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
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!
This drawing of mine describes the way I feel: depressed, frustrated and suffocated while waiting for the Rafah border crossing to open.
I have tried many times to write about my experience at the closed Rafah border crossing with Egypt that has left thousands of people in Gaza stranded. Every time I start, a deep sigh comes over me. Shortly after I feel paralyzed, and finish by tearing apart my draft. I have never found it this difficult to write about a personal experience. No words can capture all the suffering and pain our people in Gaza deal with collectively under this suffocating, inhumane Israeli-Egyptian siege.
As I write, I am supposed to be somewhere in the sky, among the clouds, flying to Istanbul to begin my graduate studies. But I could not catch my flight, as I am still trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip, sitting in darkness during the power cuts caused by fuel crisis, trying to squeeze out my thoughts during what is left of my laptop’s charge.
As much as I am attached to Gaza City, where I was born and spent all 22 years of my life, each day I spend trapped in it makes me despise living here. Each day that passes makes me more desperate to set myself free outside this big, open-air prison. Each day makes me unable to stand the mounting injustice, torment, brutality and humiliation.
Hardships and happiness
I have never experienced as many extreme ups and downs as I did this month. Despite the hardships throughout September, I also had some immensely happy moments. I think will remember them the rest of my life. This is life in Gaza: highs amid lows, everything in the balance, nothing secure from day to day, no plans, no guarantees.
At the beginning of September, I started the process to secure my visa for Italy. I am supposed to be there on 10 October to celebrate the publication of my first book, the fruits of my work over more than three years of writing. It is the Italian version of my blog, Palestine from My Eyes, which I started in May 2010. My book launched on 22 September. It was impossible for me to attend its release in Italy.
My blog was never about me as an individual. It is rather about a young Palestinian woman who grew up in the alleys of a densely inhabited refugee camp with an imprisoned father. It is about a woman whose awareness of her Palestinian identity was shaped in a besieged city under the brutal Israeli occupation. My blog is about our people, who are routinely dehumanized and whose stories are marginalized and unknown to the majority outside. It was about our Palestinian political prisoners and their families, whose lost and missing loved ones have become statistics, numbers which fail to communicate all the injustices they face under the Israeli Prison Service, which denies them their most basic rights.
The book, inspired by the harsh and complex reality we are forced to endure, makes me feel that my responsibility as a voice for our Palestinian people has doubled. Some amazingly dedicated Italian friends are fixing a busy schedule of events, book fairs, conferences and presentations in many different cities. My presence in Italy is very important, because I am sure few people there have met Palestinians. I am anxiously waiting for the Rafah border to open so I can be there for these events, to help my book spread as widely as possible.
I read on Reuters last Tuesday: “According to Abbas’s request, Egypt agrees to reopen Rafah border crossing on Wednesday and Thursday for four working hours each.”
My first reaction was laughter. Where was Abbas while the Rafah border was closed to thousands of patients seeking medical care abroad which they cannot access in Gaza, or students whose dreams to pursue their education overseas were crushed?
We are not only paying the price for the unsettled situation in Egypt. We have even become the victims of our own divided Palestinian leadership. It makes me furious to think that the opening of Rafah crossing, a lifeline for our people in Gaza, has come under the influence of the internal division between political parties competing to seek favors from our colonizers. The ruling factions seem to have become participants in the collective punishment we suffer.
The headline infuriated rather than relieved me. Opening the Rafah border for eight hours over two days was not a solution to the crisis caused by the complete closure of Rafah for more than a week.
The same day, in the taxi heading home, I received a call telling me I finally got a visa to Italy. I was so happy I forgot the conservative nature of my society and started screaming out of happiness in the car. The visa process took shorter than I thought. I called my friend Amjad Abu Asab, who lives in Jerusalem and received my passport for me, since Israel prevents Palestinians in Gaza from visiting the city, urging him to find someone coming into Gaza via the northern Erez checkpoint on Wednesday.
This can be my chance to leave Wednesday or Thursday, I thought. My happiness didn’t last. “Erez checkpoint will be completely closed from Wednesday until Sunday, 22 September, because of the Jewish holidays,” Amjad said. “No express mail, and no person, can cross Erez to Gaza during this period.”
“What an absurdity!” I screamed. “When the Rafah border crossing finally reopens, Erez checkpoint closes. We have to deal with Israel from one side and Egypt from the other. How long will we live at the mercy of others? There must be some emergency exit.”
Life of uncertainty
“The definition of uncertainty in the dictionary is Gaza,” my fellow Electronic Intifada writer Ali Abunimah once told me. That describes in short my life at the moment, and the lives of our people generally: a life of uncertainty.
I had no choice but to wait for the Jewish holidays to end for Erez to reopen and to get my passport. But on Wednesday, I insisted on going to Rafah. I refused to sit at home, powerless, unable to do anything but wait. At Rafah border crossing, I saw a gate of humiliation. People crowded on top of each other, roamed the waiting hall, waited impatiently for some news to revive their hopes, and ran after policemen, asking for help and explaining their urgent need to travel.
I met many of my fellow students who were stuck as well. They came with their luggage, hoping they could leave, but ended up dragging it back home.
I stayed until 2:00pm, hoping that I could at least register. I did, I think. I explained my situation to a policeman at the gate. He took my scanned copy of my passport and returned after about five minutes, saying, “Your name is registered.” I am not sure what he meant, but he did not say anything else. I asked him if there was a certain date I could leave. His reply was, “Only God knows.” I wish someone could tell me when I will be able to leave so I can have a break from worrying. But no one knows anything, “only God knows.”
While doing an interview with the Real News Network that morning at the border, an elegant elderly man in a formal black suit and holding a black bag interrupted. “I would like to make an interview,” he said. “I speak English, and if you like, I can do Hebrew.” The old man looked very serious as we awaited his poignant words. “This border, all this area, was mine. They came and stole it.” As he continued, the Real News crew and I realized the interview was descending into farce. “I have bombs in this bag and I can explode the whole place in a second!” the man said. We started laughing and said jokingly, “Go explode, then. We’re standing by you.” Yes, this Rafah gate of humiliation must be wiped away so we, Palestinian people in Gaza, can have some breath of freedom.
The Rafah border crossing closed again after 800 persons left to Egypt on Wednesday and Thursday. I am sure this closure would be easier to understand if it was a natural disaster. But knowing that other human beings are doing this to me and 1.7 million other civilians living in Gaza, while the rest of the world looks on, is too difficult to believe. It is more painful and shocking to realize that our neighboring Arab country, Egypt, is joining our Zionist jailers and collaborating with them to tighten the siege.
This experience made me believe that human dignity has become a joke. International law is nothing but empty, powerless words printed in books. We are denied our right to freedom of movement, our right to pursue our education, our right to good medical care, and our right to be free or to live in peace and security. But no one in power bothers to act.
I spent September worrying about the border and my dreams which may fade away if Rafah remains closed. This takes a lot of my energy and makes me suffer from lack of focus and sleep, and makes it hard for me to sit and express myself in writing or with a drawing. Our people’s tragedy caused by the ongoing closure of Rafah border continues, and the crisis is deepening. Living in Gaza under these circumstances is like being sentenced to a slow death. Act and set us free. It is time for these injustices we face on a daily basis to end.