On Monday night I told myself I needed to sleep early in order to get up the next day to head to work as usual. I sat the alarm for 5:00 a.m. However, it was not the phone alarm that woke me. It was an Israeli airstrike targeting the home of Islamic Jihad senior commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata at 4:00 a.m., killing him and his wife, Asmaa.
The apparent assassination came as a total violation of the truce agreed to by Gaza and Israel not so long ago. Another ceasefire was put in place on Thursday.
Over the last two days, in a series of airstrikes Israel killed 34 Palestinians including an entire family of eight, three women and six children and injured at least 111 more, and Palestinians fired 450 rockets into Israel, no Israelis were killed. Since, the beginning of the assault, I have been listening to the radio and following news on social media. We cannot watch television due to the frequent blackouts, which is something we have suffered from over the past 13 years. Seeing casualty counts of the murdered anguishes me because I think numbers dehumanize us. We are not mere statistics. We are human beings with untold pain, stories, memories, and dreams.
My little sister Raghad is 7 years old, she asks me why she is not going to school and why we jump every time we hear that resonating sound (she means the explosions). It is very hard for me to explain to her that schools have been suspended owing to the irritating situation Israel has put us in to cover their political stalemate. It is hard for me to tell her that we are killed, shelled and ignored because we are Palestinians not born to Jewish mothers. Therefore, we are not worthy of life. Yet I tried my best to distract her and keep her calm. But how can I comfort her while I myself still recall the three Israeli war aggressions I have experienced within less than a decade? How can I forget about the thousands whom these assaults reaped including my own cousin? How can I assure her that everything is going to be okay when I know that anyone of us can be the next target of an Israeli strike?
Gaza, the thorn in the mouth of the enemy, has been always a testing field for Israeli weapons. Two million residents in Gaza are trapped in 360 square kilometers and under the rain of bombardments. Two-thirds of Gaza’s population are refugees, or whom 80 percent are reliant on international aid. Almost 300,000 children are in urgent need of psychological support. In my opinion, all of us here have a pressing need for psychotherapy. Yet now we are left with no electricity and no water, compounding additional burdens to our misery.
Israel hates Gaza because Gaza refuses to be a collective graveyard. Because Gazans refuse to die in silence. Because we love life. It is not enough for Israel to cage us. We see what is happening as leading to genocide. And we are expected to accept death with a smile from ear-to-ear.
As for the international community, we gave up expecting good from official representatives. In his statement, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace process, Nickolay Mladenov said that he is “very concerned about the ongoing and serious escalation between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel” and that “the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars against population centres is absolutely unacceptable and must stop immediately.” His words reflect a false equivalence between the colonized and the colonizer, the murdered and the murderer, the occupied and the occupier, the oppressed and the oppressor.
Hence, what we really bank on is civil society and mass mobilization to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and exert pressure on the governments to stop arming Israel and endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS, until Israel ends its violations and complies with the international law.
All of this takes us to the always-posed question: who is to blame? Who is to blame for executing us, maiming our youth, terrorizing our children, and depriving us of a peaceful life? Who is to blame for keeping us in a constant state of fear, fear for ourselves and fear for our beloved ones? For captivating us in the biggest open-air prison on earth, the Gaza Strip?
I am still thinking about what I am going to tell my students when, hopefully, things deescalate and get back to normal. To be honest, I wish all of this was a nightmare and that I would wake up tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. by the ring of my phone alarm. If this could happen.