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OpEd: Maldives unites in the call for a Free Palestine

Artists are painting, writers are writing, musicians are releasing songs…everyone is speaking out in their own ways. Different mediums, but a common message: Stop the genocide. Free Palestine.

Mariyath Mohamed
04 June 2024, MVT 09:00
Demonstration in Maldives calling for an end to the genocide in Palestine.-- Photo: Mihaaru
Mariyath Mohamed
04 June 2024, MVT 09:00

The calls of 'Free Palestine', echoing around the world, is resonating loudly in the Maldives.

This is one issue where partisanship, politics, ideological differences, none of these factors intervene. Everyone, alike, condemns Israel’s inhumane acts against the people of Palestine.

The continuing genocide in Palestine

The Palestinian people have been facing death, dispossession, and displacement for 76 years now, at the hands of the Israeli governments and security forces.

On October 7, Hamas fighters carried out an incursion on Israel, resulting in the death of over 800 persons and 250 people being taken hostage.

In response, Israel launched a full blown military attack on Palestine, also shutting down water, fuel and electricity supplies. They attacked densely populated locales with continuous airstrikes. Israel proceeded to shut down humanitarian aid corridors, with the UN now warning an imminent famine, and Gaza’s officials saying over 3500 children are at risk of death by starvation.

With the relentless airstrikes and ground attacks demolishing entire areas to nothing more than rubble, the 2.4 million Palestinians struggled to find shelter, sustenance and safety.

To make matters worse, Israel carried out targeted attacks on hospitals in Gaza, leaving none in functional condition at this point.

Mosques, universities, schools, nothing was spared.

Evacuation orders came one after the other, slowly leaving Rafah alone as a perceived refuge for the Palestinians. And then the most recent evacuation order was issued in May, targeting Rafah. More than a million people have since been forcibly displaced from Rafah itself.

With more than 36,000 Palestinians now killed by Israel, and over 82,000 wounded, a large part of which are women and children, the world no longer hesitates to call the attack a genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Protests, Boycotts and Movements

Student uprisings are seen across campuses internationally, playing a pivotal role in the call for an end to the genocide.

Individuals from around the world stand resolute in their determination to ‘not fund a genocide’, boycotting major brands stemming from Israel and seen to be contributing to Israel's actions.

The streets of the world are often packed with demonstrators from all religions, ethnicities and backgrounds, all demanding an immediate halt to the genocide.

Artists are painting, writers are writing, musicians are releasing songs…everyone is speaking out in their own ways. Different mediums, but a common message: Stop the genocide. Free Palestine.

In the face of large scale protests, and thousands-strong demonstrations, how can a small nation like the Maldives make its equally strong objection to the genocide heard?

Action against genocide

Several marches have been held, both in the capital city of Male’ and across the atolls. The public has been calling for a ban on allowing Israeli passport holders entry into the country.

The Maldivians and Palestinians have a shared kinship, and Maldives has continuously voted in favour of Palestine at numerous international forums, including the UN, and backed resolutions in support of the Palestinian cause.

No law, no guideline, no leading figure was necessary to have an overwhelming number of Maldivians implicitly agree to boycott international brands on the BDS boycott list.

Although a small population like the Maldives may perhaps cause only a small dent in the case of the large international companies in question, the move symbolizes unshakeable solidarity.

Maldives is heavily reliant on tourism. And yet, the people called for Israeli travelers to not be allowed access to the Maldives.

In Parliament last week, South Galolhu Constituency MP Meekail Ahmed Naseem of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) submitted a motion seeking to amend the Immigration Act to disallow Israeli passport holders entry into the Maldives.

Traditionally, if a minority party submits a motion to parliament, it usually gets rejected, or at best, benched for review at an unspecified time in future.

The current Government, however, which holds a super majority in Parliament, acted in the contrary.

They announced on Sunday a decision to amend the laws to ban Israel’s passport, and stated that they are exploring the fastest route to do so within the legal boundaries.

In fact, the Minister of Homeland Security and Technology Ali Ihusan stated that, “We will not differentiate a specific person, a specific member’s proposal. [We] will work to achieve our objective".

Parliament has scheduled the issue for deliberation in today's sitting.

It is a crucial step at this junction for Maldives to carry through this ban.

While, in effect, Maldives does not wish to hold animosity against any nation, it cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by Israel day in, and day out.

Any economic loss faced from losing these visitors can be made up for through creating efficiency in loss making State Owned Enterprises, as well as reform of universal subsidies.

With the government’s decision to amend the laws to ban Israeli passports, the Maldives has loudly reiterated its stand against genocide and ethnic cleansing.

While the country stands united behind this move, there are, of course, some nagging concerns, considering the small size of our nation and the lack of resources.

Will this affect tourism revenue? Will this create hostilities with otherwise friendly nations?

But, in the face of a genocide with thousands losing their lives even as we sit and think, does any of this reduce the need for action?

Economies can be recovered, foreign relations can be rebuilt, but lives lost cannot ever be restored.

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