We as a sector must speak up for Palestine

Written by Vu Le

Hi everyone. This is my fourth blog post on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza. Before I go further, yes I condemn Hamas’s atrocities committed on October 7th against Israeli civilians. And I also condemn antisemitism, a serious issue that has been on the rise all over the world.

And I condemn the war crimes and terrorism against Palestinian civilians that Israel has been committing since then, and for the past 75 years. As you read this, the number of Palestinian civilians that the Israeli government has massacred approaches 16,000 since October, including nearly 8,000 children. The death toll of Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian civilians this year has surpassed the Nakba of 1948. It will get worse, as Israel ramps up its aggression against southern Gaza, where it had previously told civilians to evacuate to. There is no place for Palestinian civilians to go to be safe. And as winter approaches, there will be more famine and starvation. The death toll will rise even higher.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been fielding messages sent to me by email and through various social media platforms. A lot are supportive (thank you). Some are angry. I am trying to remember that everyone is hurting, and that the comments calling me a Nazi or antisemitic or a supporter of terrorism or a condoner of the murders of babies, etc., come from a place of deep-rooted trauma. Many colleagues may not have been alive during the Holocaust, but it still affects them. Just like even though I was born after the Vietnam war, with its own horrifying massacres of civilians, it’s still in the collective memory of my community, and I have visceral reactions seeing horrific and heartbreaking images and videos of toddlers shaking from bomb blasts, parents writing children’s names on their bodies so they could be identified if they died, other parents weeping over their already dead children, a man hugging his mother, begging her to wake up, among so many others.

More than a few comments were along the lines of “I follow you to read about nonprofit and philanthropy, not to hear about your thoughts on this conflict.” These comments are disappointing. I have always loved our sector because, theoretically, more so than other sectors, we fight for a just and equitable world. No matter what our missions are, this is the one that unites us all. We can argue about how we go about it, what strategies we use, etc., but we should agree that the fundamental reason we exist is to make the world better.

And I am not sure that we, as a sector, are living up to that purpose in this moment. Too many people and too many organizations are still too silent. Or worse, chastising or punishing the people who are speaking out in defense of Palestinian lives. Meanwhile, I received word from a colleague working on relief efforts in Gaza that not enough resources are coming in from foundations:  

“Grassroots donors are pouring in, but the philanthropy community is basically absent. With very few exceptions, major funders are absent. The foundations sitting on billions are doing mostly nothing. Those that are doing something are making gifts of a few hundred thousand at best. Not nothing, but also nowhere near what they’re capable of. [Regarding] Funders 4 Ceasefire: what seemed like a noble effort at first is apparently a feel-good statement with no actual money behind the words. Only a small handful of foundation signers (out of ~150) seem to be funding anything remotely related to Palestine or related advocacy.”

If this is a test, our sector as a whole is failing. We are failing to apply all the DEI lessons we’ve been learning regarding power, privilege, oppression, equity, and justice. We continue to intellectualize, equivocate, and engage in both-siding while a genocide happens on our watch, funded by our tax dollars. It has been surreal to be in discussion with people in our sector who genuinely cannot answer with a simple “no” when asked “is it ever ok to murder 16,000 civilians, half of whom are children?”

Read full article here.

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About the author

Vu Le

Vu Le (“voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the former Executive Director of RVC, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Vu’s passion to make the world better, combined with a low score on the Law School Admission Test, drove him into the field of nonprofit work, where he learned that we should take the work seriously, but not ourselves. There’s tons of humor in the nonprofit world, and someone needs to document it. He is going to do that, with the hope that one day, a TV producer will see how cool and interesting our field is and make a show about nonprofit work, featuring attractive actors attending strategic planning meetings and filing 990 tax forms.

Known for his no-BS approach, irreverent sense of humor, and love of unicorns, Vu has been featured in dozens, if not hundreds, of his own blog posts at NonprofitAF.com.