Memories of Gaza: when the victim is called the terrorist

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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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)

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