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September 15, 2017

Through the eyes of the people


September 15, 2017

Last August, Palestinians commemorated the three-year anniversary of the end of Israel’s devastating war against the Gaza Strip. The war had killed over 2,200 Palestinians – the vast majority among them civilians – and 71 Israelis, the majority of them soldiers.

The war left Gaza in ruins with over 17,000 homes completely destroyed, and thousands of other buildings, including hospitals, schools and factories, destroyed or severely damaged.

The war fully shattered whatever semblance of an economy the Gaza Strip had. Today, 80 percent of all Palestinians in Gaza live below the poverty line, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid.

There is a whole generation of Palestinians in Gaza that grew up knowing nothing but war and siege and have never seen the world beyond Gaza’s deadly borders.

These are the voices of some of these young Gazans, who shared their tragic personal stories, hoping that the world would heed their calls for freedom and for justice.

Shahd Abusalama – a Palestinian artist, blogger and a PhD candidate at Sheffield Hallam University: This is not just a commemoration of the catastrophic human, material and emotional costs that Israel inflicted on Gaza in its deadliest attack during the summer of 2014. This is a remembrance of an ongoing Nakba which Palestinians have experienced since 1948.

I am a third-generation refugee, born and raised in one of Palestine’s largest refugee camps, Jabalia, originally from Beit-Jerja, my grandparents’ evergreen home        village which they had to flee under Israeli fire nearly 70 years ago.

I was born a survivor – my mother went into labour during a curfew that Israeli military forces imposed on Jabalia, the place from which the first Intifada erupted a few years before I was born.

While fearing for her life and her yet-to-be-born child, she walked through Jabalia’s alleys, leaning on my grandmother who held a white piece of cloth and a lantern, hoping for mercy from the Israeli soldiers who shot at everyone that dared break the curfew.

This is just my birth story in short, and this piece would not be enough to cover the immense trauma that I shared with the population of Gaza ever since. In Gaza, no family could escape the grief of having a relative killed, wounded, detained or exiled – mine is no exception.

This context is necessary to remind everyone of the uninterrupted cycle of violence we endured since Israel’s inception. Such stories, as harrowing as they may sound, are Palestinians’ daily reality for the past 70 years.

How can a whole population, locked in an inescapable ghetto, be subjected to such brutality for this long, as the whole world looks the other way?

 One would expect that such an inhumane reality would encourage world governments to impose sanctions on Israel. Instead, world leaders compete over sponsoring Israel’s lethal security apparatus, asserting Israel’s right to ‘self-defence’ on every possible occasion.

They accept Israel’s misleading media narrative at face value and justify its crimes against my people, who are portrayed as “terrorists”, effectively blaming the oppressed for legitimately resisting their colonial oppressor, so that they may attain their right to live in dignity and freedom.


This article has been excerpted from: ‘The 2014 war through the eyes of Gaza’s youth’.


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