Amid Criticism, Malala Reiterates Support For Gaza

Statement aimed at hitting back at critics after producing a Broadway musical with Hillary Clinton on the women's right to vote

Amid Criticism, Malala Reiterates Support For Gaza
Caption: Photo credit: Angela Marie Orellana

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who raised a storm in her native Pakistan this week after it emerged that she would be producing a Broadway musical on women's suffrage alongside fellow producer Hillary Clinton, has clapped back at her critics, issuing an almost full-throated statement in support of Palestine.

Her production company later sent a statement to The Friday Times in which she appeared to distance herself from Clinton and highlighted the moral, vocal and material support for Palestine and Palestinian children.

Taking to her social media, Malala posted a message seeking to clarify any "confusion" about her "support for the people of Gaza."

In the message, Malala said that she has and will continue to condemn the Israeli government for its violations of international law and war crimes. "And I applaud efforts by those determined to hold them to account."

"Publicly and privately, I will keep calling on world leaders to push for a ceasefire and to ensure the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid," she said, asserting that she stands against any form of violence against innocent civilians, including the taking of prisoners and hostages (terms commonly used to describe the actions of Israeli security forces arbitrarily arresting Palestinians and the latter the actions of Hamas fighters on October 7, 2023, when the breached Israeli security walls and took over 200 hostages from areas bordering Gaza).

"I stand in solidarity with the people in Gaza whose voices and demands must be heard," she said, adding, "When we see alarming signs of genocide, we cannot wait to take decisive action. We must work together to urge our leaders to stop these war crimes and hold perpetrators to account."

Malala has long campaigned against violence perpetrated against innocents, especially violence against girls, which prevented them from accessing education, based on her experience while growing up in Swat in northwestern Pakistan, where the Taliban prevented girls from going to school.

However, since October 7, Malala has been criticised for her unusual silence over the matter, putting out a carefully crafted statement in the aftermath of the October 7 attack and disproportionate retaliation by Israel, which did not take a side.

However, her latest move, producing a Broadway musical "Suffs" with Clinton about the struggle for women's rights to vote in the US, has drawn a different kind of criticism.

Many in her native Pakistan have pointed out that Clinton served as the US Secretary of State during former US President Barack Obama's tenure when the US not only launched a strike deep inside Pakistan to kill and capture Osama Bin Laden but also, for years, ran a drone strike campaign in the border regions of Pakistan as part of a covert war that the US waged against Pakistan. As many as 429 US drone strikes were recorded in Pakistan between 2004 and 2018, killing an estimated 4,023 people, of which 969 were civilians, with 207 children.

The irony is further amplified when you look through the data of drone strikes and find that the US had wilfully targeted educational institutions, in particular, the traditional religious education centres called madrassas or religious seminaries, where the majority of casualties were children. An analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2014 found that at least eight strikes have hit mosques and or madrassahs, killing over 17 people on average in each attack. At least 99 civilians have reportedly been killed in total. The worst strikes were the ones on a madrassa in Chenegai, Bajaur, on October 30, 2006, which killed 81 people, including children.

Malala appears to distance herself from Clinton

In a separate statement sent to The Friday Times by Malala's production company, she appeared to distance herself from Clinton.

The statement read that the Nobel Peace Prize winner had seen an early version of Suffs, a musical about the women’s suffrage movement, in 2022

But it wasn't until June 2023 when she joined the show as a producer in a volunteer position "for which she does not receive compensation".

The statement said that a musical like Suffs has dozens of producers who serve different roles.

"Malala is not involved with every aspect of the project, nor does she work with every producer or participant," the statement said, adding that she has worked directly with the creative team to promote the show. 

On why Malala chose to join as a producer for this show, the production company said that Malala in a statement at the time had explained: “When I saw Suffs last year at the Public Theatre, I was reminded not only of how far we have come but that women around the world are still fighting for equality. We draw inspiration and strength from hearing stories of those who came before us. That’s why I’m honoured and proud to support Shania Taub and this incredible team. I hope Suffs echoes beyond Broadway to reach audiences worldwide.”

Malala's support for Palestine

Moreover, the production company said that Malala has been vocal about her support for Gaza and Palestine, including since October 7, 2023. In particular, she has called for a ceasefire on multiple occasions and interviews.

In primer, the company said that since 2014, she has either directly contributed or has urged Malala Fund's Co-Founders Fund to donate around $500,000 to organisations working for the welfare of Palestinians. 

In October 2023, it said that Malala had directed the Malala Fund's Co-Founders Fund to donate around $300,000 to three organisations, including Anera, The Palestine Children's Relief Fund and UNWRA — that latter which has been the subject to investigations and defunding by multiple states.