At 17 years old, Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has already gained widespread attention for her role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After being informed her cousin had been shot in the face with a rubber bullet by Israeli soldiers in December 2017, Tamimi physically confronted soldiers, shown in a viral video.
Shortly after, Tamimi was arrested for assault and incitement. After already serving three months in jail, Tamimi agreed to a plea deal and will serve five more months.
Tamimi was active in anti-occupation movements for years, and this was not the first time she made her opposition to West Bank settlements known.
In the U.S., all eyes are on the Parkland, Florida, students who immediately mobilized after the devastating Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Tamimi is an example of such political engagement by youth existing worldwide, but many international movements young people organize receive far less attention—despite being just as important as American youth fighting for gun control.
In our current political climate, in which Donald Trump’s administration regularly introduces new draconian policies and increasingly legitimizes hateful ideology, it is no surprise many Americans believe we should focus on our nation’s own troubles before devoting attention to international crises. It’s a common rebuttal when news breaks around the world: “We have our own problems here.”
A May 2017 poll by National Public Radio and Ipsos found that 51 percent of 1,009 respondents believe the U.S. should stay out of foreign countries’ affairs.
But thanks to years of U.S. involvement across the globe, Americans have a stake in some of the most pressing international issues. U.S. tax dollars already help fund government intervention in regions like Israel and Palestine, yet we refuse to afford the people affected by our government’s decisions enough empathy to understand the conflicts they face.
In the same poll, respondents were asked questions about U.S. foreign policy, including whether American defense aid to Israel had declined under the Obama administration. About 39 percent incorrectly answered that it had, and another 35 percent admitted they did not know the answer. The results of this survey show the extent to which Americans are disengaged from the government’s international policy.
With more than $130 billion in aid provided to Israel by the U.S. government so far, according to a February 2018 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. has provided more assistance to Israel than any other government since World War II, and the majority of it comes as military assistance.
After Trump made the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, the nation’s role in—and impact on—the conflict is even more apparent. Following Trump’s announcement, violence erupted in the region as protesters clashed with Israeli forces and multiple casualties were reported.
Humanitarian activists nationwide need to be reminded they are not alone in their struggle for peace and equality, and Americans who want change in the U.S. can turn to international examples of how to resist the most common societal ills.
But Americans have a duty to educate themselves on international affairs for a much simpler reason: We can no longer make excuses to avoid caring about fellow human beings wrought by conflict.