Operation Protective Edge, that’s the name of Israel’s current “defensive” operation that launched on the 7th July, massacring an entire population, exterminating the very existence of Gaza by destroying their entire social infrastructure. But this hasn’t just been going on for a couple of days or weeks, it’s been going on for decades, with the entire world watching. But between global demonstrations, mainstream NGOs and so called superpowers; there was a clump of coal that slowly turned into a diamond, doing the absolute unimaginable and redefining the concept of sacrifice for the greater good.
His name is Steve Sosebee, the founder of the Palestinian Children Relief Fund, a non-political organization that was established to tackle medical and humanitarian catastrophes that’s been hitting the Palestinians, trying to treat and fund specific surgeries that aren’t really available to them – quite literally lifesavers! But if you think that’s incredible, wait till you hear the story of the founder!
Just like any other Superhero, he looks like a regular normal guy, an ordinary American citizen who does some fundraisers here and there and considering his accent, you’d think he spends most of his time in the States, doing whatever ordinary guys do. But little do you know, there is so much more hiding behind the mask.
“I was raised by social conscious parents in a small town in Ohio called Kent, which in 1970 had an incident in which four unarmed students were killed by American soldiers for protesting the war in Vietnam. So I was raised in a small community in which we were aware of the world outside our borders, and that power has a way of promoting injustice through force and that we all have a duty as free people raised in a country that values individual rights to stand up for those who are denied their rights.”
Sosebee is truly an inspirational individual who, believe it or not, decided to settle in Palestine as an act of justice, as an act of love for the people, and has been going to Gaza since December of 1988, a place where he “feels at home, despite the occupation.” He explains that “I am in many ways a classically cultural American – I love baseball, the Beatles and the freedom to get in a car and drive 1,000 miles without being stopped. But I’m also very attached to Palestine and feel connected to the people and culture there in a way that respects the positive things. If you surround yourself with positive energy in life, no matter where you are, and have friends and family who you love and respect, then you can live well anywhere. If you are tortured by fear and materialism, then life can be hard even in paradise. “ So when asked why he decided to take on such a gigantic sacrifice he humbly states “I was searching for something in my life which would give me a sense of service and meaning, where I could use my energy and talents in a positive way, to help an oppressed people, but to do it out of love and healing, not out of anything negative or destructive.”
Today, PCRF is perceived as one of the worlds most transparent and trusted non-profit charity organizations, receiving a full 4 stars by the Charity Navigator and scored an amazing 70/70 in accountability and transparency, having a net asset of over 10 million dollars. And when you think it really cant get any better, it does, receiving a bunch of support and endorsements from the US Senator Paul Sarbanes and even Jimmy Carter, the former US President, published an amazing video backing the organization.
But with all this backing and support from prominent figures in the US, is the superpower really doing everything to its ability? Are they doing everything in their power to end the war and saves millions of lives? He explains, “As an American, we have more of a responsibility to stand up for people who our government has a role in oppressing, like the Palestinians. We should always stand with oppressed people, no matter where they are.”
The fact is that if the world’s giants wanted the apartheid to be over, it already would be. I mean its not like the governments don’t have the resources or power to end a war like this, investing billions of dollars on national defense and spending summer vacations on the moon – they just don’t want to. Sosby firmly emphasizes on the private sectors huge contribution and support to the war in Gaza as “we take pride in having an organization that is able to do the work that we are doing on the ground there, which is completely privately funded, because that shows we have the support of people all over the world. “ He also strictly highlights on the “superpowers” lack (or almost non-existent) of backing and support as he explains,
“If the international community, especially Gulf states and my government, wanted to end the conflict, it could happen overnight. The Saudis are the number one supplier of crude on the world market. The US is the main world super power. The Europeans, the United Nations are all main powers who we are only asking to enforce international human rights laws, security council resolutions and to be unbiased and fair in brokering a peaceful resolution to the issue.“
Alright fine, we´ve established that the so called superpowers wont do anything about the situation, what about the media? Well considering that mainstream-monitored media, like FOX news, CNN and CNBC are reporting the news as if “this just happened,” we really have to rely on the incredible power of social online media, who has really been portraying the issue from a multidimensional angle, shedding light on the most oppressed outlooks that have been hidden from the public. Because honestly, “there is a complete disconnect to the historical context of the conflict in the Western media. There is no mention of 1917, when Palestine was 95% Arab Palestinian and promised to another people outside of it’s borders by a foreign colonial power or 1948, when half of the population were driven out of Palestine (what is now Israel) and their villages and homes were destroyed by the thousands. The western media is focused on the daily aspects of the conflict, particularly the violence and not on what is the root cause of the violence. As a result, most Americans and others don’t understand the issue in the proper context, and cannot base their opinions on the root causes or what is the most just and proper solution.”
But how can a fund, that is considered to be fairly new, compared to other large non-profit organizations, get so much attention and support? I mean lets face it, after reading about “incidents” like the Breast Cancer Relief Foundation, who only spent 2.2% of their donations on direct aid and other charities that “taxed” their donations, you do get a little skeptical. So how did PCRF, who is today one of the most trusted charity organizations, establish that essential trait of transparency and assurance primarily amongst the Palestinians? “Every good deed has a sinister motive. But if you work hard and show people how they can be a part of something positive, that helps heal the wounds of children, and you keep doing it and focus on the positive and what we can do, and not let those who are focused on negativity to distract you, people will see you are serious and for real.”
For the past few weeks we´ve all been reading and hearing about the current situation in Palestine, but never would we be able to imagine or picture what really goes on their – its all filtered. “ It’s all very complex and we cannot just use the term “Palestinians” as if they have a monolithic existence. With that being said, I think there is complete unity among Palestinians that they are a nation and a people who deserve their freedom, basic national and human rights, and freedom like any other people in the world. While they may have different daily circumstances depending on where they are living, they share the same national vision for freedom and an end to occupation and the right of return.”
So what can we do to support the cause, what can the people do who aren’t on the grounds in Gaza? Through Sosbies years of experience, on and of the grounds of Gaza, he explains that “I don’t think it is important to only vent through social media or to educate people, but to find ways to have a positive impact on the ground there through organizations like the PCRF and others who are on the ground there helping those in need get the urgent support that they need to live better lives, especially during this crisis. People need to be active, to stand with Gaza and Palestine, to demonstrate, write letters, speak and act in positive ways, not with hatred or calls for violence, but out of love and respect for justice and freedom. Not acting means that you really don’t care.”
Obviously we couldn’t leave Steve without getting one last essential piece of advice, one last message for us to engrain when diving into the emotional Israel – Palestine topic. So Sosebee, what do you have for us?
“Educate yourself and educate others. You have tools today with technology and communication that did not exist for other generations, and it is a tool that empowers you to reach out across the world. Don’t distract yourself with materialism or entertainment only, but also with causes that will direct your life in a way that will give you meaning and purpose. Time goes fast and soon you will be old and looking back on your life and how you lived it. You don’t want to feel that you short time here was spent caring about things rather than people. Get involved, be positive and don’t let failure or rejection stop you from doing something good in your life. You have the power to do whatever you want, as long as you work hard, are honest and stay focused. It’s all up to you. “