Figue 1: Reflections
Ever since the emergence of the Palestinian cause, art has been the visual expression of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. Most visual production of Palestinian artists has been strongly tied with the political conditions that Zionist settler-colonialism brought in, shaping every facet of the Palestinians’ daily life. Palestinian artists are not exempt from these conditions. Palestinian art has mostly – but not only – reflected the Palestinian people’s suffering and state of loss and exile that the traumatic events of the 1948 Nakba caused.
The well-known Palestinian artist and art historian Kamal Boullata raised some questions regarding Palestinian art that I will try to offer a humble answer for through my drawings.
“How does one create art under the threat of sudden death and the unpredictability of invasion and siege? More specifically, how do Palestinian artists articulate their awareness of space when their homeland’s physical space is being diminished daily by barriers and electronic walls and when their own homes could at any moment be occupied by soldiers or even blown out of existence? In what way can an artist engage with the homeland’s landscape when ancient orange and olive groves are being systematically destroyed? When the grief of bereaved families is reduced by the mass media to an abstraction transmitted at lightning speed to a TV screen, what language can a visual artist use to express such grief? (Boullata, 2004)”
This piece will be a personal reflection on my life journey through the lens of my art that was mainly inspired from experiences instilled in my memory from my life in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.
Palestinian art as a narrative instrument of resistance:
Figure 2: For the Sake of the Sun
Palestinian art, from the twentieth century up until now, has always been a visual reflection of the Palestinian struggle that aimed to depict the reality of the Palestinian people, their hopes and aspirations, their suffering, coupled with resistance. It is also a visual self-representation tool that aims to provide a counter narrative to the hegemonic Zionist misleading narrative of the Palestinian reality, to raise political awareness on the Palestinian issue and urge for mobilisation at an international level.
Speaking of narrative brings to mind the words of Edward Said, the late Palestinian exiled academic and writer, which reminds that, “no clear and simple narrative is adequate to the complexity of our experience” (After the Last Sky 1986: 6).
“To be sure, no single Palestinian can be said to feel what most other Palestinians feel: ours has been too various and scattered a fate for that sort of correspondence,” Said eloquently stated. “But there is no doubt that we do in fact form a community, if at heart a community built on suffering and exile” (After the Last Sky 1986: 5-6).
Certainly, Palestinian art has served as a narrative instrument that is used to challenge the hegemonic Zionist narrative which has been tirelessly trying to erase them. Zionism’s existence was fundamentally based on the negation of the very existence of the Palestinian people, a fact that is implicit in Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir’s infamous quotation that, “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed” (Matar, 2011, p. 84).
Among many other forms of expression, art for many Palestinians was seen as a way to visually participate in writing their own narrative, to express their identity, to empower the Palestinians’ voices, and to move beyond the victim circle to become actors who actively, critically and creatively engage with their surrounding matters.
Over the course of the Palestinian struggle, the Palestinian people increasingly regarded every piece of art that came to reflect their living conditions in the Israeli grip as a means of resistance. Many Palestinian paintings displaying the ‘forbidden’ colors of the Palestinian flag have been confiscated, and many artists faced interrogation or even a prison sentence due their art that was perceived as ‘an act of incitement’. Let us not forget the late Palestinian influential exiled artists Ghassan Kanafani and Naji Al-Ali, whose art and literary production led to their murder.
Reflections on my artwork
Figure 3: Children of Refugee Camps: A violated Childhood
The majority of Palestinians have become politicised due to their complex and intense political reality that shapes every aspect of their lives. I am no exception. Art for me was an expressive tool in which I found empowerment to my voice. It served as my humble tactic to overcome the state of siege and occupation imposed on us, to escape the feeling of helplessness that can be easily felt in such suppressive and oppressive life conditions that the Palestinian people endure which I was born within. It was also a tool that I used to engage politically and socially with the harsh surrounding. While living in Gaza, my art was an attempt to connect not only on an internal level as a part of the Palestinian community, but also internationally through online social networks that I used as a bridge that connects the international community with the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation, which should be addressed as a central global issue.
Since my birth in Jabalia Refugee Camp in the north of the Gaza Strip, the biggest and most densely populated refugee camp in Palestine, I have never known what life is like without occupation and siege, injustice and horror. Like the child depicted in Figure 3, growing up in Jabalia refugee camp was the window to understanding the Palestinian reality under occupation. Art has been the way I naturally sought since a very early age to describe what I felt was indescribable.
In the context of Palestine under which people endure unbearable living conditions, creativity is a necessary tool for survival and a way towards less depression and better physical and mental health.
Personally, observing the Palestinian children being born in a difficult reality that subjugates them to terror and trauma at very young age was the most painful. Thus, most of my drawings are of Palestinian children whose innocent facial expressions I find most telling. Check Figure 3, 4 , 5, 6 and 7 in the slideshow below:
An ongoing Nakba:
My generation, the third-generation refugees, was already blueprinted with the traumatic events of the Nakba, which for Palestinians, is not only a tragic historical event that resides in the past, only to be commemorated once a year with events that include art exhibits and national festivals among other things. “It was never one Nakba,” my grandmother used to say asserting that it was never a one-off event that happened in 1948. The Nakba is experienced instead as the uninterrupted process of Israeli settler-colonialism and domination that was given continuity by the 1967 occupation, and which every aspect of daily Palestinian life is affected by. Growing up hearing our grandmothers recount the life they had before, the dispossessed lands that most would never see again, has formed the collective memory of the Palestinian people. My grandmother described a peaceful life in green fields of citrus and olive trees, the tastes, the sounds, the smells that remained only in her memories in our village Beit-Jirja which was violently emptied of its inhabitants and razed to the ground in 1948 like hundreds of other villages.
As Boullata described, ‘Today, memory continues to be the connective tissue through which Palestinian identity is asserted and it is the fuel that replenishes the history of their cultural resistance’ (Boullata, 2009, p. 103). Palestinian art has been always perceived as a cultural form of political resistance which often addressed issues related to collective memory, memories of the Nakba, and the lived reality of injustices and oppression endured by Palestinians under the on-going occupation with an emphasis on the people’s resistance in the face of Israel’s brutality as coupled with hope, which in itself is resistance. Art has served as a basic mobilization tool that was gradually perceived, not only by the Palestinian public, but also by the Israeli forces “as emblematic of a collective national identity and crucibles of defiant resistance to occupation” (Boullata, 2004).
Several drawings of mine, such as those featured below, were an attempt to emphasize this hope through the continuity of the struggle from one generation to another. They were my response to several Zionist leaders who assumed that time will make the Palestinian refugees forget about their right to return. The drawings come to assert that they were absolutely wrong. The old will die and the young will keep on holding the key, embracing their legitimate right to return. The key is a symbol of the undying Palestinian hope that return is inevitable. The young generation is perceived as those who will carry the burden of the cause and continue the struggle that the previous generation started until freedom, justice, equality and return to the Palestinian people. Thus, Palestinian children became the symbol through which “We nurse hope” as Mahmoud Darwish said (Darwish, 2002).
From an early age, drawing was not only a tool of expression, but also a way to convey a political message, to call for mobilisation in support of the Palestinian struggle. The power of art lays in the fact that is a universal language to communicate the unspeakable that many people in safety zones cannot fully understand. With the availability of online platforms, it became possible to reach beyond borders and checkpoints to a wider audience.
I was only nine years old when my parents noticed my drawing skills that were limited to black warplanes, pillars of smoke in the sky and crying eyes. This coincided with the eruption of the second intifada in September 2000 when I used to accompany my mother and aunt to the martyrs’ funeral tents to offer our condolences. I used to hate the green colour, as it was associated in my memory with martyrs’ funeral tents, which were disturbingly visible in Jabalia refugee camp’s landscape. The first poem I ever learned to memorize by heart was one by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish entitled, “And He Returned …In A Coffin”. As a nine-year old girl, I stood in front of everyone sitting along the benches in the marquee, looked into the people’s tearful eyes, and in a powerful but shaking voice, I recited,
They speak in our homeland
they say in sorrow
about my comrade who passed
and returned in a coffin
Do you remember his name?
Don’t mention his name!
Let him rest in our hearts.
Let’s not let the word get lost
in the air like ash.
It was moments like these, during the tumult of the second intifada that fundamentally shaped my consciousness about the land and my place in it. Since childhood, the scenes of war, the faces of martyrs, the injured and detained people, the cries and weeping of the martyrs’ relatives over the loss of their beloved, have been chasing me day and night. These scenes pushed me to seek art as a way to express my emotions, to reconcile with my wounds, to reflect on my memories and experiences that many Palestinians share.
Humanising Prisoners’ issue through art
Chains Shall Break
Moreover, being a daughter of an ex-detainee means I have grown a unique attachment to the plight of the Palestinian political prisoners, not only from a political perspective but also from a personal one. My father spent a total of fifteen years in Israeli jails, a part of his original seven life sentences. The stories of resilience, suffering and oppression that I grew up hearing from him about his stolen youth in Israeli jails have made me develop a particular passion to advocate for justice for Palestinian political prisoners who endure inhumane living conditions under the Israel Prison Service which denies them their most basic rights.
However, in spite of its importance, the issue of Palestinian political prisoners and their families who suffer immensely from the pain of longing and separation and are often denied their right to family visits is not given the deserved attention in the political arena. They are not only marginalized, but also dehumanized as whenever they are mentioned in the media discourse, they are mentioned as merely statistics or numbers. Through the drawings below, I attempted to humanize the prisoners’ plight and draw attention to their daily resistance in the face of the oppressive Israeli jailers that treat them as if they are not humans. I tried to depict their determination to break their chains, their resisting spirit in Israeli jails. I also tried to express their families’ pain as they are imprisoned in time, waiting for a day when their re-union without barriers in between will be possible again.
The Pain of Waiting: Imprisoned in Time
This drawing above was an attempt to show how waiting for a reunion between the prisoners and their families is in itself a torment. My mother experienced seeing my father being violently captured in front of her eyes from the middle of their house three times when the first intifada erupted in December 1987. She was a newly married bride expecting her first child, my eldest brother Majed, when he was re-arrested and forced to serve an administrative detention order, an arbitrary procedure that Israel uses against the Palestinian people to imprison people without charge or trial, usually based on secret information that neither the detainee nor his lawyer have access to. The experience was repeated when my elder sister Majd was born, and lastly soon after my birth. My mother has always described the torturous experience of waiting for my father’s release, how she spent days and nights staring at the clock, waiting impatiently to hear some news from him while her right to family visits was denied.
The imprisonment experience repeats itself hundreds of thousands of times across Palestine, regardless of gender or age. I have many family members, friends and neighbours who experienced unbearable conditions that range from physical torture to psychological torture to even sexual torture. Palestinian political prisoners have always resisted the brutality of the Israel Prison Service. They have no weapon but hunger to protest their inhumane living conditions and call for their right to proper medical care, the right to family visits and other basic rights under international law while imprisoned. “Hunger strike until either martyrdom or freedom” is a motto that many prisoners adopted. The drawing below aimed to illustrate the spirit of this motto.
Hunger Until Either Martyrdom or Freedom
Memories of War
The turning point of my life was at the age of seventeen, after witnessing the 22-day massacre that the Israeli occupation forces committed against our people in Gaza in 2008-09. During that dismal period when we remained in darkness amidst the continuous bombing, destruction and mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza, I had a terrible sense of being isolated from the rest of the world. The trauma of seeing such levels of brutality was intense. No one was certain if they would live for another day or not.
One of the most memorable moments is that when one night, I was sitting in darkness, surrounded by my mother and siblings in one small room of our house under one blanket. No voice could be heard, just heartbeats and heavy, shaky breaths. The beating and breathing grew louder after every new explosion we felt crashing around, shaking our home and lighting up the sky. Then suddenly, the door of our house opened violently and somebody shouted, “Leave home now!” It was my dad rushing in to evacuate our house because of a bomb threat to a neighbour. I remember that my siblings and I grasped Mum and started running outside unconsciously, barefoot. For three days we stayed in a nearby house, powerless as we sat, waiting to be either killed, or wounded, or forced to watch our home destroyed.
This merciless and inhumane attack killed at least 1417 men, women and children. I wasn’t among them but what if I had been? Would I be buried like any one of them in a grave, nothing left of me but a blurry picture stuck on the wall and the memory of another teenage girl slain too young? Would I have been for the world just a number, a dead person? I refused to dwell on that thought. Many drawings of mine, such as those below, were inspired from memories attached to this traumatic event whose memories always floated back whenever an attack was repeated. Most importantly, resorting to art was a necessary means that helped me preserve my sanity and overcome harsh traumatic events that I experienced throughout my life in the suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip.
While living under conditions of ghettoization, occupation and military assault, a continuation of the Zionist domination of the Palestinian land that was dispossessed in 1948 for the ‘Jewish state’ to be founded, Palestinian artists continue to be driven to express themselves in paint, photography, and other visual media, with having the Palestinian struggle for liberation as the central theme for their artwork. Art has offered Palestinians a platform to engage with the politicaly complex reality and express the suppressed voice of the Palestinian people in visual forms that can communicate universally. It was also a way to humanise the people’s suffering that is usually dehumanised in mainstream media and reduced to a dry coverage of abstractions that present them as numbers and statistics. Palestinian art, therefore, has been perceived as a form of political resistance, a mobilization tool, a way to assert the Palestinians’ embrace of our legitimate political and human rights, such as the right to return, the right to self-determination, and the right to live in dignity and freedom.
A local magazine’s picture features my grandmother Tamam shouting at an Israeli soldiers during a curfew imposed on Jabalia Refugee Camp during the first Intifada
Edward Said once eloquently wrote,
To be sure, no single Palestinian can be said to feel what most other Palestinians feel: ours has been too various and scattered a fate for that sort of correspondence. But there is no doubt that we do in fact form a community, if at heart a community built on suffering and exile.
This shared state of suffering and exile has started since 1948 when the Zionist state of Israel waged its so-called War of Independence, which Palestinians call al-Nakba. Then, the series of Palestinian tragedies of uprootedness, dispossession and state of permanent temporality of the exile began; more than 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their villages and currently number more than six million Palestinians dispersed within the Occupied Territories and in exile, mostly in the neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
As Palestinians are commemorating the 67th of Nakba, my grandmother, whose no longer present in my life, feels more present in my thoughts and closer to my heart than any other day. As children, my grandmother brought up my siblings and me while my parents went to work. The more I became aware of the challenging life she led, the more I admired her. She was truly a fighter. The picture above was shot during the first Intifada when Jabalia Refugee Camp was under curfew and no one was allowed to enter the camp. This picture was printed on the front page of Al-Ayyam, a local magazine with a caption reading “Palestinian women arguing with an Israeli soldier at the entrance of the camp”. Armless as she stood without any fear, shouting powerfully at an armed-to-teeth Israeli soldier who ironically seem scared of her. She was filled with anger for being prohibited to enter and go to her home where my grandfather was dying. Dad saved the picture in spite of my grandmother’s rejection. She was frightened of this picture as she thought, “the Israeli occupation can do anything. A picture can make you a convict”.
My generation, the third-generation refugees, was deeply blueprinted with the traumatic events of the Nakba, which for Palestinians, is not only a tragic historical event that resides in the past, only to be commemorated once a year with events that include demonstrations, clashes with the Israeli forces, art exhibits and national festivals among other things. The memories of the old days in our green villages were our day and night stories that we were brought up hearing, our lullabies that always put us to sleep. I am no exception.
Since Nakba, my grandmother led a life of exile, which Edward Said described as, “the unbearable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home”. It always felt to me that she was incomplete, torn in between her physical place Jabalia Refugee Camp, and the place that she was dispossessed and exiled from Beit-Jerja. Nevertheless, my grandmother embraced the dream to return to Beit-Jerja until the last day of her life. She made sure her grandchildren memorize the stories she always repeated of the old days without any boredom as if stressing, “Never forget!”
“It was never one Nakba,” my grandmother used to say asserting that it was never a one-off event that happened in 1948. The Nakba is experienced instead as the uninterrupted process of Israeli settler-colonialism and domination that was given continuity by the 1967 occupation, and which every aspect of daily Palestinian life is affected by. Growing up hearing our grandmothers recount the life they had before, the dispossessed lands that most would never see again, has formed the collective memory of the Palestinian people. My grandmother described a peaceful life in green fields of citrus and olive trees, the tastes, the sounds, the smells that remained only in her memories in our village Beit-Jirja which was violently emptied of its inhabitants and razed to the ground in 1948 like hundreds of other villages. My grandmother, then, was a pregnant mother with a 2-year-old boy when she lived the trauma of the Nakba, a fact that made her deliver her second child before time as she was in panic making her way to northern Gaza.
At the beginning, she thought it would be a matter of few weeks and in no time, she would return and harvest the crops of olives, grapes and citrus fruits that they left behind. But they never did, or – to keep the hope alive – let’s say they didn’t return yet. Though illiterate, she understood the aim behind the United Nations’ ‘humanitarian’ work, which, she argued, wasn’t to ‘solve’ the problem of the displaced people back them, but to sentence them to a life-long refugee status. She could foresee that the aids that the UN provided were part of a systematic process aimed at making Palestinian refugees forget about their political rights and strip them from their past, a deliberate process that seeks to get them locked in the moment waiting to receive some help or charity to survive.
Similarly, the Palestinian intellectual Jabra I. Jabra, who was born in the same year as my grandmother in 1920, reflected on his memories of Nakba and in a very bitter language he wrote, “the dislodged population was to be deliberately called ‘refugees’” and that “the horrific political and human issue would be twisted that the maximum response it might elicit from a then weary world would be some act of charity, if at all”, and “we would be lumped together with them (the Second World War refugees), at worst another demographic case for the United Nations”, and the systematic destruction and ethnic cleansing of Palestine would be “soon to be hailed by hack novelists and propagandists in America and Europe as a heroic ‘return’”. Then the victims, who paid a devastating price for a crime committed in Europe, will be told: “You’re refugees, don’t make a nuisance of yourselves: we’ll do something about it. Refugee aid after a few months will trickle in: you’ll be numbered and housed in tattered tents and tin shacks. And try and forget, please. Hang on to your rocks wherever you are, and try to forget”.
Zionism has been clearly concerned about the Palestinian refugees whose negation is the most consistent thread running through Zionism. It has desperately attempted to erase them from the dominant narrative that reduced the settler-colonial Zionist project to a ‘heroic return’ and a mere ‘re-claiming’ of a land originally promised to them by God. Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir who notoriously once said, “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed”, assumed that time will make the Palestinian refugees forget about their right to return: ‘The old will die and the young will forget’. Similarly, Ben-Gurion once bluntly said, “We must do everything to ensure that they never do return!” However, Palestinians, generation after generation, have demonstrated that forgetting was deemed just impossible and unthinkable. Thus, it is no wonder that the issues of the Palestinian refugees, as well as the Palestinian citizens of ‘Israel’ are the ones that electrify Israel the most.
As Jabra I. Jabra once stressed, “The Palestinian may still be an exile and a wanderer, but his voice is raised in anger, not in lamentation”. Currently, Palestinians, including intellectuals, artists, journalists and activists, are dispersed everywhere, doing every thing possible to make the issue of Palestine reclaim its centrality in the world’s political arena. The Palestinian struggle for liberation has become a global struggle thanks to the collective efforts of justice believers around the world. This anger shall keep resonating as long as Palestinians keep enduring the injustices that were brought to them due to the existence of the Zionist state of Israel, regardless of their geographic location. Countless examples of Palestinians have constantly demonstrated that even if the elderly die without returning, the young will keep on holding the key, embracing their legitimate right to return.
My drawing: We Shall Return
This video, which this blog post aims to publicize as much as possible, has been produced as a part of a campaign to encourage SOAS (London’s School of Oriental and African Studies) to break its ties with Israeli academic institutions.
Next week, 23-27 February, there will be a school-wide referendum in which students, academics and other staff members will vote on whether to boycott Israeli academic institutions and put pressure on SOAS to follow the BDS guidelines.
For weeks we have been campaigning for a yes vote, organizing events, distributing flyers and posters to raise awareness about the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in the ongoing oppression and human rights violations of the Palestinian people.
In this video we as the student and academic body of the BDS campaign aim to expose SOAS’s collaboration with Israeli academic institutions, such as Hebrew University, which are deeply tied to the Israeli military. We should not, as students and academics, let SOAS maintain these links in our name.
My journey to SOAS
In September, I made it to SOAS after a long and hard journey that really exhausted me. However, every day I feel happier that I was so determined to make my dream of becoming a student in SOAS come true.
Shortly after my graduation from Al-Azhar University, Gaza, with a degree in English literature, I had to start applying for scholarships to fund my postgraduate studies abroad, a dream that I always sought to realize. Fortunately, I won two scholarships: one to Britain and another to Turkey. It sounds like I had the luxury to just pick any country in which to pursue my studies. However, it was the Rafah crossing that chose for me to seek Turkey as a bridge, a secure exit onto my final destination of England were I could finally join SOAS.
On 1 October 2013, I made it to Turkey after almost a month worth of daily attempt to cross the gate of the Rafah border crossing. Rafah crossing was, and continues to be, a gate of humiliation and dehumanization, a gate that stands as an obstacle for many people in reaching out for their ambitions, a gate that puts a population of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip under a slow-death sentence.
A bird being set free is the feeling I had when I finally crossed the border. Nevertheless, this sense of freedom was always hijacked and violated any time I was obliged to show my Palestinian Authority passport — a common story for millions of Palestinians!
I lived in Istanbul for a period of ten months. I struggled with a sense of fragmentation that I never had before. I had been shattered between two places, physically being in Turkey but mentally and emotionally being in Palestine. This feeling reached the highest point when on 8 July 2014, the Israeli occupation forces launched one of their most barbaric and genocidal wars against the Gaza Strip.
This 51-day attack was the first I saw from outside, an experience that I found more devastating than the many wars I witnessed while being around family, shaking as we heard missiles landing around us day and night, threatening everyone’s lives. I was locked in my safe zone in Istanbul while suffering a psychological war that felt as if it would drive me insane.
I had to deal with a serious challenge to keep my sanity while enduring an exhausting fear that I could lose any person dear to me any moment. This fear haunted me more and more, especially after I learned about the murder of my uncle from mum’s side, Mohammed Louz, and two neighbors with whom I grew up in the same house, Ahmad and Hazem Murad.
Vote “Yes” on BDS
A design done by SOAS BDS campaign in support of the academic boycott
Reflecting on that period is quite difficult to put in words. Every experience endured at the hands of the Zionist state of Israel feeds into my anger. My experiences empower my determination to move on and continue fighting the bubble of impunity that Israel is protected by, given a green light from the “international community.”
On 8 September 2014, twelve days after the announcement of the ceasefire, I officially became a masters student at SOAS, studying Media and the Middle East. I was a bit scared starting this new chapter of my life in which everything was new. But nothing could be more healing, inspiring or rewarding to me.
Every day lived here at SOAS makes me feel more like being at home. The secret behind this feeling has been the amazing and inspiring people I have met, especially thePalestine Society which embraced me, and I equally embraced. What brought us together was a shared conviction in the Palestinian people’s just cause, a shared commitment to the fight for freedom, justice and equality.
We, as students and academics who believe that academia is not neutral, and is actually political, believe that the campus is our battlefield to fight for what is right and push for a political stand that should be sided with the oppressed and against the oppressor, a stand against racism, oppression and occupation and in favor of justice.
Boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is a tactic that we believe is an effective way for the international community to translate their solidarity with the Palestinian people into actions that can push the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people forward. We believe that BDS is a way to end Israel’s impunity and make them realize they cannot get away with their crimes against humanity, and that any crime they commit will cost them. The way to do it is to get the Israeli community out of their comfort zone, to encourage them to critically think of their state’s inhumane, racist and brutal policies and actions and to rebel against them.
At the moment, I feel more proud than ever to be a part of this community. We are now leading a campaign that is the first of its kind, not only in the UK, but also in Euro-American campuses.
Please dedicate five minutes to watch this video. It includes many SOAS academics and students who make the case for the academic boycott in a very eloquent and powerful way. Share the powerful message behind this video so others can be inspired to move beyond solidarity onto serious actions that can make a change for the Palestinian people.
Join the battle for justice, freedom and equality!
A Palestinian artist adds a creative touch on the pillars of smoke caused by the Israeli bombings in Gaza.
Below is my translation of a powerful article Louay Odeh wrote about the relationship between our Palestinian people in Gaza and resistance. I thought it is worth reading.
“The full support of resistance demonstrated by the Palestinian people in Gaza has been the greatest and the most obvious since the first Intifada 25 years ago,” A friend of mine from Gaza who is responsible for centres which became refuge to tens of thousands of families who have become homeless since the start of the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
It is not surprising to see the clear popular support of resistance, its call upon them to continue until their demands are met, and the total willingness and readiness of the public to pay whatever price entailed. It is not only related to the political affiliation, but resistance has become an integral part of geographic identity. It is difficult to find someone in Gaza who is opposing resistance, regardless of her/his political affliction. This is neither resulted from a united political program or adopting one strategy that unites everybody. It is the outcome of a general awareness our people in Gaza acquired by experience.
Every person in Gaza has become more experienced that the most well-known military or political analyst on earth. Everybody inGaza recognises the fact that there is no other option. They believe that they cannot trust any project, except for resistance, as it is the only thing that is able to offer a dignified human life to them. This conviction came after they lost trust in the so-called “peace process’, and anyone who represents it. They also lost trust in the international solidarity and human rights organisations and its agendas. Above all, they lost confidence in the Arab governments which usually exploits their cause to serve their own interest, not them.
Our Palestinian people in Gaza have paid blood and years amidst unbearable life under a suffocating siege until they reached this outcomes. No one managed to open a single crossing or offer the least human needs for them, such as water, electricity and freedom of movement. There are many attempts by political analysts who graduated from the most prominent universities, and political experts worldwide to understand Gaza and the harmonic relationship between its people and the resistance. They failed as Gaza doesn’t bend to any equation, and no political, or social or economical rule can be applied to Gaza due to its uniqueness.
In Gaza, you can find the Fateh-affiliated people opposing their leadership in Ramallah and chanting for resistance. In Gaza, you will find Muslims and Christians, the poor and the wealthy people, the Communists and the Islamists, all standing hand in hand with resistance with one hope uniting them: The victory of resistance.
Gaza which celebrate as it bleeds has its own uniqueness. Even Nature rules, such as sunset and sunrise, cannot be applied to like in Gaza. Life there is organised according to the power-cut program. For example, the morning may rise at 10 pm and disappear as sun is rising. Moreover, only in Gaza, a car can be sold after 5 years of use with a higher price because of how much it costed its owner. In Gaza, which is complex despite its simplicity, everybody knows that the end of this crisis and its outcomes will contribute to change their lives at least 2 years onwards. They have strong faith that the resistance will impose the conditions of truce which are going to be related their day-to-day life such as electricity, water or opening of borders. Therefore, this leaves no other option to the people but supporting resistance no matter what the cost will be.
Armed struggle is no longer a political strategy or merely a means of resistance. Resistance has become a wide term that includes many things. It is life. It is the ability to travel, to study, to receive a proper medical care. Above all, it has become a symbol for their dignity and an integral part of their identity. We’ve never heard them chanting for opening the borders, as they already know that it much be included among the conditions of possible ceasefire. Opening the borders will be the axiomatic outcome of the steadfastness of resistance in the battlefield. It will no longer controlled by a human will related to the mood of neighbouring countries and their agendas. The fact that everyone is conspiring against this piece of land imposed a new definition of resistance on them which will be taught later in military sciences. Gaza has managed to formulate this new definition which has become a central part of this geographic identity. Yes, it is identity that its most important component is resistance, and anyone who believes in humanity should feel honoured to adopt it.
Free Palestine. Down with Zionism. Glory for the martyrs!
My body shakes as tears fall out of control after watching the first minute of Al Jazeera’s 22-minute documentary on the Shujaiya massacre which Israel committed in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood a week ago today, killing dozens and flattening the entire area.
Thinking that the footage contained in Massacre at Dawn is just a fraction of the horror makes it even worse. No wonder Israel prevented media from covering the brutality that our people endured there.
(Readers in the United States can watch the documentary with English subtitles here. It can also be watched on Al Jazeera Arabic without subtitles.)
I tried to put myself to sleep as only sleep can give me a break from the pain. My attempts failed. So I got up to share with you the most heartbreaking scenes that keep playing back once I close my eyelids.
“My son is gone!”
The mother’s voice at 3:35 in the video saying, “My son is gone! Mahmoud is gone” echoes in my mind.
The mother was running, escaping death along with her son. Her son suddenly is shot and falls. She stops despite that Israeli forces were still shooting.
She risks her life to rescue him and starts screaming, “My son got injured. My son is dying. Help!” But no ambulances are allowed there. Finally a man comes, carries her son and they continue running. I don’t know if they survived.
Watch the traumatized elderly man at 5:58 who stutters, out of breath, “There was shelling. Everything was bombed.”
“We were stuck in the house while bombings everywhere. My son was killed and my hand got injured,” he says (my translation). “My son is still over there [in the house]. We were sitting together. I went to the toilet. I returned to find blood flooding out of his neck. He has been bleeding since the morning.”
Listen to the cries of the man at 7:00 who tries to prevent the camera from filming him, refusing to appear broken. “Instead of [us] feeding our babies with milk, they sent them rockets!” he exclaims.
The reporter asks him, “Do you have a house here?” He replies, “I have a house and I lost my four kids,” trying to hide his tears from the camera.
“Are they kids? Don’t worry. Speak so the world can see what we’re suffering here,” the reporter says. So the man tries hard to continue with a voice choked with tears, ”They’re kids. I don’t know where they are!” They might be lost, or dead, or under the rubble, some people took them or they evaporated, he says.
Listen to the woman at 8:05 who is running and screaming like mad: “Our house collapsed over us while were inside. We left, miraculously” (my translation).
Then comes the injured child Bisan Daher on her hospital bed at 9:35, whose condition is like countless others who were the only survivors of their massacred families. She lost her parents and her siblings.
At 10:20, a man is crying with his children: “We were sleeping at the house normally. I don’t know how, the house was shelled all of a sudden. And shelled once again. I got out to find my wife dying in the hallway” (my translation).
His son at 10:35 says (my translation): “Our house was destroyed and my mother was killed. We took her to hospital but she became a martyr. She was looking through the window of my sister’s room when a missile hit the apartment below us and killed her. And our house was destroyed, how will we live?”
At 10:55, the boy’s sister says, “We weren’t doing anything. I woke up after a ‘warning’ rocket hit our house. Only seconds later, we found Mom dying in the hallway. We started screaming, calling for ambulance to rescue her but she was already dead. May she rest in peace.”
“Just like in 1948!”
At 12:28, a man who is fleeing says (my translation), “At al-Mansoura street, we were running in between bodies, torn pieces are on both sides, everywhere. Houses collapsed over their inhabitants. Worse than Sabra and Shatila.”
Another man escaping with his family says at 16:10: ”Just like in 1948! We are fleeing again. Let the world hear this. This is a new exodus.”
Within the scene of people fleeing Shujaiya, an elderly man paralyzed by shock is unable to run. His son retrieves him and carries him on his back, as he says, “May God get revenge of them [Israel].”
#GazaUnderAttack: As you watch this, just remember that this is just a glimpse of the indescribable horror endured by our people in Shujaiya.
That’s why Israel didn’t want its ugliness to be reported to the world and prevented media from entering the area as they were massacring civilians.
Remember that these people are the voices who had a chance to be heard. They were luckier than others, who suffered and were killed amidst the world’s silence.
All those who appear in this photo were murdered in one F16 attack against the building which they sought as refuge. This photo is what remains of them.
“Dad, I don’t want to die. Let us leave here,” six-year old Yasmin Al-Kilany screamed to her father while she was sitting on his lap, terrified. Then her 8-year-old brother, Yasir, also started nagging his father to leave. The children’s ability to cope with the horrors of life in the northern Gazan city of Beit-Lahya had clearly been extinguished, so their father, Ibrahim, decided to move.
Beit-Lahya, which is under continuous and random shelling from missiles, F16s and tanks, is almost empty now. A huge number of Palestinian families fled to the UNRWA schools, which have suffered a growing humanitarian crisis as a result. Almost 102,000 people have taken shelter in 69 schools, according to UNRWA.
The Al-Kilany family fled to Al-Shijaeyya, but the circle of Israel’s brutal attack continued to expand. On 20 July, Israel committed an atrocious Sabra-and-Shatilla-like massacre against the innocent people of Al-Shijaeyya, killing at least 66 people, including 26 children.
What the Al-Kilany family witnessed in Al-Shijaeyya forced the family to flee, again, along with all the residents who were running barefoot while shells and tank fire chased them. Amidst the bodies that were scattered everywhere between the rubble of the houses, they managed to survive.
They rented an apartment in the Al-Israa building in the neighbourhood of Al-Remal, a supposedly safer place. The children calmed down a little. In an attempt to restore a normal family atmosphere after days of horror, the mother, Taghrid, started preparing a dining table for the family to break their fast.
Around sunset, while the Al-Kilany clan were sitting around the table, waiting to hear the call for prayer that would allow them to eat, an F16 war-plane suddenly shelled the Al-Israa building, mixing food with their blood and torn pieces under the piles of rubble.
The family simply ceased to exist; Ibrahim and his wife Taghrid, and their five children aged between four and 12, were wiped out in seconds. Like many other families, nothing now remains of them except for rubble and makeshift graves. Among the dozens of massacres that Israel committed against families in Gaza, one or two from each family survived miraculously. No miracle happened though to rescue even one of of Al-Kilany family to share with us the last topic the family discussed before being murdered. No one.
‘Why does the EU and the international community turn a blind eye?’
The painful story of the Al-Kilany family was painstakingly narrated by Ahmad, brother of Taghrid, to Ola Atallah, a reporter from Gaza. Ahmad was trying hard to suppress his pain while narrating the story.
He eventually burst in tears, asking “what did Taghrid and her children do? Why isn’t the international community shouldering the responsibility and taking serious actions to stop the Palestinian bloodshed? They escaped twice from death but death chased them to wherever they sought refuge. Israel is fighting children, targeting families everywhere.”
The father, Ibrahim Al-Kilany, held a German passport after living there 20 years. He completed his studies as a civil engineer in a German university and worked as an engineer there for over a decade. He returned to Gaza in 2001 to get married and raise a family.
Earlier this year Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, was awarded Israel’s “presidential medal of distinction.” The German chancellor deserved this honor, some journalists dutifully reported, because of her “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.” This might explain why Germany has shown no concern over the killing of so many families by Israel, including German citizens.
The statement issued by the European Union on 22 July shows a clear bias towards Israel. They condemned “the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, directly harming civilians.” On the other hand, they repeatedly asserted that they recognise “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks.”
But the EU didn’t recognise our people’s right, guaranteed by UN resolutions, to use force in the struggle for “liberation from colonial and foreign domination.” General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978 “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle.”
More than 800 people have been brutally killed so far, 90% of them innocent civilians. Recognising Israel’s “legitimate right to defend itself” gives Israel a justification to kill them, and kill more. So any “concern” over the human cost caused by Israel in Palestine is meaningless. Our Palestinian people know very well that the EU, and the international Community, is as guilty as Israel as their silence is what gives Israel the impunity and the green light to carry out its massacres.
We know that nothing makes a Palestinian an exception. Ibrahim Al-Kilany’s cousin made this point powerfully, saying: “Their German passports didn’t offer his and his children’s lives an impunity. No German nor American nationality stops Israel from murdering us. Israel is like a monster that destroys everything it encounters. Residential buildings collapse over its residents. This is genocide.”
With plumes of black smoke still spiralling into Gaza’s sky, and Israeli shells from land, sea and sky still raining down on the coastal Palestinian enclave, threatening death for the 1.8 million Palestinians living under the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the western governments are still watching and barely doing anything to stop the Palestinian bloodshed, but repeatedly asserting their commitment to Israel’s security. The international media, and international politicians, continue to show a clear bias to the Israeli narrative, which makes them complicit in the ongoing crimes against humanity that Israel is committing against the civilians of Gaza.
Our people in Gaza have been left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world — an army that has hundreds of nuclear warheads, thousands of soldiers armed with Merkava tanks, F-16s, Apache helicopters, naval gunships and phosphorous bombs made in the United States. Gaza has no army, no navy and no air force. And yet Israel plays the victim role.
The Israeli attack on our people has continued for 19 days. The Israeli occupation isn’t sufficient by the bloodshed they’ve caused, and continues to blame Hamas for the collective punishment of the population of the Gaza Strip. It is very important that the world acknowledges the fact that we are the occupied and the persecuted. Our resistance should come under the self-defense, not Israel’s terror.
We will not forget nor forgive every drop of blood shed by a Palestinian child. We will continue resisting, and neither Israel nor the International community shall manage to break our determination. No one shall stand in the way of our pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.
wounded children from Al-Shijaeyya area in Gaza stretching out in Gaza Hospitals which cannot any more accommodate the increasing number of injures. All of them are critical.
Where is humanity? Where are the people of conscience around the world? Our people in Gaza are being massacred, under genocide operation. #Israel doesn’t differentiate between ages. After many families were massacred including Al-Batsh, Hamad, Ghannam, Al-Haj. This time many families at once were massacred in Al-Shijaeyya.
The families there refused to evacuate their houses, remain dignified in their homes, and reject Israel’s attempt to make them homeless and humiliated with other 60 thousands Palestinians who filled UNRWA schools. Israel’s reaction to people’s steadfastness was randomly shelling their houses with artillery shells, tanks fire and F16 missiles towards the families’ houses who held in between its walls only children, women and elderlies. The Israeli Occupation Forces destroyed houses upon its inhabitants. People’s bodies were buried under the rubble for hours. Israel panned ambulances and media to to reach them, rescue them and let the cries of massacred be heard. In an attempt to veil these crimes Israel committed against the innocent inhabitants of Al-Shijaeyya, they prevented media from being there to document the massacre and let the world be a witness of it.
When the attack started, the inhabitants of Al-Shijaeyya started running barefoot, traumatised while missiles and artillery shells are chasing them for long distances without finding a safe shelter. But there were no secure refuge. A women with her kids stopped to rest under an olive tree. Her 13-year-old child was sitting on her lap when all of a sudden she found her bleeding, killed after she was targeted by tank fire. Traumatised mother started running again with the rest of her children trying to rescue who survived from them.
The Israeli occupation endorsed a two-hour ‘humanitarian’ truce starting from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm, to let the ambulances take injured and martyrs bodies. Within these two hours, they continued shelling people who were escaping from inevitable murder, committing a terribly atrocious massacre against our people in Al-Shijaeyya, medics and reporters.
Ambulances hurried to rescue the massacred people there during the two-hour truce, but Israel immediately violated the truce and attacked them. At least two of the medics and reporters were killed. At least nine were wounded.
More than 66 people were killed in a cold blood in Al-Shijaeyya massacre, including 26 children. Gaza hospitals received hundreds of injuries, most of them are children and women. There is a shortage in hospitals, in medical equipments. They cannot accommodate the increasing number of the injured people who are all suffering a critical injuries which threatens more lives with death. Palestinians reporters say that they witnessed huge number of wounded people laying on the floor, because there are not enough hospital beds.
You international activists around the world, especially in Europe and the USA, Israel acts with impunity because of your countries’ silence and unconditional support in all sectors to Israel. Your bias media which inverts between the oppressor and the victim supports Israel to continue massacring our people! Go to streets now and call for an immediate stop to the Palestinian bloodshed! Hold Israel accountable to its uncountable and deadliest crimes against our isolated Palestinian people in besieged Gaza. Call for BDS Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. Call for cutting ties with Israel. Let them know that their money and taxes is used to support Israel with weapons and war vehicles to kill us in Palestine. We shall not forgive nor forget. We shall keep resisting with all legitimate means that we have as occupied people until justice is done to every drop of blood Palestinians shed across the 66 years of this ongoing occupation.
Names and ages of people who fell victim to Al-Shijaeyya massacre:
- Narmin Rafiq Dyab Ayyad, 19 years old.
- Fidaa Dyab Ayyad, 23 years old.
- Ahmad Sami Deyab Ayyad, 27 years old.
- Osama Rebhe Shehde Ayyad, 32 years old.
- The child Mohammed Ramy Fathi Ayyad, 2 years old.
- The child Mohammed Ashraf Rafiq Ayyad, 5 years old.
- Muna Abderrahman Mahmoud Ayyad, 41 years old.
- Hala Subhy Saady Ayyad, 24 years old.
- The child Ghada Subhy Saady Ayyad, 11 years old.
- The child Shireen Fathi Othman Ayyad, 17 years old.
- Ibrahim Aref Ibrahim Al-Ghalayini, 26 years old
- Mohammed Mohammed Ali Mhareb Jundiyya, 38 years old.
- Alaa Jamaliddin Mohammed Barda, 34 years old.
- Ahmad Ishaq Yousef Al-Ramlawi, 32 years old.
- Ahed Saad Musa Sarsak, 35 years old.
- Adel Abdallah Salim Eslim, 38 years old.
- The child Dima Adel Abdallah Eslim, 2 years old.
- The child Shady Ziyad Hasan Eslim, 15 years old.
- The child Alaa Ziyad Hasan Eslim, 11 years old.
- The child Fady Ziyad Hasam Eslim, 10 years old.
- The child Khalil Ismail Khalil Al-Hayye, 6 years old.
- The child Osama Osama Khalil Al-Hayye, 8 years old.
- Osama Osama Khalil Al-Hayye, 8 years old.
- Hala Saqer Hasan Al-Hayye, 28 years old.
- Osama Khalil Ismail Al-Hayye, 29 years old.
- The child Omar Jamil Subhy Hammouda, 10 years old.
- Wesam Majdy Mohammed Hammouda, 30 years old.
- Yousef Ahmad Younis Mustafa, 62 years old.
- Muna Salman Ahmad Al-Sheikh Khalil, 49 years old.
- The child Heba Hamed Al-Sheikh Khalil, 13 years old.
- The child Samya Hamed Al-Sheikh Khalil, 3 years old.
- Tawfiq Barawi Salem Marshoud, 52 years old.
- The child Marwa Salman Ahmad Al-Sirsawi, 13 years old.
- Maysa Abderrahman Said Al-Sirsawi, 36 years old.
- The child Marwa Salman Ahmad Al-Shirsawi, 13 years old.
- The child Dina Rushdy Omar Hamada, 16 years old.
- Eman Mohammed Ibrahim Hamada, 39 years old.
- Ghada Ibrahim Sulaiman Odwan, 38 years old.
- Ibrahim Salem Jumaa Al-Sahabany, 20 years old.
- Israa Yasi Atiya Hamdiyya, 28 years old.
- Akram Mohammed Ali Al-Sakafi, 63 years old.
- The child Eman Khalil Abed Ammar, 9 years old.
- Tala Akram Ahman Al-Atwi, 7 years old.
- Kaled Ryad Mohammed Hamad, 25 years old.
- Khadija Ali Musa Shhada, 62 years old.
- Khalil Salem Ibrahim Musbeh, 53 years old.
- Aysha Ali Mahmoud Zayed, 54 years old.
- Abderrahman Akram Mohammed Al-Skafi, 22 years old.
- Esam Atehhe Said Al-Skafi, 26 years old.
- Musab Salaheddim Al-Skafi, 27 years old.
- Ali Mohammed Hasan Al-Skafi, 27 years old.
- Mohammed Hasan Mohammed Al-Skafi, 53 years old.
- Abderrahman Abderrazq Abderrahman Al-Sheikh Khalil, 24 years old.
- Abdallah Mansoor Redwan Amarah, 23 years old.
- Abedrabo Ahman Mohammed Rayed, 58 years old.
- Fatma Abderrahim AbdelQadir Abu Ammouna, 55 years old.
- Fahmy Abdel-Aziz Saad Abu Said, 29 years old.
- Mohammed Raed Ehsan Akkila, 19 years old.
- The child Marah Shaker Ahmad Al-Jammal, 11 years old.
- Marwan Muneir Saleh Qunfud, 23 years old.
- Yousef Salem Habib, 26 years old.
- Tareq Fayiq Hajjaj, 22 years old.
- Ahmad Ziyad Hajjaj, 21 years old.
- Musaab Nafez Al-Ejla, 30 years old.
Resistance until freedom, justice and equality. Glory for the martyrs! Down with #zionism!