responsibility to pay attention now more than ever.

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, the state has received more foreign aid from the U.S. than any single country during that time period: an estimated $300 billion, according to Human Rights Watch.

In comparison, the country that ranked second in foreign aid during roughly the same time frame is the former country of South Vietnam, which received $184.5 billion, according to data from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

And on Feb. 13, the Senate approved a $95 billion emergency aid bill, with a planned $14.1 billion of those funds going to Israel, according to Reuters. However, the money the U.S. sends to Israel doesn’t grow on trees, and it certainly doesn’t come from the pockets of the politicians approving it. It comes primarily from American taxpayers.

The amount varies from state to state, but an estimated $69 million of just Connecticut’s taxpayer dollars goes to Israeli aid, according to the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. For context, that money could provide 8,211 households with public housing for a year, 24,035 children with free or low-cost healthcare, 754 elementary school teachers with pay for a year and cancel the student loan debt of 1,828 students.

Regardless of whether Americans are actively paying attention to the death and horrors occurring in Gaza — children starving to death, families being completely eradicated from existence and worshippers being forced to pray outside ruined mosques during Ramadan — they are passively participating and funding it.

It’s a choice made on our behalf by the government, one that’s been made for a very long time, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening. And while committing tax fraud is perhaps not the most effective form of protest in this case, there is still plenty Americans can do to lend their support and actively try to change what is being decided for us.

Many towns and states have introduced resolutions calling for a cease-fire, including Hamden. As the upcoming election grows closer, pay attention to candidates’ stances on Palestine and foreign affairs before casting a vote.

For those that are able, there are monetary ways to support Palestinians, but be careful where you decide to donate. Care for Gaza is a great non-profit that supplies Palestinians with necessary items and food packages. Donating eSIMs — SIM cards with international wireless access — through organizations like ConnectingGaza is also a great way to help Palestinians keep access to wireless networks, which enables them to provide footage and information from Gaza itself.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to engage and educate yourself and others is to pay attention and share information straight from the source: Palestinians. There’s a slew of journalists — Motaz Azaiza, Bisan Owda and Plestia Alaqad, to name a few — who are sharing daily updates, as well as organizations, such as Al Jazeera, that provide coverage that is often missing from Western news.

There is a comfortability in privilege — an ease that comes with safety and security, the ability to not lend a voice or even a shred of empathy to something that we perceive as not directly affecting us.

But the reality is that what occurs in Palestine does directly affect Americans. And what we do, the choices we make and the money we pay, regardless of our desire to do so, directly affects Palestinians. The American dollar has blood on it.

And while Bushnell’s methods were extreme and a devastating loss, his message is clear and one that cannot be forgotten. Complacency is a killer. And Palestinians cannot afford the complacency and ignorance of the American public.

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Zoe Leone
Zoe Leone, Arts & Life Editor

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