The world stood silent while we were slaughtered
Before Israel’s launching of the current offensive against Gaza, a member of the Israeli Knesset, Ayelet Shaked, of the Jewish Home Party, called for a genocide and collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza. “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes otherwise more little snakes will be raised there,” she said. Unfortunately this does not represent the stance of only some minority of racist far-right Israeli politicians like Ayelet Shaked, Miri Regev, Mordechai Kedar, Moshe Feiglin...etc. Rather it epitomizes the policy of the majority of Israelis (hard hawks or soft doves) that we, a population that is mostly children, are all mere snakes.
This strategy is not new. We have not been only witnessing it for the last month. It has been a long history of endless massacres, decades of systemic ethnic cleansing, forty-seven years of military occupation, apartheid policies and forced displacement since 1948, and all this continues until today. It has not been about Hamas rockets, “human shields,” or tunnels. It has always been about Israel’s control over our lives, land, and borders. And it has been about killing more of us. However, the massacre, genocide, holocaust - call it what you may - of Gaza 2014, is the most ferocious one I have ever eye-witnessed.
The observable facts of deliberately targeting and atrociously slaughtering civilians, massacring entire neighbourhouds like in al-Shejaya, Khuza’a, Rafah, and obliterating houses are prodigiously shocking. At least 1,875 Palestinians have been killed, with more than 450 children, so far. Over 9,567 others have been injured. Numbers are increasing, many injured people are in critical condition, and countless bodies continue to be pulled from the rubble every today. According to the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, a child or a woman has been killed every hour since the beginning of this assault. More than 70,000 children have been forced to flee from their homes that were totally destroyed or sustained major damage, prompting Save the Children to call the current offensive an “ongoing war on children.”
Escaping the bombs is easier than walking on the wreckage:
Nevertheless, these facts and statistics would never reveal the true nature of the devastating conditions here. Today, I went to Khan Younis (Abssan and Khuza’a) and Rafah. Since everything is literally beyond description, I would not attempt to express my feelings and emotions at the moment. I would rather recount some of what I have seen and heard. I realized how much the photos are different from reality. I realized that escaping the bombs is easier than walking on the wreckage.
Children are sorting through the debris for their clothes and books. It is difficult or rather impossible to find anything, or even to tell that there was a house here. Has an earthquake struck the area? Multi-storey buildings are pounded and levelled to earth. Everything is in very tiny pieces. Children are carrying jerry cans of water. In place of houses, there are holes which are more than five meters deep into the earth - I used to hear three meters in the news, but this is not what I saw. A man is taking a siesta above the rubble of what was his house. A group of women are talking to representatives of international NGOs about the dire living circumstances they and their families experience while taking shelter in governmental schools. Large numbers of houses are completely burned out - everything inside and outside is completely black. Schools, mosques, hospitals and clinics are being bombed by artillery. Olive trees are uprooted and planted vegetables, in dunums of land, are dead, for nobody has irrigated them for more than a month. Everything tells you that this devastation has been perpetrated by war criminals.
One is perplexed and flummoxed about the (in)humanity of those soldiers. They must have left their humanity somewhere else before they entered Gaza. They invaded most of the houses in Khuza’a, inflicting complete damage to even the very personal possessions. After destroying things indoors, they didn’t get out from houses through the doors. They created big holes in the houses’ wall to get into the next houses the same way. There are marks of ruin done by hands and guns’ butts (tearing up papers, breaking computers… etc.) It is a deliberate and crystal-clear approach to sabotage.
Um Ahmad is a cancer patient. She was evacuated to her father’s home after her house was bombed. She speaks about the difficulty of obtaining a permit from the Israelis to reach a hospital in the West Bank, and how she lost not only her house, but also her appointment for an urgent treatment. Wafaa, a widow and breadwinner for her family, came from the school she has been staying in to see her destroyed house and damaged sewing machine. “I just wanted to hug my house before they destroy it. I reimbursed my debts after buying the sewing machine days ago. Now I even lost my work,” she said.
Facilities are acutely deteriorating:
As the world’s now speaks about a “humanitarian truce” or abiding “cease-fire,” Gaza still sinks into darkness. I am writing these words while Tariq, my 10 year-old brother and Hanan, my 16 year-old sister, keep examining the sky from our balcony amidst sheer blackness. They compete with each other for who would first pinpoint and count the largest number of drones. “No, it is not a drone; it is a star,” Hanan would say. “Look at that one over there! It gives an interrupted orange light,” Tariq would briskly remark.
It is worth mentioning that the severe and ongoing Israeli bombardments of Gaza’s only power plant (GPP), aggravated by limited fuel availability, brought the plant’s operation to a total halt on 29 July. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that Gaza currently receives only about 64 MW of power from Egypt and Israel, equivalent to less than 18 percent of the estimated demand. Even when I use the generator to get electricity for nearly an hour a day - not to mention the hardship to reach this stage - I feel psychologically unsettled, bewildered, overwhelmed and perplexed as I don't know what I have to prioritize and from where I should commence!
Equally significant, data collected by the PA’s Gaza Coastal Municipal Water Utility (CMWU) and Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) indicates a significant shortage of water services and a grievous public health threat to the population of Gaza. More than 80 percent of the water wells in Gaza are estimated to not function with about 1.2 million people lacking access to water and sanitation services. The desalination plant in Deir al-Balah, where I live, continues to be non-operational, after it sustained damage during airstrikes - the main ancient water reservoir in the town, dating back to the sixties, has been targeted and destroyed, further restricting the availability of much needed drinking water.
We refuse to life in a submissive ghetto:
In this surreal (un)reality, the official world chooses not to see and to keep flying in the face of international law. At a joint press conference during the offensive when Netanyahu rejected the cease-fire, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon supported Israel saying, “No country would accept the rockets raining down on its territory. All countries and parties have an obligation to protect its citizens.” Well, would any country on earth ever accept being brutally occupied, racially oppressed and discriminated against and ethnically cleansed for more than sixty-six years? And why is there no protection or obligations to apply the international law and UN resolutions when it comes to the Palestinian people? It is either silence or injustices that prevail whenever such official bodies speak about this spot on earth.
Currently, however, we are also witnessing an unmatched sense of solidarity and global support on the grassroots level for Gaza and Palestine in general - certainly more genuine than the acclaimed efforts to reach a "cease-fire" and the shallow insulting press releases of international official spokespersons. Therefore, we believe that Gaza 2009, 2012 and 2014 mark decisive milestones in intensifying BDS activities worldwide as the campaign's efforts are incrementally gaining momentum.
Therefore, as we commemorate today the cruel bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, seventy years after, we urge you to take a stand and stop the new barbaric bombing of Gaza. For all those Israel has slaughtered and if you candidly care about us, our children and a better future, impose arms embargo now, join BDS and heed the call of Gaza by taking to the streets this Saturday, 9 August with a united demand for sanctions on Israel. We refuse to life in a submissive ghetto. We refuse to die in silence. You too can choose not to be silent and let this Saturday be the day of rage for Gaza. May we always remember and act.
- Ayah Bashir holds a master’s degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her first degree was in English language and literature. She is a member of the Gaza-based organizing committee for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo credit: Palestinians flee homes as Israel resumes airstrikes on Gaza with the expiry of three-day ceasefire on 8 August (AA).