Memories of Gaza: when the victim is called the terrorist

I am a terrorist. At least that is what they call me. I grew up hearing the same word being repeated all the time that I thought terrorists were the good guys for a second. They are apparently not. Of the many saddening times I went through, the 2008-2009 offensive that Israel launched on the Gaza Strip is the worst and probably the most painful. I was “lucky” enough to survive and have the chance to speak for those who lost their lives although I am quite sure their death can speak well for them.

It was December the 27th, 2008 when the Israeli warplanes started dropping bombs on every place in Gaza, killing anything or anybody getting—or not getting in their way.

The war left lots of people dead. More than 1450 Palestinians were killed, 5600 injured. There were people dying everyday.

Then there was Anwar…

Just when we began to hear the news of Israel’s intentions to end the war,  Anwar Shehada was killed.  Anwar was a 13 year old neighbor of mine who lived a few meters away from where I live. It was the last day of the war when Anwar told her younger sister she was going up to get the laundry from the roof. Her sister asked her not to go; Anwar told her sister not to worry because the war was almost ‘over’. Before her parents could see her going up to the roof, Anwar was already gone. She probably thought that Israel would not kill a beautiful 13 year old girl. Israel proved her wrong. The explosion that killed Anwar was the loudest one I ever heard. I thought it was our house being shelled. The floor was literally shaking. We waited for death. In seconds, we saw the smoke coming out of the neighbor’s house. They said Anwar’s blood was all over the roof. Her head was found in the street.

And then, there was Haneen…

Haneen was actually killed before Anwar, but we knew about her death a week after the end of the war. Haneen was my 5 year old friend who I first met in a mosque to which we both used to go. All I remember about her is the way she liked to tease me. She used to make that sound of ‘meow’ because she knew I hated cats. The ‘meow’ was actually the way she said ‘hi’ each time we saw each other. During the war, Haneen’s family decided to go stay with their relatives in Tal Elhawa, assuming that the area would be less dangerous. Haneen left her house, only to be killed in the house that was thought to be safe.

I cannot imagine the pain Haneen felt when the bomb penetrated her little heart tearing it apart. I do not know what it feels like to lose a child, and I have no idea how tremendous the suffering of Anwar and Haneen’s parents is. I cannot imagine the shock Haneen felt when she saw the ceiling of the bedroom falling down and getting closer to her face. I cannot imagine how a soldier looked right from his plane at that little girl and decided to end her life. I cannot imagine the kind of hatred that soldier had towards Palestinians that made him believe murdering a child is okay. I cannot imagine the denial that soldier lived in that made him think what he did was ‘self-defense’. I cannot imagine how this very same soldier can now eat, drink, sleep, and simply go on with his life. And I cannot understand how stupid Israel has to be to think that I will not fight back for my little friends.

I kept thinking of Haneen for a year after she got killed, but now I do not think too much of her. It is just when I see her mother in the street that I remember how cute Haneen was. In fact, I have become selfish enough to avoid saying hi to Haneen’s mom whenever we meet. Each time I see her, I would hide my face hoping she will not see me. When Haneen was alive, her mother and I used to chat about how smart Haneen was and how bright her future would be. Now I just have nothing to say to her. I cannot make things better. I cannot look her mother in the eye and ask her ‘how are things?’ because each time she replies with, ‘things are good’, I am sure that they are not.

I am living in a world whose concepts are no longer clear to me. A world where the criminal walks free and the victim is called a terrorist. A world where killing a 5 year old kid is permissible. A world that once left me baffled about what is right and what is wrong. I have always thought that we could figure out who the terrorist is simply by looking at who dies on whose side. I was wrong. Israel has the ability to kill Palestinians at night and call them terrorists the next morning.

Now on a second thought, I think I am a terrorist. I mean I want the Israelis out of the refugees’ lands, and I call the IDF a group of coldhearted murderers all the time. This obviously makes me a terrorist. Haneen did not know what a coldhearted blood is! Haneen was a little kid whose life was snuffed out because an Israeli soldier felt like killing somebody, and she just happened to be that somebody. Haneen was an unfortunate human being who was born Palestinian and accordingly guilty. She did nothing wrong to Israel. She was a 5 year old girl who was split into little pieces while in bed. Haneen was too young to die. Who cares about Haneen’s death anyway? She was a terrorist, too.

(Sarah Ali, 20, is a student of English literature at the Islamic University, Gaza. She blogs at Here We Are)

About Sarah Ali

Sarah Ali, 20, is a student of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. Read her blog here and you can follow her on twitter @Saritah_91.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Middle East, Nakba, Occupation, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics, War on Terror | Tagged

{ 11 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. “Israel has the ability to kill Palestinians at night and call them terrorists the next morning.”
    That’s the world that we are living in. Our minds and souls are suffocated daily by the Big Lies spread by MainStreamMedia .
    We’ve become so used to seeing violence on the screen , to hearing /reading about it, that we ‘ve become immune/indifferent/unresponsive to it.
    The United States of Voluntary Medial Zombies??

  2. I think I am a terrorist. I mean I want the Israelis out of the refugees’ lands, and I call the IDF a group of coldhearted murderers all the time. This obviously makes me a terrorist. Haneen did not know what a coldhearted blood is! Haneen was a little kid whose life was snuffed out because an Israeli soldier felt like killing somebody, and she just happened to be that somebody.

    oh my oh my….heartwrenching

  3. Refaat says:

    Sarah Ali left me baffled. I am living the war again. I better log out. now.

  4. to everyone reading from gaza and all over palestine, happy new year.

    to sarah, you blow me away

  5. Mndwss says:

    Anwar Shehada = Anne Frank

    Victims of racists…

  6. ritzl says:

    What amazing writing!

    Puts the lie to the “collateral” in “collateral damage.” Sounds more like intentional.

    So few of us in the US really comprehend what you all live through and have had to live through, as captive targets. Not that it’s all that comprehensible, given that the death, deprivation, and destruction in Gaza by Israel is a meticulously reasoned choice.

    See, the accepted and repeated logic is the flip of what you write here. From Israel’s perspective, if they bomb you, you must have had it coming. Ergo, you ARE terrorists, per the reporting in the US. And the world has, so far, agreed with that. The US has been particularly instrumental in supporting and advancing that deadly/tragic/counterproductive logic. The vast majority of reporting in the US about what Israel did in Gaza consists of cold (hearted) expressions of what you sarcastically point out here.

    Yet, the world is watching, and the world’s perception is changing. Mondoweiss is helping that change. Not quickly enough for young Anwar, Haneen… or you. But it is changing. Your experience and views need to be seen, especially expressed in these legitimately taunting, but question-raising, terms. They will help enable the change.

    It may not seem so, yet, but many, many people care about what happened to you and your neighbors. There still is a sense of right and wrong in the US that is percolating up into power.

    Please keep writing here. Best wishes in this new year.

  7. Anwar Shehada was killed. Anwar was a 13 year old neighbor of mine who lived a few meters away from where I live. It was the last day of the war when Anwar told her younger sister she was going up to get the laundry from the roof.

    if you have not read The roof of my house by the very same Sarah Ali….you are really missing something.

    I used to love the roof of my house. Well, not anymore.

    i am so full of tears tonight..keep coming back here sarah.

    i think what works so much for me is the way to write sounds like a person talking in real time. it’s so honest, like a conversation with somebody just like me or someone i can relate to seamlessly. and yet imagining i could be experiencing this ..never .shudder. shudder. our experiences are so different and yet you take, you make to time to tell me. to tell us.

    the value of this communication is immeasurable. immeasurable. you will end this conflict sarah. it will be you and your voice and others like you who will end this once and for all. god willing.

    • ritzl says:

      Well said, Annie. I hope Sarah and this Gaza connection here can suspend their collective disbelief and continue opening up to an increasingly receptive audience.

  8. will read that after the finals. it seems that u have done a good job :)

  9. yourstruly says:

    say it again and again -

    gaza and the warsaw ghetto
    same place
    different time
    while the world stands by
    genocide*
    live

    *slow motion in gaza

  10. i keep coming back.