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Any of us can be the next victim in Gaza

Opinion
on 3 Comments

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?

A Palestinian woman collects items from a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 14, 2019. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

A Palestinian woman collects items from a house destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 14, 2019. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

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.

Aya Al Ghazzawi

Aya Al Ghazzawi is a BDS activist based in Gaza. 

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3 Responses

  1. Misterioso on November 15, 2019, 10:26 am

    A reminder:

    Human Rights Watch, 2005: “…Israel will continue to be an Occupying Power [of the Gaza Strip] under international law and bound by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention because it will retain effective control over the territory and over crucial aspects of civilian life. Israel will not be withdrawing and handing power over to a sovereign authority – indeed, the word ‘withdrawal’ does not appear in the [2005 disengagement] document at all… The IDF will retain control over Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace, and will reserve the right to enter Gaza at will. According to the Hague Regulations, ‘A territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised’. International jurisprudence has clarified that the mere repositioning of troops is not sufficient to relieve an occupier of its responsibilities if it retains its overall authority and the ability to reassert direct control at will.”

    The International Committee of the Red Cross: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.”

    “In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp for right now 1,800,000 people” – Amira Hass, 2015, correspondent for Haaretz, speaking at the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University. Hass, an Israeli who has won numerous awards for her reporting, has been covering the region since the early 90s.

    “‘The significance of the [then proposed] disengagement plan [implemented in 2005] is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a [U.S.] presidential blessing [i.e., President George Bush] and the ratification of both houses of Congress.’ Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Ha’aretz for the Friday Magazine. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,’ he said. ‘It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’” (Top PM Aide: Gaza Plan Aims to Freeze the Peace Process, Ha’aretz, October 6, 2004)

  2. mondonut on November 15, 2019, 6:42 pm

    Who is to blame?

    That’s easy, the Islamic militants who control the strip and the other Islamic militants who want to control the strip., and the other, other Islamic militants who are paying for all of it.

    You want a peaceful life? Go ahead. Stop spending millions on fortifications, stop throwing yourselves against Israeli barriers, stop digging tunnels into Israel, stop with the missiles and mortars.

    Build homes, schools and hospitals with all that concrete. Cast out the idiots like Bahaa Abu al-Ata who bring nothing but misery and destruction to Gaza. Try actually being peaceful.

    • eljay on November 15, 2019, 7:23 pm

      || mon donut: … You want a peaceful life? Go ahead. Stop spending millions on fortifications, stop throwing yourselves against Israeli barriers, stop digging tunnels into Israel, stop with the missiles and mortars.

      Build homes, schools and hospitals with all that concrete. Cast out the idiots like Bahaa Abu al-Ata who bring nothing but misery and destruction to Gaza. Try actually being peaceful. ||

      donut, I agree 100% that Israel should be made to end its on-going military occupation and colonization of territory outside of its / Partition borders – y’know, actually try being peaceful and law-abiding – so that the people of Partition-borders Palestine and the FCoJ can solicit, receive and benefit from the same sort of unquestioning economic, political, military and financial investment and support that Israel has enjoyed for decades.

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