4 Ways to Respond to the Suffering Faced by the Palestinian People

It’s normal to feel angry, sad and helpless when you see people suffer so much pain and injustice. As Muslims, how can we react in a manner that is both meaningful and in line with our faith?
by Alia Fatin Binte Abdullah 2023-10-11 • 35 min read
Alia Abdullah is the editor-in-chief of Muslim.Sg. In 2021, she won the Exemplary Skillsfuture @ Public Service Award, a national award that recognises individuals who constantly upgrade their competencies. A law graduate and digital media specialist, Alia is an exceptional writer whose work has been featured in Young Women in Leadership Dialogue's (YWILD) Commemorative Book "Unprecedented - To the Beat of Her Own Drum” and on platforms such as Mvslim and The Muslim Vibe. Alia lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 2 years. She is now based in Singapore.
2023-10-11 • 35 min read

How to Respond to the Suffering Faced by the Palestine People

What did Israel do to Palestine

Gaza, Palestine – May 15 2023: Palestinians inspect the rubble of a house after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza city.

For far too long, the conditions and events in Palestine have been extremely challenging for its population. Innocent people face violence, distress and grave hardship daily.

Although the Middle East is far away, its reality is just a click away on our smartphones and devices. It's normal to feel overwhelmed and upset when you see images of horror and tragedy. Please remember that you are not alone in your feelings.

In this confusing and painful time, how can we, as Singaporean Muslims, make sense of the events in Palestine and respond in a productive way aligned with our faith and Islamic values?

Understanding The Crisis in Palestine

What is currently happening in Palestine has a lengthy history with multiple political perspectives, which are at times linked to religion. To truly make sense of the situation and think about how to respond, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of the history and context of the crisis.

Historical Context

The persecution of Jews traces back centuries, escalating with discriminatory laws, pogroms, and the Holocaust, driven by prejudice and scapegoating. Zionism emerged as a response, advocating for a Jewish homeland to ensure safety and self-determination. Pioneered by Theodor Herzl in the late 19th century, Zionism aimed to establish a national identity and refuge in Palestine, growing amidst rising anti-Semitism. Zionism sought to address persecution by creating a sovereign Jewish state, fostering unity and protection in response to historical oppression and tragedies faced by the Jewish community.

On November 2, 1917, Arthur James Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary at the time, wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Zionist movement. The Balfour Declaration expressed the British government's support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine.

balfour declaration 1948

The key text of the Balfour Declaration reads as follows:

"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

Critics argue that the Balfour Declaration laid the groundwork for the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people, as it set the stage for increased Jewish immigration to Palestine [1] and the eventual establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Some saw the promise made by the British government as a betrayal of the rights of the existing communities in Palestine. Palestinians, who had inhabited the land for generations, launched an uprising from 1936 to 1939, which faced brutal repression, including actions by British forces and Jewish militias.

In 1947, the United Nations presented a partition plan for Palestine, suggesting the establishment of two independent states with Jerusalem placed under U.N. administration. Despite Palestinians owning 94 percent of historic Palestine at the time, the proposal allocated approximately 55 percent of the land to the Jewish state, encompassing the majority of the fertile coastal region. While the Jewish leadership accepted the plan, it faced rejection from Arab states and Palestinian leaders who deemed it unjust, asserting that it overlooked the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population.

In 1948, Israel declared independence. This declaration led to a war between Israel and neighbouring Arab states. The West Bank and East Jerusalem fell under Jordanian control, and the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian control. Israel seized more land than was allocated to them under the UN's partition plan. Many Palestinians fled their homes, while others were forcibly removed by Israeli forces or left due to fear, becoming refugees in camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighbouring countries.[2] This resulted in the Nakba, an Arabic word that means "catastrophe", where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were permanently displaced from their homes.[3]

There are scholars and historians who view the Nakba as intricately connected to settler colonialism - the settlement of a foreign group of people on land inhabited by another group, often leading to the displacement, dispossession, and marginalisation of the indigenous population. The establishment of the state of Israel involved the influx of Jewish immigrants who aimed to create a homeland, which led to the displacement and loss of homes, land, and even lives for Palestinians.

Every year, on May 15, Palestinians and their supporters around the world commemorate the Nakba[4] through physical and virtual rallies.

Palestine nakba massacre

London, England, UK – May 13 2023: National Demonstration for Palestine: NAKBA 75.

Some argue that there is an ongoing Nakba because of the continued displacement, occupation, and challenges faced by Palestinians, including the continued illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, restrictions on movement in Gaza, and the overall struggle for self-determination and statehood.

The crisis has continued, marked by several wars, uprisings, ongoing violence and political instability. Notably, these conflicts include the intifada in 1987[5] and various Arab-Israeli wars, such as the Six-Day War in 1967 and Yom Kippur War in 1973[6]. Issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the borders of a future Palestinian state, and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and West Bank Strip remain unresolved.

Political Context

The crisis in Palestine is highly politically charged, with various political actors and perspectives. For example, Israel claims to be a legitimate government recognised by the international community, which has the right to make decisions about its borders and security. On the other hand, Palestinians and other international bodies argue that Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are illegal under international law and that Israel is violating the Geneva Convention by occupying Palestinian territory[7].

Many in the international community have condemned the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank Strip, which has negatively impacted the lives and rights of Palestinians living in those areas [8]. 

At its core, the power dynamics are vastly unequal, with Israel possessing significant military capabilities and control over many aspects of Palestinian life, including borders and resources. In contrast, Palestinians do not have military forces—a standing army, navy, air force—or even basic infrastructure. In 2001, their only airport was destroyed by Israeli bombings. This disparity in control underscores a fundamental imbalance in power, making it hard to view this situation as a conflict between two equally empowered sides.

Some also argue that the policies of the Israeli government, such as military occupation, settlement expansion, and the construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank, have led to an unequal system where Israeli settlers have access to rights and privileges that are not accorded to Palestinians[9]. Instances of forced displacement of Palestinians due to demolitions of homes and infrastructure, as well as policies that limit Palestinian development and expansion, are cited as evidence of ethnic cleansing.

Israel demolition of Palestinian homesJERUSALEM - APRIL 24: Israeli border police guard the demolition of the Jaradat family home in the Al Tur neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, April 24, 2013.

The 2022 "Human Rights Practices: Israel, West Bank, and Gaza" report by The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under the U.S. Department of State highlighted several pressing human rights issues. It emphasised unlawful or arbitrary killings and detentions of Palestinians. Palestinians in Jerusalem experience limitations on their rights, including interference with their privacy, family life, and homes. The report also noted restrictions on freedom of expression and media, along with instances of censorship. Non-governmental organisations encounter harassment, while violence against asylum seekers, migrants, Palestinians, and minority groups persists. Additionally, labour rights abuses affect both foreign and Palestinian workers.

There are also concerns about restrictions on freedom of movement, including militarised checkpoints, road closures, and permit regimes, which make it difficult for Palestinians to work, visit family members or access essential services such as healthcare. 

What is happening in Palestine 2023

BETHLEHEM, OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES – AUGUST 17: Israeli soldiers watch as Palestinian men wait at the Bethlehem checkpoint on the final Friday of Ramadan, West Bank, on Aug. 17, 2012.

Furthermore, different groups of people are involved in the crisis, and they each have their own goals and interests. Some of these groups are the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, and different Israeli political parties in the Knesset, including the right-wing faction.

It is commonplace to have differing opinions on how to govern a country. In Israel, the popularity of the right-wing populists is on the rise. They place importance on a racialised national identity and extreme pride in the ownership of their country. They also take a very hard stance on issues such as building new settlements for Israelis on Palestinian land.

Unfortunately, the policies of the right-wing Israeli government are expected to have severe consequences for the Palestinian people who live in Israel and in the occupied territories. Some human rights organisations have accused the government of committing crimes against humanity, and things could get worse if the government continues down this path[10].

The situation is also complicated by the involvement of other countries and organisations, such as the United States, the European Union, and Arab states.

Religions in Context

Due to the historical, cultural, and religious connections to the land, it holds significance for people of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

In the heart of Jerusalem, you'll find three very special places that are important to three Abrahamic religions - The Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the third most sacred spot for Muslims; the Western Wall, which is the most important site for Jews; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.[11] 

israel-palestine conflict history

JERUSALEM - OCTOBER 20 2007: Mix of Jewish, Christian and Muslim people at Jerusalem old city market. - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For centuries, despite differences in their beliefs and practices, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities coexisted relatively peacefully.

However, due to the significance of Jerusalem to all three religions, incidents that occur at key religious sites can ignite strong emotions and are manipulated by various groups to advance their political agendas. Clearly, the root cause of the crisis remains centred around political issues of territory, self-determination, and identity, but it has become intertwined with politics.

The Jewish community holds a variety of perspectives, and many of the Jewish groups globally advocate for the protection of the human rights of Palestinians and work towards finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis. This includes groups such as the Jewish Voice for Peace.

Islam does not discriminate against the Jewish people and their religion. In fact, Islam recognises Judaism as one of the Abrahamic religions and considers them as People of The Book, alongside Christians. Muslims are instructed to treat the Jewish people with respect and kindness.

It is also important to distinguish between criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism. Criticising the Israeli government's policies towards the Palestinians is not the same as discriminating against the Jewish people as a group of people or religion. It is possible to criticise Israeli state policies while respecting and protecting the rights of the Jewish people and other minorities.

How To Respond

Many consider the ongoing violence and suffering faced by the Palestinian people as an injustice and violation of human rights that needs to be addressed. 

Having considered the multitude of historical, political and religious factors involved, is it right to conclude that this issue is a religious war? Does our religion promote "otherism", which doesn't unite but divides? As Singapore Muslims, how can we react in a manner that is both meaningful and in line with our Islamic beliefs?

In Islam, diversity is seen as being a part of God's way of creation (sunnatullah fil khalq), where differences in groups and identity can be seen as a positive way of enhancing life, knowing ourselves better and achieving taqwa (God-consciousness or righteousness).

"O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may (get to) know one another. Surely, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware."

(Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13)

In contrast, othering is based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group[12]. This becomes problematic when othering is used to incite hatred, cause divisions and dehumanise groups. This can often lead to various expressions such as xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism.

The Quran teaches us how to be good people and to live morally. While it does criticise certain behaviours that are contrary to our religious principles, it is important to emphasise that the Quran does not promote violence or aggression. Instead, it encourages peaceful coexistence and treating people respectfully and fairly, regardless of their background. This is shown in verses that promote justice and dignity for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or gender.

"Indeed, We have dignified the children of Adam, carried them on land and sea, granted them good and lawful provisions, and privileged them far above many of Our creatures."

(Surah Al-Isra’, 17:70)

Read: Religious Freedom: Islam and Religious Minorities

While the issue does involve religious communities, religious locations and history, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is all about religion.

Many of the events are caused by the political intent and actions of political actors. The occupants of the region, be they Muslims, Christians and Jews, are caught up in the crisis. In fact, many Jewish people, like Palestinians, voice out against the Israeli government for their injustices towards the Palestinian people.

The ongoing situation can be extremely distressing and heartbreaking to witness, especially when it involves the loss of many innocent lives. Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected. This protection is also highlighted in our Islamic tradition, which mentions five categories of people who are afforded non-combatant immunity under Islamic law: women, children, the elderly, the clergy and people hired to perform services on the field but take no part in the hostilities.[13]

In this age of social media, it is very easy to access reels and short videos showing the horrific effects of violence, which include violence against women and young children. Seeing fellow human beings suffer so much pain and injustice can evoke feelings of anger, sadness and helplessness.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Educate Yourself

Learn about the history and context of the crisis, and try to be well-versed about the issues so that you can make informed opinions and decisions. This can include reading books, academic journals, articles written by reputable authors, and watching documentaries.

Understanding the issue from multiple vantage points can really help us discern and organise our thoughts in looking for a way to move forward. It is easy for a crisis like this to rile us up and cloud our judgements.

As Muslims, we should denounce all forms of atrocities, especially when it involves innocent lives. Protecting human life is one of the fundamental principles of our religion. One can neither justify killing innocent civilians on the basis of fighting ‘terrorism’ nor on the basis of fighting against an occupation.

Islam teaches us to be faithful, honest and fair in making judgments. The true test of fairness arises when a situation directly involves us. This is clearly stated in the Quran when Allah s.w.t. warns us to be impartial in making judgements:

"Indeed, We have sent down the Book to you in truth to judge between people by means of what Allah has shown you. So do not be an advocate for the deceitful."

(Surah An-Nisa, 4:105)

Staying true to our principles is what sets us apart from those who act upon whims and impulses. Being grounded with knowledge and religious moral principles can stop us from making irresponsible sweeping comments and other forms of injustice. Truly, good and evil cannot be equal.

2. Double Check Your Sources

Amid unfolding crises, there's a real risk of the narrative being twisted or completely made up. Reports have revealed instances where footage or images have been reused out of context, creating a misleading impression. Additionally, there's the concerning use of AI-generated content and deep fakes. Take, for example, the fake video portraying Bella Hadid, a half-Palestinian model, backing the Israeli cause. To navigate this, we should seek truthful, fair, and well-rounded reports that help us make sense of the situation.

Ensure that you consume information from reliable sources. Here's where the National Library Board's S.U.R.E. approach can help you:

Source: Look at its origins. Are they trustworthy?
Make sure that the source of information is credible and reliable.

Understand: Know what you’re reading. Search for clarity.
Look for facts rather than opinions. Question personal biases.

Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source.
Investigate thoroughly before making a conclusion. Check and compare with multiple sources.

Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement.
Look from different angles. Will what we say help improve the discussion or make it worse? Are we just expressing our anger, or also suggesting ways to help?

3. Raise Awareness

We all have a shared goal of creating a better world for everyone, and this includes helping those who are suffering, regardless of their backgrounds.

To be able to speak up and share responsibly, let's ensure that we have educated ourselves as much as possible on the history, current events, and the root causes of the crisis in Palestine. Only by understanding the issues can we make informed decisions on how to help.

Once we have a good grasp of the state of affairs, we can spread awareness to others. We can talk to our friends, families, and communities about what is happening in Palestine and how we can support those in need. We can also use social media to share information and resources and raise awareness about the crisis. Always remember to be peaceful, respectful and constructive and avoid hate speech or false information.  

You can also write to your elected members of parliament and participate in or organise peaceful protests and rallies. Do note that organising a peaceful protest in Singapore, or anywhere else, requires careful planning and adherence to local laws and regulations. Singapore has specific rules and regulations governing public assemblies and demonstrations.

4. Focus on What is Within Our Control

Make Dua

Making dua for those who are suffering can bring comfort to you and those you are praying for, and it can be a source of hope and positivity in a world filled with pain and suffering.

Never underestimate the significance and effect of how a sincere Dua can make. Surrender our hopes and prayers to Allah s.w.t. It doesn't have to be a specific text in Arabic. It could be a heartfelt prayer from the depths of our hearts.

"No Muslim servant supplicates for his brother behind his back but that the angel says: And for you the same."

(Sahih Muslim)

Read: The Power of Dua

We may also read the Qunut Nazilah as it can be recited, especially during times of calamity, hardship, or oppression. It is a supplication where we ask Allah s.w.t. for help, protection, and relief from afflictions and difficulties. We can recite Qunut Nazilah in times of war, political turmoil, or natural disasters.

Read: Dua Qunut Nazilah with Translation and Transliteration

Help People Around You

Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was a mercy to all of God's creations. Think about how he s.a.w. encouraged us to look after the elderly, the weak, and the marginalised in society and consider how we can make a difference in our own community and help those in need.

This can be as simple as flashing a warm smile whenever you see your neighbours. 

Make a Donation

Making a donation through legitimate organisations is a great way to show your support and help make a positive impact on the lives of people who are suffering.

Legitimate organisations have the necessary resources and expertise to distribute your donations effectively and efficiently. They have a deep understanding of the local context and the specific needs of the communities they serve, which means that your donation will be directed towards the most needed areas.

By making a donation to Palestine through legitimate organisations such as The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Mercy Relief, you can be assured that your generosity will reach its intended recipients and make a tangible difference in their lives.

best charity to donate to palestine

GAZA, PALESTINE - 2021: Photo by RLAF (Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation, Singapore)

It is encouraging to see that the people of Singapore have shown great generosity, including donating almost S$4.5 million to support the humanitarian and relief efforts of the UNRWA and the Palestinian Red Crescent in 2021.

These donations were made through the fundraising drives organised by the Singapore Red Cross and the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Fund (RLAF). In fact, this wasn't the first one too. RLAF was also able to fundraise $1.55 million for the people of Palestine who were affected by the crisis back in 2012 and 2014. The support by Singaporeans provided relief aid (e.g. clean water and shelter), medical aid (e.g. wheelchairs and first aid kits), and facilities (e.g. rebuilding schools, building student labs and teacher development).

The fact that so many Singaporeans contributed to this cause clearly indicates our compassion towards those in need, which is a fundamental part of the Singaporean spirit.

RLAF, in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), is currently organising a fundraising appeal to provide aid in the form of health, relief and shelter for communities affected by the recent developments in Gaza. 

Do visit https://rlafoundation.org.sg/ for more information. 

Volunteer With Humanitarian Organisations

Allah s.w.t tells us in Surah Fussilat,

“Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel that which is evil with that which is better”.

(Surah Fussilat, 41:34)

While we process the suffering happening around the world, let's not react with hate but instead with kindness, compassion, and love. By doing so, we will be following the teachings of Islam in creating a better world for ourselves and those around us. 

Read: 4 Lessons of Love and Mercy From Prophet s.a.w.

Also, it is important to balance our desire to fight against injustice with the need to maintain peace and stability. For example, taking up arms overseas can have far-reaching consequences, including increased violence and instability, and can ultimately undermine the very values we seek to uphold. Instead, it is often more effective to provide aid and assistance to those affected by crisis and work to promote human rights through peaceful means.

There are many examples of Singaporeans doing good humanitarian work both locally and internationally. One example is Mercy Relief, a Singapore-based humanitarian organisation that works to provide aid and assistance to those affected by disasters and conflicts throughout Asia.

donate aid for palestinians

GAZA, PALESTINE - 2021: Photo by RLAF (Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation, Singapore)

Volunteering with humanitarian organisations can be a noble and fulfilling experience, but it also comes with risks that you need to be aware of. For example, the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip can be unpredictable and volatile, and there are dangers that come with working in a war zone.

Here are some dangers you may face:

Security risks: The security situation can be unstable, and there have been instances of violence against humanitarian workers. You may also be at risk of kidnapping, theft, or other forms of violence.

Health risks: The health infrastructure is limited, and medical care can be difficult to access in case of an emergency. You may also be exposed to diseases or other health hazards.

Psychological risks: The constant exposure to violence and suffering can be emotionally taxing, and you may experience stress, anxiety, or other mental health problems.

We understand that your desire to make a positive difference in the world is strong, but it's important to be aware of these risks and take precautions to ensure your safety and well-being.

If you do choose to volunteer in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we recommend that you work with reputable organisations, follow their guidelines and advice, and have a plan for staying safe in case of an emergency..


Stand up for what you believe in, but always remember, hate will never drive out hate. By taking a proactive and well-informed approach, we can make a meaningful difference and support Palestinians in a productive way.

Your actions, no matter how small, can make a difference.

May Allah guide us all in our efforts to promote peace and justice for all people, regardless of background, Ameen.


[1] The idea that all Jewish people are Zionist is misleading. Zionism is a political movement and ideology advocating for the establishment of a Jewish state in the historic land of Israel as a response to increasing anti-Semitism and discrimination against the Jewish people in Europe. It was founded by Theodor Herzl in the late 19th century and continues to be a central issue in Israeli politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some view it as a legitimate national liberation movement, while others argue it represents a form of colonialism and displacement of indigenous peoples. Read more here - https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/zionism

[2] https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/israeli-palestinian-conflict

[3] https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080030/israel-palestine-nakba

[4] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/15/nakba-mapping-palestinian-villages-destroyed-by-israel-in-1948

[5] ​​https://www.un.org/unispal/history/

[6] https://www.britannica.com/event/Arab-Israeli-wars

[7] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/01/chapter-3-israeli-settlements-and-international-law/

[8] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/06/israel-occupation-50-years-of-dispossession/

[9] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/02/israels-apartheid-against-palestinians-a-cruel-system-of-domination-and-a-crime-against-humanity/

[10] https://www.vox.com/world/2023/1/20/23561464/israel-new-right-wing-government-extreme-protests-netanyahu-biden-ben-gvir

[11] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/12/06/questions-about-jerusalem-you-were-afraid-to-ask/

[12] https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/08/us-vs-them-the-sinister-techniques-of-othering-and-how-to-avoid-them 

[13] Narrated by Imam Malik in his Muwatta’, Abu Bakr r.a. identifies the five categories: “You will find a people who claim to have totally given themselves to God. Leave them to what they claim to have given themselves. Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the spoils and do not be cowardly.” (Muwatta Imam Malik)

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